New Zealand PM promises to change laws for carrying kirpans

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The New Zealand Government is proposing a law change around the wearing of kirpans, says National list MP based in Manukau East, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

A kirpan is a ceremonial knife. It is one of the five articles of the Sikh faith, and holds tremendous significance for practising Sikhs.

The Kirpan, usually blunted, is generally concealed beneath clothing against the person’s body in a sheath and strap.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, the National list MP based in Manukau East said that the kirpan has been an issue in recent times with many Sikhs facing problems for wearing it at public places.

“I have long advocated for the Sikh community, and I currently have a member’s bill in the ballot which would allow baptised Sikhs to carry kirpans in public and work places,” said Mr Bakshi.

“The Prime Minister announced today [4 August 2017] that, if re-elected, a National-led Government will amend the Crimes Act to exempt Sikhs who carry a kirpan for religious reasons from being considered to be in possession of an offensive weapon.

“A kirpan is not used as an offensive weapon,” says Mr Bakshi, “but solely as an important symbol of faith.”

“This is a welcome announcement for the Sikh community, and will ensure that the Sikh faith is protected under the New Zealand law.”

 “New Zealand is a vibrant, multicultural country which values diversity and I am proud to be part of a Government that recognises this,” says Mr Bakshi. 

The proposed amendment does not change the Civil Aviation Rules governing what may be carried on board a domestic flight, and decisions around prohibited items remain questions for the CAA.

Members of Sikh community have raised concerns over the National party’s commitment to amend the law, which some think could be just an election promise.

“We appreciate Prime Minister Bill English taking up this issue again just before elections, however, this is not the first time that the National Party is promising a favourable intervention on the issue of Kirpans,” Daljit Singh of Supreme Sikh Council told The Indian Weekender.

The 2017 New Zealand general election is scheduled to be held on Saturday 23 September 2017.

“Following that statement, the Sikh community had been able to gain support from all other major political parties including Labour, Green and Act Party,” said Mr Singh.

According to the Sikh.org, to Sikhs the Kirpan is religiously symbolic of their spirituality and the constant struggle of good and morality over the forces of evil and injustice, both on an individual as well as social level.

Sikhism is a 500 year old religion with over 20 million followers worldwide.