Foon: 'Not good enough' Pasifika included late in outbreak response

Source: 1News

Meng Foon has joined a chorus of others criticising health authorities for allegedly not including Pasifika leaders in the initial stages of the outbreak.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon

Earlier on, criticism came from Pacific leaders and health practitioners alike about authorities alleged lack of communication and engagement with the community in the response to the virus.

"The failure from the beginning by the Ministry of Health is that our people haven’t been at the planning and design stages, and as a result of that, we’re being clipped on at the end when we’ve reached emergency status rather than have us right at the beginning," Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins said.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio later admitted he was "not satisfied" with health authorities' connection to the community. 

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon told Tagata Pasifika's Marama T-Pole on Saturday it had joined Pasifika leaders in lobbying the Government to include the community in its response.

"It just fell on deaf ears and now there’s suddenly a panic. 'Oh, we better get Pasifika onboard.' Well, you know, I just say it’s not good enough, really," he said.

"Pasifika, like I said, have done very well in terms of during the first lockdown, of the many Pacific organisations providing support, food, mental wellbeing, cultural wellbeing, and just being there for the people."

Foon said Pacific leaders and health practitioners had been telling authorities they wanted in on the response to help their people in their own way.

"They have the relationships, they have the trust with the people."

"It’s awesome to see they were at the coal-face of their community and doing the mahi," Foon said.

"Trust the people. You’ve always wanted to communicate with the people, you want to consult with the people, you want co-design. For goodness sake, trust the people.

"Pasifika people contribute to the community. They contribute economically, socially, culturally and mentally. Trust the people so they can provide for their wellbeing."

The Race Relations Commissioner was also not shy about sharing his thoughts on the Bay of Plenty District Health Board having to apologise to the Pacific community after it wrongly requested passports be presented at vaccination appointments. 

"That was the wrong thing to do," Foon remarked. "Slack, really."

Foon also spoke with T-Pole about racism, particularly on social media, which has a habit of rearing its head during an outbreak. 

The community outbreak of the Delta variant has been no different.

"I think minorities are generally targeted regardless," he said.

"As we know, Covid itself doesn’t choose on any race, creed, gender, religion. It just chooses people and I like the notion that we are people."

"Let’s get through this together and give nothing to racism," Foon ended.