Minorities to Government: We’re qualified and we want in

The Zubin Foundation calls on the government to appoint more members of six ethnic minorities on advisory bodies. And it has a list of eminently qualified appointees ready for action.


 

If Hong Kong is failing its non-Chinese community, it may be due to lack of representation of minority voices on government advisory panels that wield tremendous  influence in guiding government policy and programmes.

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Leaders in the city’s ethnic minority communities are taking matters into their own hands and offering their best and brightest to the government, corporations and NGOs. The Zubin Foundation has stepped up to propose a list of recommendations of ethnic minority individuals who are qualified and willing to serve in government advisory bodies.

The Zubin Foundation, a local think tank focusing on social issues including racial integration and education of non-Chinese speaking children, presented the ‘Race for Opportunity: Diversity List 2016’ on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21. The list is the first of its kind in Hong Kong to “help navigate Hong Kong’s future on various government committees.”

The list is about inclusion, but it is equally about inspiration – Shalini Mahtani

“Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities had played a significant role in Hong Kong history…yet research has also shown that the level of acceptance [of ethnic minorities] is relatively low,” Shalini Mahtani, the founder of The Zubin Foundation, says. As a report produced by the group in September 2015 shows, only about 0.4% of the members of 100 government advisory bodies are from ethnic minority communities, excluding the Caucasian population.

In light of the situation, The Zubin Foundation engaged with 68 organisations and came up with a list of 62 nominees from the Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Filipino, Thai and Indonesian communities in December 2015. That list was then screened to determine a final list of 16 candidates with seven special mentions of individuals who did not meet the list’s criteria but are outstanding in their particular field. The idea is that these nominees can serve as a pool for appointees to government advisory bodies – or NGOs or corporations aiming to increase the diversity of their boards with eminently qualified persons.

The Diversity List 2016 candidates are as follows:

  • Dr Theresa Cunanan, Senior Lecturer at the Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Ms Anita Gidumal, Finance Advisor at LUXE City Guides
  • Mr Vijay Harilela, Consultant at Ashoka Investments Limited and Alternate Director of Harilela Hotels Limited
  • Mr Alok Jain, Deputy Operations Director of Kowloon Motor Bus
  • Dr Hanif Kanji, CEO of Sinophi Healthcare Limited
  • Dr Shekhar Kumta, Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Mr Azan Aziz Marwah, Barrister-at-law with Cilt Chambers
  • Mr Vikas Subhashchandra Mehra, Programme Director – Transformation at HSBC
  • Mr Vishal Melwani, Partner at Eversheds
  • Mr Thirupathi Nachiappan, Director at Meenaach Holsings Limited
  • Mr Arun Nigam, Partner at Arun Nigam Associates
  • Ms Sabita Prakash, Head of Business Development and Investor Relations at ADM Capital
  • Mr Kishore Kundanmal Sakhrani, Board Chair of Community Business Limited
  • Dr Naubahar Sharif, Associate Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Ms Shalini Sujanani, Managing Director – Corporate Clients at ING Bank NV Hong Kong Branch
  • Dr Rizwan Ullah, Head of Communication and Public Affairs Division at Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo)

All candidates have lived in Hong Kong for 15 years or more, and hold a range of expertise including finance, law and public safety, business management and administration, transportation and logistics, education and training, as well as health science. The vast majority possess a varying degree of Cantonese language skills and many were born and bred in the SAR.

“The list is about inclusion, but it is equally about inspiration,” Ms Mahtani says.

Ms Mahtani gave thanks to the Diversity List’s advisory partner Spencer Stuart and sponsors Town House, founded by her husband Ravi Gidumal. Caravel, the Ovolo Group, and the Indian Association Hong Kong also supported the venture. Ms Mahtani also addressed difficulties in fundraising for the project and

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam was the guest of honour at the launch ceremony. This was no speak and run engagement – she stayed for the whole lunch taking in the views of a panel of speakers including:

  • Mr Girish Jhunjhnuwala, Founder of Ovolo Group
  • Mr Michael Chan, COO of Equal Opportunities Commission
  • Dr Theresa Cunanan
  • Dr Naubahar Sharif
  • Ms Anita Gidumal

Alongside leaders of ethnic minority groups, consular representatives of many countries took part. Consul Generals included Pakistan’s CG Ghufran Memon, the UK’s CG Caroline Wilson, Canada’s Shalini Anand, and more. The Philippines consulate took a whole table. Other Consulates represented included Thailand, Nepal, the US, Canada, Western Samoa. The Deputy Honorary Consul General of the Maldives was one of the List members: Vijay Harilela.

In addition to Ms Lam, various political movers in attendance included District Councillor Paul Zimmerman, former senior civil servant Rachel Cartland and a number of members of the LGBTI community.

“With today’s launch of the Diversity List, I am sure more capable ethnic minority individuals will be appointed to our advisory and statutory bodies, thereby enabling us to consider policies and make decisions with the perspectives of ethnic minority community in mind,” the Chief Secretary said. She even asked for 13 more copies of the list so that she can share them with her Principal Official colleagues involved in making recommendations for advisory bodies.

In her concluding note after the panel discussion, Ms Mahtani said nomination for the 2017 Diversity List will commence on September 1 and ends on December 31. She also said the foundation will focus on engaging youth to embark a project on Hong Kong identity, calling for a need to change to use of the term ‘ethnic minority’.

The message is clear – the ethnic minority community has made its move, and it is the government’s turn to prove that minority voices are being respected and reflected within the establishment.

Alex Fok

Alex Fok

Alex Fok is a Harbour Times journalist monitoring Hong Kong’s daily political scene and diplomatic updates. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies from University of Warwick and his master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a former committee member of the Warwick-based Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (WHKPASS) and was the chief editor of the society’s magazine – PASSTIMES.
Alex Fok
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