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UK Heath Secretary full of praise for British Tamils at Number 10’s Pongal Reception

The UK’s health secretary Victoria Atkins was full of praise for British Tamils at the Prime Minister’s residence on Downing Street this week, stating the UK “will always stand by your side to promote justice, accountability, and reconciliation” during a Thai Pongal celebration.

This is the second year that British Tamils have been invited to celebrate Thai Pongal at 10 Downing Street, a festival marked to give thanks to the sun for the harvest. A traditional clay Pongal pot adorned with kartigaipoo – the national flower of Tamil Eelam – was placed outside the famous front door, with sugar cane cuttings and a colourful kolam display.

The event drew attendees from diverse fields within the British Tamil community including academics, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals, as well as Members of Parliament, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, with Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami amongst those present.

In her welcoming address to the Tamil community, Atkins acknowledged the longstanding contributions of Tamils to the United Kingdom, spanning from pioneering world war pilots to scientists involved in the discovery of the COVID-19 vaccine. She expressed gratitude, specifically, to the Tamils serving in the NHS and Tamil educators, including teachers.

Addressing the situation in Sri Lanka, she reassured the UK's unwavering commitment to accountability and justice, declaring solidarity with the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The event saw guests served an arrant of canapés that offered a contemporary twist on traditional fare, including dosai, idly, vadai, and of course, generous servings of pongal.

Earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sent a "huge thank you" to British Tamils in a message released to mark Thai Pongal, stating the community has made an "amazing contribution" to the country.

“Let me first say a huge thank you to British Tamils for the amazing contribution you make in the NHS, education, science, business, public service,” said Sunak in a video message.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party also issued a statement to mark the occasion.

“I also take this opportunity to thank the British Tamil community and highlight the many contributions they have made to the social, economic and cultural fabric of our country. Their contributions in academia, medicine, business, arts, literature and science have made our communities and our country stronger.”

“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,” Starmer added.

 

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