Thai Pongal celebrations took place inside Britain’s Houses of Parliament last week, as lawmakers from across the political spectrum joined Tamils in celebrating the harvest festival and pledging their commitment to seeing justice in Sri Lanka.
The event, hosted by the British Tamils Forum (BTF), saw parliamentarians from the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and Democratic Unionist Party in attendance, as well as mayors and councillors.
From the British Tamil community youth organisations, charities, and business entrepreneurs, were present for the celebration which included folk dances, plays, and musical performances.
While appreciating and congratulating the Tamil people for their high-spirited passion for their heritage and language, British lawmakers did not fail to recall the atrocities that the Tamil people faced during the genocidal war in Sri Lanka. The majority pledged their continued support for justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, and paved the way for a permanent political solution for Tamil people in Sri Lanka to live in peace and harmony with equal rights.
A video message from Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, and Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said his party would “continue to campaign for this government to impose Magnitsky style sanctions on those who are accused of war crimes”.
Grant Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield, and Secretary of State for Defence praised the “fantastic contributions British Tamils make across the UK”.
Martyn Day, MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, Former Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Health and Social Care in the House of Commons in his speech said: “As you celebrate Thai Pongal, it is wonderful to see so many of you here and to see the rich culture and heritage on display. As you know I stand with you on truth, justice and self-determination”.
Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, Vice Chair of APPG for Tamils, referred to how Tamil culture as being older even than European culture and praised the British Tamils in the NHS and other industries. She expressed her sadness and anger on seeing the Sri Lankan state trying to walk away from its obligations of the UNHRC resolutions.
Meanwhile, Steve Tuckwell, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip praised Tamil people’s contributions to the United Kingdom.
Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, expressed concern over the European Parliament relaxing the GSP+ trade concessions to Sri Lanka, despite Sri Lanka’s human rights records. Referring to the sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, he assured that he would push the Labour Party to do the same in time to come.
Elliot Colburn, MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Chair of the APPG for Tamils extended his support for continuously fighting for justice for Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Sir Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, Liberal Democrat Leader, and Vice Chair of APPG for Tamils reaffirmed his commitment to pushing the UK government, using the coalition of cross-party support, to follow the steps of the government of Canada to sanction against the perpetrators of atrocity crimes and for ensuring justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Sir Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, Vice Chair of APPG for Tamils, stated that an efficient independent inquiry on what happened to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka "must" take place.
James Murray, MP for Ealing North, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury expressed his desire to have “Tamil Heritage Month” in January, and admiring Tamil peoples’ contribution to the British economy, expressed his apprehension that fifteen years lapsed without finding accountability and justice.
Janet Daby, for Lewisham East, Shadow Minister for Youth Justice expressed her pleasure in having a strong Lewisham Tamil community.
Sam Tarry, MP for Ilford South, Former Shadow Minister for Buses and Local Transport, and Vice Chair of APPG for Tamils, upon admiring Tamil peoples’ nature of preserving their culture strong, stated that he would be pressing the new government to use an international mechanism for justice and peace and also securing a permanent political solution for Tamil people in Sri Lanka. He envisioned a day when the young Tamil generation would see their homeland.
Paul Scully, MP for Sutton & Cheam, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Energy, Vice Chair of APPG for Tamils stated that he visited the UN Human Rights Council, assured his commitment to find truth, justice and reconciliation for the Tamil people using international mechanisms and pushing the Foreign Minister in this respect.
Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford, Spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party during his speech, claimed that he had been outspoken on the and human rights violationss that had happened in Sri Lanka against the Tamil people. Lord Mann, Former MP for Bassetlaw, the UK Government Advisor on Antisemitism, assured his continued support in challenging governments around the world to act.
Virendra Sharma MP Ealing Southall, Vice Chair of the APPG for Tamils acknowledged what is happening in Sri Lanka is genocide and discrimination against Tamil people. Mayor of Harrow, Ramji Chauhan who migrated from Uganda and is proud of his South Asian origin, stated that the London Borough of Harrow passed the motion of celebrating every January as Tamil Heritage Month upon recognising Tamils' contribution to British society and the importance of harvesting.
Several other MPs including, Mims Davies - MP for Mid Sussex, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Dame Siobhain McDonagh DBE - MP for Mitcham and Morden, Catherine West – MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, the Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Rt Hon Valerie Carol Marian Vaz - MP for Walsall South, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Mo Ali, Vice Chairman of Conservative Party, Dr Rupa Asha Huq – MP for Ealing Central, Chi Onwurah - MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, Sarah Olney - MP for Richmond Park, Fleur Anderson - MP for Putney, John McNally, Scottish National Party MP for Falkirk and Navendu Mishra - MP for Stockport attended and spoke at the event.