Calls for the Mayor of the London borough of Harrow to resign continued among the local Tamil community today, despite the Mayor being forced to apologise for photographs she had taken with senior Sri Lankan military officials, including the brigadier found guilty of threatening Tamil protesters in London.
Kareema Marikar, a Labour councillor of Sri Lankan origin who is serving as the ceremonial mayor of the borough for the year 2018/19, published photographs of herself in her mayoral garb posing with military officials including the notorious Brigadier Priyanka Fernando as well as Sri Lanka’s army commander Mahesh Senanayake. The photographs were accompanied with captions praising the officials for their service.
A petition handed to Harrow Council’s cabinet last week said “it was extremely upsetting to learn that Ms Marikar, who represents a large number of Tamils in Harrow and claims to have a detailed knowledge of Sri Lanka, chose to publish photographs with these senior military officials.” (See more from the Harrow Times)
Harrow has the highest population of Eelam Tamils in the UK with upwards of 10,000 Tamil residents.
While the mayor was initially defiant against criticism, including confronting members of the Tamil community on social media, after increasing calls for her to resign she recently issued an apology stating her meeting with Priyanka Fernando had not been predetermined.
“I want to apologise unreservedly for any hurt or offence that this may have caused the Tamil community,” she said, adding that the photographs had been removed from her Facebook profile.
The mayor however made no reference to other military officials in the apology.
Tamil residents of Harrow however were not satisfied with her belated apology.
"How can she represent Harrow when she has publicised photographs herself with a Sri Lankan army brigadier who has motioned a death threat against us Tamils," a mother from Welbeck Road told Tamil Guardian.
A Labour source said that the mayor may have faced disciplinary action and that her actions did not reflect party policy on Sri Lanka which includes pushing for accountability and justice for atrocities and genocide committed against Tamils, as articulated by the party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Brigadier Fernando was filmed motioning a death threat to Tamils protesting in London in February 2018, running his finger across his neck whilst dressed in full military uniform outside the Sri Lankan High Commission in the UK. Fernando had been at the High Commission to celebrate Sri Lanka's Independence Day when he confronted the British Tamils who were demonstrating outside with placards and Tamil Eelam flag.
Last month he was found guilty of violating sections 5 and 4A of the Public Order Act, with the court stating that his actions were threatening, caused harassment, and that he intended them to be so.