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Raju’s unique approach to integration in Ireland

Last update - Monday, August 15, 2011, 19:35 By Chinedu Onyejelem

For nearly 32 years, Logan Raju has been an advocate for diversity, and has lived through some of the most remarkable changes in Ireland’s history.

In 1994 – 15 years after arriving in Ireland – Raju was elected the first honorary Lord Mayor of Blackrock in Co Dublin in recognition of his outstanding contributions to both business and community.
“I am originally from Malaysia and I am of Indian background,” says Raju. “My parents were both born in Malaysia, though my grandfather came from south India. I was born, bred and educated in Malaysia, and I was taught in English so that helped when I came to Ireland.”
Before here in 1979, Raju studied accountancy in Watford, England. “I came here because I wanted a change,” he says, “and being adventurous in my younger days, that was my motivation.
“I grew up with Chinese, Indians and Malays in Malaysia – that’s a melting point for different races, cultures, customs and religions. I also grew up with the Irish and English because my dad used to work with them.”
Raju said he found the Irish “very, very helpful. I didn’t have any problem. I can safely say that I have never faced any discrimination or racism.”
After completing his accountancy education in Rathmines, he says he wanted to go on to study law, but instead fell into the catering industry and other, more exciting avenues.
“I was involved in restaurant business, and I was also a photographer. I used to do all the fashion shows – Miss Ireland, Miss World contests – different things. And then I was also teaching people English, helping them to get along, especially Malaysians and other foreign nationals. And then I was also in the nightclub business.”
Raju’s quest for a breakthrough took him to Blackrock, where he operated businesses for 10 years, and also became the first honorary lord mayor of the town.
“I was involved in the tourism board, the chamber of commerce, the tidy towns… I was called the dynamo of Blackrock,” he said, adding that he also rechristened Blackrock as ‘Whiterock’ when he was awarded his chain of office. “So I was the first Lord Mayor of Whiterock.”
Remembering the immigrant situation in Dublin when he first arrived in Ireland, Raju says: “There were many students from the Middle East, there were many South African Indians who were studying here because of the problem they had in South Africa [with apartheid], and many Nigerian students were here as well. ”
He says he practiced a sort of integration during his student years, and that it “sort of motivated me to be more involved in community, both then and now. And being a student leader as well, I was involved in many different issues… trying to help people with problems – immigration, student problems, financial…”
Today, Raju is still an advocate of diversity even though he is currently unemployed due to medical reasons.
“We have to be able to integrate better, to participate, because it is social inclusion, and we have to be dealing with the Garda, different NGOs, different organisations,” he says. “And we have to get away from this competition – we have to do less duplication and get involved together in the interests of ethnic minority groups, and also with the Irish people, because it is a two-way situation.”
In recent years, Raju’s push for a better integration approach has also been a subject of criticism directed solely at him.
“They called me trouble,” he says, noting that people have described him variously as “rattler, smiler, Mr Integration, the angel, trouble shooter, the listener, the counsellor.”
But such descriptions whether positive or negative, have not made him shift his trust in diversity. “If you want to do something, do it right. Otherwise, don’t do it,” he says.
Beginning with our next issue, Logan Raju will share some of his controversial but unique experiences of living in Ireland.

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