20 May 2009

Lee branded a racist at university debate

7:39 pm on 20 May 2009

The National Party candidate for the Mt Albert by-election has been called a racist at a University of Auckland debate.

List MP Melissa Lee was heckled and taunted by students during the candidates' debate on Wednesday after a resolution was passed beforehand branding her a racist.

Ms Lee is still feeling the fallout from her controversial comments last week when she suggested that the Waterview Connection roading proposal would stop criminals from South Auckland going to Mt Albert.

Ms Lee later apologised for the remarks.

Minutes before the debate, activist Omar Hamed put forward a resolution from the Auckland University Students' Association to declare the MP a racist, which was passed.

National Party supporters then faced-off with protesters who had taken a sign with Ms Lee's head on it and written the word racist across her forehead.

Candidates from the Labour Party, the Greens and Act were also at the debate, organised by the students' association, and were heckled by the crowd.

Ms Lee told the crowd she has apologised for her comments and is moving on. She says she is focusing on issues affecting the Mt Albert electorate.

ACT questions Lee's credibility

The ACT Party is questioning Ms Lee is a credible candidate for the by-election.

ACT candidate, list MP John Boscawen, has also criticised Ms Lee her for missing a candidates' meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Auckland super-city.

Mr Boscawen says he is now the only credible centre-right candidate in the by-election.

He says based on her performance last week, when she made the comments regarding the Waterview Connection, Ms Lee is not up to it as a candidate.

Ms Lee says she only heard about the Tuesday meeting the day before and was already committed to another engagement.

Advance voting begins next week for the 13 June by-election in the seat previously held by former prime minister Helen Clark. The Mt Albert electorate has been held by Labour since its formation in 1946.