Dissolution of Harris Park Committee
In Harris Park, Sydney, there were two consecutive nights of demonstrations in June (8th and 9th) this year, by Indian students and residents of Harris Park, who were protesting against what they perceived as a deterioration in law and order, following concerns on safety issues and attacks on Indian students/community. Given the seriousness of the situation, the Consul General and Consul Gautam Roy visited Harris Park on June 10th and held discussions with a cross-section of persons. Following discussions with various stakeholders, it was the view of the Consulate that certain key concerns of the students/community needed to be addressed and that an urgent channel of discussions with the appropriate authorities needed to be opened to address these concerns. It was also felt that while the demonstrations had drawn attention to concerns that the students and the residents had, further demonstrations might not be helpful. The Hon’ble Lord Mayor of Paramatta, Councillor Tony Issa OAM, agreed to chair an emergency meeting in the evening, which was attended by local Councillors, the Chairperson and members of the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW, some residents and businessmen of Harris Park, police, students and representatives of the Indian Consulate (Consul General and Consul).
Following an exchange of views where the students expressed their concerns, the police played an important role by reassuring the students and the community of their keen desire to address security and safety issues and in working closely with members of the community in this regard. The meeting played the positive role as a confidence building measure, as the students were reassured that their voice was heard and the police gave the assurance of their full commitment to the safety and security of the area.
The Lord Mayor proposed that the Consulate constitute a representative Committee from Harris Park, so that grievances of the Indian students/community in the area could be urgently addressed through dialogue and an interface with the appropriate agencies/authorities. A Committee was, thereafter, constituted with membership drawn from the resident student community in Harris Park, as also, residents and those who have business interests in Harris Park/Paramatta; the identification of the members of the Committee was left entirely to the students and the residents. Since several students had complained of a feeling of insecurity, the Consulate recommended that student representation in the Committee ought to be more than other representatives/stakeholders.
The constituted Committee, that came to be known as the Harris Park Committee, comprised Prabir Maitra (Councillor), Mark Lack (Councillor), Shubham Malik (student), Kartik Uppadhyay (student), Akshit Kumar (student), Pushneet Singh (student), Immanuel Selvaraj (former President of International Students Union), J S Virk (businessman), Avtar Singh (businessman) and the Consulate (Consul General or his representative).
The mandate of the Committee was restricted to Harris Park related issues and its constitution, as recommended by the Lord Mayor, was to liaise with different departments and authorities, so that issues and concerns that led to the demonstrations could be addressed in an urgent and timely manner.
On September 8, a meeting of the Committee was convened in the Chamber of the Lord Mayor of Paramatta. It was felt that the Committee had effectively served the purpose for which it had been constituted. The Lord Mayor thanked the members of the Committee in pro-actively identifying security related issues in Harris Park that needed to be addressed and expressed happiness at the interface the police had developed with the community that had resulted in heightened and visible police patrolling and presence in Harris Park. Crime figures were down and the residents felt a greater sense of security. The Lord Mayor also acknowledged the role of the Consulate and looked forward to working closely with the members of the community and of the Consulate.
It was unanimously decided that the Harris Park committee would be dissolved. The Committee was, accordingly, dissolved on September 8th.
The Consul General thanked the Lord Mayor for his invaluable support, and the Councillors, the police, the students and other representatives of the Committee for the role they had played, which had demonstrated that issues of concern could be resolved through discussions with concerned authorities.
Septemer 22, 2009
Consulate General of India