To mark Thai Pongal and Tamil heritage month, over 500 Tamils and British politicians filled Central Hall in Westminster to enjoy a night of festive celebration, musical performances and classical dance.
Organised by leading community organisations including World Tamil Historic Society, Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Tamils for Labour, Tamil Coordinating Committee, British Tamil Chamber of Commerce and British Tamil Conservatives and supported by various other organisations including Tamil societies from over 30 universities, the event was a huge joint effort by the British Tamil community.
The evening was filled with a variety of cultural performances and speeches by British MPs who thanked the Tamil community for their contributions to society and reaffirmed their calls for justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.
Guests who packed the venue enjoyed spectacular traditional performances including parai, mangala vaadhyam, Karakakam, and koothu and sampled delicious traditional Pongal sweets.
Nadhim Zahawi, Chairman of the Conservative Party, thanked British Tamils for the "tremendous contribution" they have made to the UK.
"As we mark Tamil Heritage Month, we remember the fantastic role you play in all walks of life, ranging from the sciences, the arts, in business and in our public services," Zahawi said.
"I don't think there's a hospital in the country without a story of the contribution of Tamil doctors and nurses," he added.
Elliot Colburn, MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tamils (APPGT) said:
"I want to reiterate my commitment and commitment of all my colleagues in the UK Parliament, that we will continue to stand up for the rights, peace, justice and accountability that has been denied to the Tamil people for far too long by the Sri Lankan government."
Colburn also urged the "British government to do what other governments have done and sanction those greatly accused of war crimes."
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Surbiton, Ed Davey also celebrated the contribution that the Tamil community have made to British society.
In his speech, Davey paid tribute to his friend and doctor Anton Sebastianpillai, who passed away while working on the NHS frontlines when the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
Davey also added that Canada’s decision to impose sanctions on the Rajapaksa brothers was “absolutely right” and that “the time for fine words has gone.” Davey called on the UK government to follow the leadership of Canada on this critical issue.
Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet echoed comments about the contribution Tamils have made to the UK's economy and the NHS. She also stressed the urgent need to bring justice for Tamils who suffered horrific crimes during the armed conflict.
Stephen Timms, MP for Eastham, said that "in the midst of celebration, we can't forget the hardships being faced by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka."
"I think it is time for the British government to take action and to name and sanction individuals who we know are responsible for terrible things that are being done," Timms added.
Timms also highlighted that it is clear that an "independent, international investigation" is needed in the absence of a domestic reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Heritage Month was introduced to London last year by the London Assembly and is being marked by boroughs across the capital with significant Tamil communities.
Over the weekend, Nelson's Column, the iconic monument in central London's popular Trafalgar Square, was lit up with a projection celebrating Thai Pongal and Tamil Heritage Month.
The projections featured imagery symbolising Thai Pongal, the Tamil geometric art form of Kolam and the karthigaipoo - the national flower of Tamil Eelam.
Many ministers, members of parliament and assembly members who attended the celebration, recorded video messages for the Tamil community. Whilst unable to attend the event, Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer, both provided video messages thanking British Tamils for their contribution.