Sikh candidate for SA by-election told to ‘look like an Australian’

Amrik Singh Thandi is contesting as an independent candidate for the upcoming by-election in the Enfield electorate of Adelaide in South Australia.

Amrik Singh Thandi

Amrik Singh Thandi Source: Supplied

A prominent member of South Australia's Sikh community, Amrik Singh Thandi, has also jumped into the crowded poll fray for the inner-north seat of Enfield in Adelaide, slated to go to the polls on February 9th.

A taxi driver by profession, Mr Thandi has been living in Adelaide for the past 37 years.

Buoyed by his election outing for the upper house last year at which he netted close to 5,000 votes, Mr Thandi decided to once again throw his hat in the ring.

This time he is eyeing a seat in SA’s lower house, a Labour stronghold vacated by the resignation of former Deputy Premier John Rau from the Parliament, paving way for a by-election.

“Over the past three decades, I have constantly engaged with the local community, sometimes through personal means and most other times through my profession as a taxi driver," said Mr Thandi, a former member of the Taxi Council and a governing member of United Sikhs of South Australia.

“Last year when I contested, I got a great response from the Indian community and this time too they are wholehearted supporting my candidature,” he added.

But while Mr Thandi’s previous work with the Indian community has made it easier for him to win the support of the community, reaching out to the wider community is proving to be challenging for the aspiring politician.

Earlier today, he was targeted on Facebook for ‘not looking like an Australian politician’ by a social media user who was apparently hinting at Mr Thandi’s turban.

“At least dress like an Australian politician pls. This would be a good start and then learn fluent English,” Simon de Wit, a social media user wrote on a post dedicated to Mr Thandi’s candidature in an Indian group.                              
Snapshot of Simon de Wit's comments on Facebook where he wrote: 'Why not look like an Australian' Source: Facebook

When other users on the social media platform confronted Mr Wit and said his comment was "racist", he explained saying “Indians would vote, no problem. In Australia, (however,) they do not normally wear turbans,” he wrote.

Snapshot of Simon de Wit's comment on Facebook Source: Facebook

When SBS Punjabi contacted Mr Wit for a comment, he said, “Everyone is entitled to have an opinion and my best wishes to Mr Thandi for the upcoming elections".

Responding to Mr Wit’s comments, Mr Thandi said it pains him "but perhaps Mr Wit is not aware of the Sikh history or our contribution to society".

“I do agree that Australia does not have a Sikh Parliamentarian yet, but the day isn’t far. Look at Canada, America, Britain, everywhere Sikhs are at the forefront,” said Mr Thandi.

“His comments are extremely racist and painful not just for me but all migrant communities,” he added.                     
Amrik Singh Thandi
Amrik Singh Thandi is contesting as an independent candidate for the upcoming by-election in the Enfield suburb in Adelaide Source: Supplied

“But this incident will not deter me from what I have set out to achieve,” said Mr Thandi who claimed he was even more determined to make it to the finish line.

“I will contest the elections, fight for the rights of the people and focus on local issues particularly small businesses and the taxi industry,” he added.

Mr Singh is, however, not the only Indian-origin candidate who faced racist slurs on social media.

Earlier, Port Augusta Councillor Sunny Singh and Greens Senate candidate Navdeep Singh was also racially targeted by some online detractors.  

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3 min read
Published 30 January 2019 at 4:25pm
By Preetinder Grewal, Avneet Arora