Melbourne: New Zealand Prime Minister today said he is sympathetic towards Sikhs who were barred from entering the ground to watch India play Zimbabwe because they were wearing a kirpan. Prime Minister John Key said that the International Cricket Council has rightly set the rules for what could be brought into New Zealand cricket venues.
“It’s their tournament, not ours. So we can’t dictate that to them,” Key said referring to the incident last Saturday when seven Sikh cricket fans were barred from entering Eden Park to watch India play Zimbabwe in a Cricket World Cup match. In recent weeks the New Zealand Prime Minister had met with members of the Sikh community and was sympathetic to their position. The kirpan is a ceremonial sword carried by Sikhs for religious purposes, but is considered by the ICC to be a weapon.
“My understanding of the kirpan is it is for the most part very small, it’s a blunt instrument,” Key said. “And, actually, if you want to make the case that someone could cause harm with that, they’re probably much more likely to be able to cause harm with anything else you can get at the grounds, including a wine bottle or something else,” Key was quoted as saying by New Zealand Herald.
Daljit Singh, chairman of the Supreme Sikh Council, said many in the Sikh community were unhappy with the ICC’s decision and the council was considering taking legal action. “This decision has huge implication because we have about 500 in our community who already bought tickets for the semifinals, and are now worried that they cannot get in,” Singh said.
“We have been told that under NZ law it is legal to carry a kirpan, but this ban is being imposed by the ICC which we feel should follow the law of the land,” Singh said. Key has also signalled that the government could change current Civil Aviation Authority rules to allow kirpans to be taken on flights. It is legal to wear a kirpan in New Zealand, but they cannot be taken on to flights. Key said he wanted the government to look at making an exemption in aviation rules for the kirpan.
“Some countries have legislated for that, I think the UK and Australia. We might look at it, I am sympathetic to the view,” Key said.