Hindus are disappointed as New Zealand Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety and Deputy Leader of the House Michael Wood does not seem to be fully receptive to the idea of national public holiday on Diwali, the most popular of Hindu festivals.
Responding to the request of distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed seeking public holiday in New Zealand on Diwali, Wood wrote: The purpose of the public holiday provisions in the Holidays Act is to provide employees with an entitlement to public holidays if these holidays fall on days that would ‘otherwise be working days’ for the employee. The policy underlying this is that all employees should be able to observe these days of national, cultural or religious significance free from work. However not all of these days will be of ‘significance’ to all New Zealanders.
Wood, instead, referred to ‘Transferring a public holiday by agreement’ part of the Act, stating that: This could allow an employee, for example, to transfer the Good Friday and Easter Monday public holidays to be used during Diwali if this is of greater significance to them.
New Zealand has 10 national public holidays each in 2021 and 2022; including Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day.
Reacting to this, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that it was sad that New Zealand was not apparently ready yet to seriously consider designating Diwali as a national public holiday. It was not fair with New Zealand Hindu community as they had to be at work/school on their most popular festival while there were public holidays on other religious days.
Rajan Zed emphasized that it was important for Hindu families to celebrate Diwali day together at home/temple. Public holiday on Diwali would ensure that and it would be “a step in the positive direction”.
Zed suggested that New Zealand government needed to revisit its public holiday policies as the New Zealand demographics had changed making it a multicultural society and Hindu populations were continuing to grow. He urged Governor-General Patsy Reddy, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Wood to form an exploratory committee to seriously examine this issue of fairness. Hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Hindu community had made lot of contributions to New Zealand and society in general; and continued to do so.
Rajan Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would strengthen cohesion and unity in the overall New Zealand citizenry and make them well-nurtured and enlightened citizens.
As an interfaith gesture; Zed urged Roman Catholic Cardinal John Atcherley Dew, Anglican Archbishop/Primate Philip Richardson, Presbyterian Church General Assembly Moderator Taimoanaifakaofo Kaio, and leaders of other religions/denominations to come out in the support of Hindu brothers and sisters for Diwali holiday.
Rajan Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.