21 Nov 2015

Caution urged after 111 caller's false alarm

6:50 am on 21 November 2015

Vigilance is not a bad thing but people should consider New Zealand's multiculturalism and low terrorism threat before raising false alarms, Indian Sikh MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi says.

Sikh medical student Jaspreet Singh was mistaken for a terrorist with a bomb at an Auckland cafe on Thursday, after police were called about suspicious wires in his bag.

Mr Bakshi, a National list MP, said the incident was a combination of mistaken identity and fear following the recent terror attacks in France.

Despite the feeling of anxiety in the community after the attacks, people ought not jump to conclusions about bearded, turban-wearing people, and should think carefully before reporting anyone to the police, Mr Bakshi said.

Mr Singh was with his mentor and research supervisor Professor Luke Larkin at Columbus cafe near University of Auckland Medical School on Thursday morning when two police officers asked him to step outside.

Mr Singh, who is 21 and wears a turban as part of his Sikh faith, said he was shocked, but obliged and followed the police out.

"They took me outside and they explained that someone had called them and said I was doing something with wires in my laptop bag."

His first reaction was to laugh, and the police quickly realised he posed no danger.

"They were quite apologetic because that was quite ridiculous. They were just doing their job."

Columbus Coffee general operations manager Peter Webster said he was embarrassed about the racial tone of the incident, which was something that had never happened in his shop before.

Barista Tove Carland, said she was in the bathroom about 10 minutes before the police arrived and heard a woman making a phone call, sounding very nervous, and describing a man in a turban sitting across from her.

When the officers turned up, Ms Carland realised the woman had been calling the police.

She believed, from what she heard, it was no more than racism.

"They had no reason to call. She just said 'oh, he has a turban'... So soon after the [Paris] terrorist attacks and everything, people are being crazy."

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