Time to support the Tamils, say British Conservatives
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 20 October 2009, 09:01 GMT]
Increasing involvement in British politics and reciprocal openness of the British political parties was marked by a part-televised event held in Essex Sunday where several incumbent and prospective parliamentarians from the British Conservative party reached out to their Tamil constituencies and articulated their positions on the conflict and its consequences in Sri Lanka .The event was the first one in a series planned by the recently formed British Tamil Conservative Association (BTCA). Members of Parliament from the British party were keen to stress both their sense of fairness as well as their orientation towards action over rhetoric, according to a BTCA attendee. Conservative candidate, Robert Halfon, echoed in his website, the sentiments expressed Sunday stressing the need for autonomy for the Tamils saying they deserved nothing less.
The event reflects the growing confidence with which this once-immigrant Tamil community is engaging with the domestic political space, a trend picked up last weekend by the cover story of the Financial Times magazine edition in London, a Tamil activist youth attending the event said.
Traditionally, it has been the Labour party in Britain that has positioned itself as the “party of immigrants” – at least in the eyes of many first generation British Tamils.
However, as the Financial Times pointed out the Tamil Diaspora for historic reasons fits a middle class stereotype, its members largely consisting of professionals and entrepreneurs. As the Diaspora integrates in their adopted countries and with the emergence of a confident and assertive second generation, British Tamils are increasingly confident in looking for political parties that fit their values and most importantly their sense of justice and fairness with respect to foreign policy on Sri Lanka.
With general elections scheduled for next year and the political conference season over, the campaigning has commenced with some vigor. The Labour party in its annual conference passed a resolution that condemned "the detention by the Sri Lankan government of 300,000 men, women and children" as inhumane. Tamil political analysts say the British Tamil community is watching closely for the parties to clarify a party-wide policy towards Sri Lanka, a conference resolution was an important first step.
While individual members of parliament have built close relationships with their constituents a broad policy change is required for effective action, BTCA said.
A traditional British dinner of roast lamb was preceded by a toast to the Queen, and a one minutes silence in memory of those who had lost their lives in the recent conflict in the Vanni. Raffle prizes included a book signed by Conservative leader David Cameron, and afternoon tea at Westminster, BTCA said.
After dinner the candidates and members, in a series of speeches, outlined their views on the Sri Lankan conflict and on the pressing issue of the internment camps.
James Brokenshire, the Shadow Minister for Home affairs spoke of the unacceptable nature of the internment camps in Sri Lanka . He said that the past six months of internment is six months too long. He spoke of the need for a long term solution to the ethnic conflict and in support of Tamil autonomy and stressed that while the present British government had been long on words it had been short on action.
Lee Scott, Member of Parliament for Ilford North reiterated the stand that he has consistently taken in parliament describing what was taking place in Sri Lanka as genocide. The internment camps were particularly on his mind, he said, in view of his upcoming visit to Auschwitz.
Andrew Charalambous, prospective member for Edmonton shared this view and supported a two state solution to the ethnic conflict. He was keen to rename the British Tamil Conservative Association as the “Conservative friends of Tamil Eelam”.
Robert Haflon, candidate for Harlow said of the internment camps “This desperate situation cannot continue. It does nothing to bring about peace, and if anything exacerbates long held grievances felt by the Tamils.” He too stressed the need for autonomy for the Tamils saying they deserved nothing less.
Andrew Rosindell, Member of Parliament for Romford, said his party stood for fairness and human rights. All of the speakers deplored the internment camps and the discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka. These included Tony Boutle parliamentary candidate for Ilford South and Gavin Barwell, candidate for Croydon Central among others.
The present and prospective Members of Parliament from the Conservative party were keen to differentiate themselves from the present Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown by stressing that they stood for action as opposed to rhetoric on Sri Lanka, BTCA said.