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British Labour MPs celebrate Pongal

To mark Thai Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, British Labour MPs have issued statements expressing gratitude for the contribution of British Tamils to the UK and renewing their commitment to justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.

In his statement, Kier Starmer, leader of the Labour Party noted that:

“This is also a time for us to remember the sacrifices made by the Tamil people for self determination, peace and justice in Sri Lanka. Labour will continue to push the UK government to act on their clear responsibility to ensure the Sri Lankan government no longer delay in supporting justice, accountability and reconciliation, and a Labour government will work with our international partners, standing shoulder to shoulder with Tamil communities, to help build peace and political stability in Sri Lanka”.

Last year, on the 14th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal genocide, the UK's Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, urged the British government to act upon the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and refer Sri Lankan war criminals to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Lammy also issued a statement sharing Starmer’s sentiments and emphasising the struggles Tamils have made for self-determination.  

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North and Shadow Secretary of State for Health, gave his thanks to the Tamil community for their enormous contribution to the NHS and  highlighting how many Tamils came as refugees in fleeing the armed conflict.

“Unfortunately human rights abuses in Sri Lanka are still not confined to the country’s past. That’s why for almost nine years now, as Ilford North Labour MP, I’ve campaigned with and for the Tamil community for truth, jusice, and accountability, and ultimately towards a peace and reconciliation that will need to follow".

His statement further emphasised the need to impose Magnitsky style sanctions on those who are accused of war crimes, as the United States have done, and also to use our influence, "our bilateral relationships with Sri Lanka to try and bring them back to the table and honour the commitments they made in front of the world at the UN”.

Dame Siobhain McDonagh also gave a statement in which she noted: 

"All of us here are aware of the ongoing fight against human rights abuses in Sri Lanka for justice and for accountability. I have seen first hand he tenacity of the Tamil community in demanding more action from the UK government.

I can remember in easter 2009 when I spend my time out on Parliament Square with London’s Tamil community beside itself with grief as it received news of relatives, friends, communities, and hospitals being bombed during the Civil War".

She added:

"How much progress has been made? Thousands of people have still not been found and not one person has been prosecutted for committing a war crime and there are no more answers than there were before. Now is the time for the foreign office to demand that the Sri Lankan government give self-determination for Tamils, obey UN resolutions and abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

It is time to sanction Sri Lankan political leaders and take Sri Lanka to the Internaional Criminal Court".


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