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WA premier expresses solidarity after community backlash over comments on COVID-hit India

WA Premier Mark McGowan's Source: AAP

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has posted a video expressing solidarity with the Indian community in the wake of India's COVID-19 crisis. Representatives of the Indian community had met WA officials to convey their displeasure about recent statements on travellers from India and the local media coverage around it.

Following community backlash in Western Australia over recent government statements about India’s COVID-19 crisis and travellers returning from there, Premier Mark McGowan has posted a video on his Facebook page to express his support to the community.

In the video, Premier McGowan also said that he strongly supports the federal government's initial assistance comprising critical medical supplies sent to India.


Highlights:

  • WA Premier Mark McGowan posts Facebook video to express solidarity with India in its COVID crisis
  • Mr McGowan's tweet about international travellers returning from India has irked local Indian community
  • Members of Indian community registered displeasure about the tweet and media coverage

Australia has also banned all flights from India till 15 May as the country’s COVID-19 crisis escalates. Australians stranded in India are waiting for further announcements on this matter. 

He also thanked the Indian Society of Western Australia (ISWA), its member associations and the entire Indian community for their efforts to keep Australia safe during the pandemic. 

He said the Western Australian Indian community is “a very important part of society”. 

This video comes in the wake of statements made by Premier McGowan about travellers from COVID-stricken India, which have not gone down well with many in the Indian community. 

Indian community members in Western Australia met Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Tony Buti on 29 April to express their displeasure with this statement and a headline in The West Australian.

News
Indian Community members in WA expressed concern over the language used in certain media outlets about Covid crisis in India.
The West Australian

“The Indian community is in distress over the flight ban, some statements by Premier Mark McGowan and also because of some media coverage. We raised the matter with Minister Tony Buti yesterday,” president of Indian Society of Western Australia Supriya Guha told SBS Malayalam.

The headline, 'Ban on trips from Indian hell,' was an example of offensive language circulating in the media, Mr Guha said.

A letter elaborating this concern was also sent to The West Australian, but a response has not yet been received, said Mr Guha.

In his response to a query sent by SBS Malayalam on this matter, Mr Buti said, “as Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests, I meet with a range of multicultural groups, including representatives of the Indian community. Yesterday I met with representatives of Western Australia’s Indian community to discuss a range of matters, including the escalating COVID-19 situation in India.”

Arun V Nair, president of Malayalee Association of Western Australia, who was among those who met Mr Buti, added that community members requested for immediate steps to be taken to ensure that Australians stranded in India are brought back safely at the earliest.

MLA for Riverton, ISWA secretary Dr Papori Barua and Sikh Association president Devraj Singh were also present in the meeting, said Mr Nair.

“Australia has done a great job looking after its people, but the government also has a responsibility to safely bring back Australians stranded overseas,” Ramdas Sankaran, CEO of Multicultural Services Centre in Perth told SBS Malayalam.

“This can be done without jeopardising the safety of Australians inside the country,” he added. 

Mr Sankaran also alleged that the Australian government has been “discriminatory” in temporarily banning flights from India.  

“The minister and his team received our concerns very well and acknowledged them. They reassured us that the government is with the Indian diaspora. According to the minister, this a possible misinterpretation of the media coverage,” Mr Guha told SBS Malayalam. 

“They also assured us that this will not happen again,” he added. 

“They promised that a strong message can be expected from the premier, reassuring the Indian community,” Mr Guha said. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood, met with more than 140 multicultural community leaders to discuss Australia’s travel pause with India and the range of assistance Australia is providing at this difficult time, a media statement from the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said.

According to the statement, the federal government will undertake a large-scale programme of engagements with Australia’s Indian community to hear their views and concerns regarding the evolving COVID-19 situation in India, provide updates and convey the Australian government’s available support options.