Priyanca Radhakrishnan (41), who hails from Kerala, has become the first Indian-origin person to become a Minister in New Zealand. She is a part of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s new cabinet, and has assumed the roles of the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities; Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector; and Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment.
The Indian-origin politician comes from a global background: Priyanca had completed her school in Singapore, before moving to Massey University in New Zealand to pursue Development Studies. At the University, she was elected as the International Students’ Officer of the Massey University Students Association.
She formally ventured into politics in 2004, with her entry into the Labour Party, and has been a two-time Member of Parliament from Auckland.
Her husband, Richardson, an IT professional who is a New Zealand citizen, recently joined the Labour Party. The two met when Priyanca was working with a women-centric NGO working for domestic violence survivors and migrant workers.
Priyanca came into the limelight recently, when she - along with PM Ardern- went live to extend their greetings on Kerala’s regional festival, Onam. She was in Kerala in July 2019 to take part in rituals of her deceased mother, Usha.
A big milestone
Calling it an "incredibly special day," Priyanca Radhakrishnan yesterday said in a Facebook post: "I'm feeling a lot of things including an overwhelming sense of privilege to become part of our government. Huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to message / call/ text congratulatory messages- thank you all. Humbled to be appointed a minister and I'm looking forward to working with an incredible line up of ministerial and caucus colleagues this term. (sic)."
Several congratulatory tweets poured in, from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan; Kerala Minister for Health, Social Welfare and Women and Child Development, KK Shailaja; as well Kerala MP, Shashi Tharoor.
It gives us immense happiness to learn that Priyanca Radhakrishnan (@priyancanzlp) became the first-ever Indian-origin minister of New Zealand. The Labour party leader has her roots in Kerala. On behalf of the people of the State, we extend our warmest greetings.
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) November 3, 2020
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) November 2, 2020
Congratulations to Priyanka Radhakrishnan, who is given charge for social development, youth welfare and the volunteer sector in the @jacindaardern Cabinet. Priyanka is a native of Paravur, Ernakulam. This is the first time an Indian has become a minister in New Zealand. pic.twitter.com/UbJDQSGAOW
— Shailaja Teacher (@shailajateacher) November 2, 2020
It was in June that New Zealand had declared itself COVID-19-free, under PM Jacinda’s able leadership. Even though new cases surfaced later, the country has been able to keep the deadly virus under control.
In a Facebook post, Priyanca had shared how she is celebrating Deepavali with a women's group. "The victory of good over evil is one that resonates across communities. It's particularly poignant now, as the world continues to grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases & further lockdowns. It's definitely worth celebrating the fact that we can gather in large numbers here in NZ. When I spoke, I stressed the importance of continued vigilance though- stay home if you're sick, wash your hands and use the COVID tracer app when you're out and about,” she had written.
Jacinda’s cabinet is largely led by women and has three members from sexual and gender minorities.
(Edited by Athira Nair)