Police investigate ‘racist abuse’ during by-election
A POLICE investigation has been launched into alleged racist comments made online during last month’s by-election campaign.
However, Deputy Inna Gardiner, who received the abuse and went on to top the poll to claim a seat in the States, hopes that her election might persuade more dual-national Islanders to stand with confidence that they can get elected.
Deputy Gardiner, who is originally from Kazakhstan, admitted that non-Jersey-born candidates could face difficulties in an election campaign – after she turned over files containing alleged racist comments to the police.
The States police have confirmed an investigation has been launched into racist comments aimed at her before last month’s by-election.
But with improving diversity a major topic for the States Assembly, Deputy Gardiner hopes that her success at the polls will lead to more dual-nationals standing for election.
In last May’s general election, Deputy Carina Alves became the first Portuguese dual national to be elected to the States, while Frenchman Deputy Gregory Guida was elected in St Lawrence.
Deputy Gardiner, who was elected in the by-election called following the death of Deputy Richard Rondel, believes that there is an opportunity for the States to increase its diversity.
‘We are talking about diversity a lot at the moment,’ she said. ‘It is slowly changing.
‘English is not my first language and when I was elected quite a few people approached me and said they couldn’t believe I could make it – people who don’t have English as a first language who now see it is possible [to be elected].
‘It is not necessarily about being a champion for diversity, but proving to people it is possible. I believe there is around 22 per cent of the Island population that has English as their second language. In theory, 22 per cent of States Members should be as well.’
Under current laws, Islanders standing for positions as Deputies and Senators must either have British citizenship or dual nationality.
Deputy Gardiner, who has lived in Jersey for a decade, added: ‘I heard a lot about not being local – what is local? Does it mean you have to be born in Jersey? After ten years, 20 years are you local?
‘Someone asked [one of my supporters] why they were supporting me. They were surprised that she was with me because I wasn’t from Jersey.
‘Don’t tell me that because I was born in Kazakhstan that I shouldn’t be elected.’
The police have confirmed that they are reviewing online comments made during the election campaign towards Deputy Gardiner.
And while the new St Helier No 3/4 Deputy has said her reasons for taking the matter to the police is ‘not about prosecution’, she hopes that doing so will prevent others from making similar comments in the future.
‘People need to be responsible for what they are saying,’ she said. ‘Maybe they will think twice before they say something online next time.’
However, Deputy Gardiner insists that she wants to focus on the positives and is ‘learning quickly’ about what it takes to be a States Member.
She has already been elected to two scrutiny panels – the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel and the Public Accounts Committee – and added she is committed to focusing on issues that are important to her constituents.
‘I want to speak to my parishioners,’ she said. ‘This is what I promised during the campaign.
‘There needs to be a connection between me as a Deputy and my parishioners. Politicians need to try to rebuild some of the trust with the public.
‘That doesn’t mean I will agree with every opinion but I am prepared to listen, digest and do as much research as possible to bring myself to an opinion that will maybe co-ordinate with as many people as possible.’
Deputy Gardiner was elected last month after topping the poll ahead of nine other candidates in the St Helier No 3/4 by-election.