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Another senseless tragedy - Pansy Wong


Another senseless tragedy

My thoughts today are with the family of Navtej Singh.  This 30-year-old’s life was cut tragically short at his shop in Manurewa on Saturday night when robbers shot him in cold blood. He leaves behind a widow and three young girls aged under 10.  

There was so little I could say to comfort his wife and ease her pain and exhaustion when I visited her earlier today along with Indian community members.  She told me that Navtej had worked hard in other liquor stores to learn his trade and had saved up to go into business with a partner.  Their extended family and the community will rally around his wife but it is indeed a daunting future for her and their three young children.

Yesterday, National’s Justice spokesman, Simon Power, visited South Auckland to speak at a public meeting at Dawson School.  We were all thinking of Navtej Singh and the senseless tragedy unfolding.  It beggars belief that he was shot for the price of a few bottles of beer and was doing everything right by giving money to the robbers.  These callous criminals need to be brought to justice.

Navtej’s friends and families are convinced the robbers will be caught but have no confidence in our justice system’s ability to give them the appropriate punishment.  Many of the people I spoke to this morning are retailers who have been robbed themselves.  In many of their cases when the young offenders were caught their penalty amounted to nothing more than community service.

Since 2000, four Indian shopkeepers have been murdered while at work.  Apart from the current tragedy, the most recent death occurred in January this year when 22-year-old Krishna Naidu was killed while minding his parents’ shop in South Auckland. 

Simon Power had a clear message for those at the meeting – community safety will come first under a National Government.  This simply means that for police, keeping the public safe will come before ticketing them. 

In the past day or so we have been told that retailers are being encouraged to take further steps to protect themselves and their staff from armed robbery.  I am not sure what this means or what shop owners could possibly do beyond closing at night, which is what the chief executive of the New Zealand Retailers Association has suggested.  The problem with this idea is that Krishna Naidu was killed in broad daylight.

We cannot let criminals continue to run amok and put innocent people in danger.    Following Krishna’s death, there was a high-level meeting held in Wellington which included community members and tried to find solutions. One of the ideas was to install a hotline to report crime, but nothing has happened. There were calls for the Government to step in and deal to the youth gangs that seem to be the training ground for people who commit these crimes. But six months down the track little seems to have changed.

 

I recently co-ordinated meetings between businesses in Torrens Road, Botany, the police,  Manukau City Council, Greenlane Business Association, an Asian community group geared to reducing rime, and a crime-watch patrol.  Together we produced a pack aimed at reducing crime in the area.  While this is a small step, similar tools on a larger scale could help reduce the risk that so many businesses face every day.

Every little bit helps.   At yesterday’s meeting, Simon Power revealed that the economic cost of crime is $9 billion a year and that the private sector pays two thirds of this through insurance premiums and payouts.  Imagine the savings if we could get on top of crime. Locking criminals away is the only way to protect the public.  Alcohol and drug addiction rehabilitation should be a priority for prisoners – and they should also be able to learn real work skills to help them on their release.

Simon Power also pointed out that the rights of victims have been ignored for too long.  He has proposed a Victim Compensation Scheme, which will be funded by a levy of around $50 on all offenders at sentencing. The scheme would help victims with one-off expenses not covered by ACC or other state help, such as travel to court and additional counselling. This is about sending a clear message that victims' rights should be a priority.

We also want to upgrade the Victim Notification Register to allow victims to be on an "active" register, which will notify them of developments relating to their case, or on a "silent" register, for those who don't want to be involved any further, but which will record only their contact details so agencies can ensure offenders are not paroled to live near them.

With the latest tragedy, the time has come to say enough is enough.  New Zealand needs strong leadership to build safer communities.  Public safety should be the top priority.  National is already taking this lead – we are committed to cracking down on gangs, the evil drug P, strengthening bail laws, and improving our youth justice programme.  It’s time we stood up to criminals and put an end to their senseless offending.

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