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UK: NRI MP attends pro-LTTE event, flayed
H S Rao in London | December 08, 2007 19:11 IST
Non Resident Indian Labour lawmaker Keith Vaz has been criticised by the Sri Lankan High Commission for attending an event here in which Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, through a televised address, called for supporting their demand for a separate Tamil state.
Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, addressed the annual Tamil rally in East London [Images] after a televised address by Prabhakaran, the commander of the terrorist organisation banned by the British government.
The rally was organised by UK-based Sri Lankan Tamils on the birthday of the LTTE leader.
The presence of Vaz, parliamentarian from Indian-dominated Leicester East, and a fellow Labour MP, Joan Ryan, drew an angry response from the Sri Lankan High Commission, which released a statement claiming that the event was a 'clear violation of the UK terrorism laws.'
The police, who recorded the gathering, said they were 'assessing material from the event' to ascertain if there is any evidence of criminal offences being committed.
The High Commission also accused 51-year-old Vaz of being 'partisan to a proscribed terrorist group' and claimed that the event was organised by a front organisation of the LTTE.
When asked about contents of the LTTE leader's speech and criticism by the Sri Lankan government, Vaz, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, said he was unaware about the LTTE leader's speech at the function.
"I am not really interested in (the contents of Prabhakaran's speech). I was there to deliver a message from the all-party group from my constituents. I have many Tamil people in my constituency," Vaz said.
Under the UK Terrorism Act, the Tigers are banned from raising funds, holding property or operating form the country.
Addressing the gathering of more than 10,000 people, Vaz said: "I understand the demands made by some for an independent Tamil state. They will grow, unless there is justice."
Ryan said she did not realise that Prabhakaran had spoken. "I told the meeting that we need to find peace through peaceful means and a negotiated settlement needs to be found urgently."
Ryan, the lawmaker for Enfield North, told the rally: "I am sorry to have to remember the 70,000 innocent Tamils who lost their lives in the struggle. We must pursue the aims and values for which they lost their lives."
Earlier in his televised address, Prabhakaran called on 'the entire Tamil-speaking world to rise up for the liberation of Tamil Eelam.'
The Sri Lankan High Commission alleged that the rally served as a fund-raising event for the group. The British Tamil Forum, which helped to organise the event, said it is the victim of a smear campaign by the Sri Lankan government.