The London Assembly has, through a unanimous vote, called on the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to ensure that January will be marked as Tamil Heritage Month.
The decision follows a similar declaration in Canada in 2016 and has been welcomed by London's Tamil Community.
Speaking at the debate, assembly member Nicholas Rogers, who had proposed the motion, stated:
“Tamils make a huge and important contribution to life in our city; whether in our schools, whether in our hospitals, whether in our care homes, whether on the groundbreaking AstraZeneca vaccination. They bring an ethos of public service in our communities and this public service takes place in a backdrop of persecution and oppression abroad”.
Dr Onkar Sahota also supported these statements telling the assembly:
“Tamils are an integral part of the tapestry of this city […] They have contributed to the economic, civic life of this country […] many came escaping torture and war in their own country”.
Their sentiments were supported by member Shaun Bailey who told the assembly:
“Tamils have survived serious, serious persecution and this sends a message to the world of the values of London how welcoming we are of people most in need”.
He further stressed the need for a Tamil heritage month saying:
“As someone from the Black community, who has benefitted massively from Black History month, I can tell you of the real cultural, personal, financial, emotional, and spiritual value of having your history recognised at a regular time in the year”.
Unmesh Desai shared these sentiments and reflected on his own personal experience participating in his first Tamil solidarity march in 1984, during “the first wave of Tamils coming over”. Desai condemned the bombardment of Jaffna and the horrors of the war noting that many Tamil refugees had settled in East Ham. “Every second home had lost someone during the war,” he told the assembly.
Krupesh Hirani, assembly member for Brent and Harrow expressed his pride in supporting the motion stating:
“I’m proud of the contribution of Tamils to Brent and Harrow and beyond. It makes me proud to represent the best part of the greatest city in the world”.
Speaking to the Tamil Guardian, the British Tamil Conservatives stated that they were delighted that the motion had passed unanimously. They further added:
“We believe this motion will lead to the Greater London Authority and the 32 London Boroughs promoting Tamil language and culture and celebrate the contributions of Tamil Londoners”.
Sen Kandiah, Chair of Tamils for Labour, told Tamil Guardian:
“This is a landmark resolution by the London Assembly for the whole of the Tamils around the world. I take this opportunity to thank all Assembly Members who supported this motion and particularly those who made brilliant speeches in support of this motion. Tamils for Labour will work with the Assembly on a cross-party basis to build on this to shine more light on the genocidal act that is continuing in North and East of Sri Lanka. We will continue to focus on all aspects of our struggle until our People are free”.
The full text of the motion is:
“London’s Tamil community, originating from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and elsewhere, makes a strong contribution to the life of our city.
There are an estimated 15,000 Tamils working for NHS England as doctors, nurses and front-line health professionals, thousands of Tamils serving as teachers and teaching assistants in our schools. Over a hundred adult social care facilities are operated by Tamils in and around London, caring for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Tamils have made significant contributions to the social, economic, cultural and political fabric of the UK; from serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to Tamil scientists working on the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
This incredible work takes place against the backdrop of persecution and abuse abroad, deeply affecting the wellbeing of the family and friends of Tamils in the UK.
The London Assembly thanks the Tamil community for their invaluable contribution to our city. We are profoundly grateful for the work that they do.
The Assembly notes that January marks Tamil Heritage Month and that Pongal – the Harvest Festival – commences on 14th January. We call on the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to ensure these occasions are marked and that our much-valued Tamil community is supported across the city.”
Read the official motion here.