Republic Day festivities bring out the politicians


Song and dance for Indo-Oz friendship at IAANSW event. PAWAN LUTHRA reports

The irrepressible Yadu Singh does know how to work a crowd. As President of the newly formed Indian Australian Association of New South Wales, Singh was able bring together over 400 people and keep them entertained to celebrate India’s Republic Day and Australia Day, on Sunday of the long weekend in January. With the help of an entertaining group of dancers, particularly from South Pacific Islands, Singh was able to convey his message to the attending politicians and the gathered crowd that the Indian community in Australia is growing and attention needs to be paid to them. Not that the attendees were in any doubt about that as the guest list included politicians from all forms of government, the local councils, state politicians and the Federal politicians.

Federal parliament members included Laurie Ferguson (Werriwa) representing the Government; John Alexander (Bennelong) representing Tony Abbott, the leader of the Federal Opposition, and Philip Ruddock (Berowra). From the State level, there was  Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta, representing Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell;  the Minister for Communities and Citizenship, Victor Dominello, was represented by Matt Kean, Member for Hornsby, and Guy Zangari, Member for Fairfield, represented Leader of NSW Opposition, John Robertson.

Moving down a rung in political structure, from the local councils were, Mayor John Chedid from Parramatta, Mayor Ivan Petch from Ryde, Mayor Ross Grover from Holroyd and Mayor Michelle Byrne from Baulkham Hills.

The Indian government was represented by Consul General of India Arun Kumar Goel, and representing the multicultural community was Community Relations Chair Stepan Kerkyasharian

Keeping with the theme of the day, invited speakers all paid glowing tributes to the Australia-India relationship. While cricket, curry and being in the commonwealth was the common theme from all the speakers, there was a strong pitch from both sides of politics claiming closer ties with India. PM Gillard’s’ visits to India were mentioned as was Premier Barry O’Farrell’s ongoing commitment to strengthening the relationship between NSW and India.

Dr Yadu Singh as President of the organisation took centre stage and used his speech to have a dig at other organisations. He was cynical about organisations which give out awards and promised to take to task other Indian organisations who gave out awards to curry favour from local business people.

Warming to the theme, other association members made sure that Yadu’s achievements on behalf of the Indian community were remembered as a fighter for the local Indian community, be his efforts against radio jocks insulting India or Indians, or aviation schools who rip off overseas students, or cartographers who do not get the map of India right.

Yadu’s promise to continue the good fight, even against those who conspired to switch the air conditioning off at the function centre that evening, was greeted with applause by those gathered.

Festivities of the night was Shehnai,  Ruchi Sanghi’s Group performing Kathak dances, Flamenco dancers and a group drummers and dancers from the Cook Islands. Interestingly enough, other than a recorded version of Waltzing Matilda, the Australian influence on the evening of Australia Day and India Day was limited. Dinner from Ajay Raj’s Maya da Dhaba was well appreciated; however, it would have been respectful for the many invited guests to have special dining options rather than to have to queue up with plate in hand. Having said that, it did give many in the audience a chance to interact with the chief guests.

As a gutsy fighter willing to take on a scrap with anyone, Yadu Singh is to be admired. If he can harness these energies, it will be good for this newly formed association, which has promised to soon bring to fruition an India House for the community. If that happens under Yadu Singh, the queues of politicians lining up to be present will be a sight to behold.