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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1589

Labour’s Impending Downfall and the Role of Misplayed Ethnic Cards

By Our Special Correspondent
London, 06 May, (

sharma_doorstep.JPGAs the British Election is just around the corner, the governing Labour party is said to be bracing itself for the doomsday finale.

There is no doubt that the axe of wrath will fall on its leader, Mr Gordon Brown, for mishandling a range of issues, not least the way he treated the woman pensioner who raised some critical issues with the prime minister.

The fact of the matter, however, is, there are far worse offenders in the Labour’s chain of command than Mr Brown who brought the party into disrepute by focussing on petty issues just to appease a tiny fraction of the population for questionable gains.

The conduct of two Asian MPs is a case in point. Both Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester East and Virendra Sharma, the MP for Ealing South have been campaigning for justice for a particular ethnic community in Britain – Tamils of Sri Lankan origin.

By doing so, the pair acted in the past as if that the Indian community that they love to represent, was free of all troubles. For instance, they have not been as unequivocal as they are on the Tamil issue about the notorious arranged marriages, untold suffering of women as a consequence and female infanticide among some members of the Indian community that has become a headache for the civil authorities in Britain.

It was in Southall, busy part of Virendra Sharma’s constituency, Navjeet Sidhu, a young Sikh woman threw herself on to an on-coming high-speed train while clutching her two kids only to be crushed into pieces in 2005. A year later, Satvant Kaur, Navjeet’s mother committed the same at the same spot – and in the same way.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; the women of Indian origin suffer on many fronts, both physically and psychologically, thanks to the rigid cultural taboos imposed upon them by husbands and in-laws, yet the parliamentarians, who are supposed to represent them, just turn a blind eye on them.

If a woman of Indian origin cannot produce a son or the first-born happens to be a daughter, her misery just gets amplified by tenfold; there are thousands of women of Indian origin who fall into this category throughout the country. Despite living in the Western Europe, this particular aspect of what they call culture, takes place on a menacing scale in the Indian community. However, neither Mr Sharma nor Keith Vaz is on record for championing for the rights of these beleaguered women in the Indian Community.

This is the truth. Yet Virendra Sharma and Keith Vaz appear to be wrestling with conscience on an issue in an island, which is thousands of miles away from their country of adoption. Both may have played their role for the unprecedented inclusion of a few sentences in the Labour manifesto, the need for an inquiry about war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, the Labour hierarchy may have underestimated the damage done by the conduct of these two ethnic stalwarts: first of all, they have hurt the feelings of ethnic Sinhalese and Muslims in the United Kingdom while ignoring their sensitivities; secondly, the peace-loving Tamils who chose to live in Britain have more pressing issues than constantly associating themselves with an extinct brutal outfit, the Tigers – the jobs for their kids, finding funds for the education of their sons and daughters, surviving the recession, to name but a few.

Both Mr Sharma and Mr Vaz appear to have very short memories about the heinous crimes committed by the Tiger outfit in the name of liberation: women and children were hacked to death in their sleep for just belonging to the majority of Sri Lanka; men, women and children were blown up indiscriminately inside buses; Muslim civilians were massacred while in prayer inside mosques; the most sacred place of worship for Buddhists was targeted by a bomb in most coward fashion; a former prime minister of the largest democracy in the world was blown up who happened to share the religion that Mr Sharma practises and Prabakaran used to practise.

Yet, the pair never wanted to launch an inquiry about these atrocities; their focus is only on the acts alleged to have committed by the elected government.

The Global Tamil Forum – GTF – must be congratulating them for using notable rabble-rousers to advance their cause. Unfortunately, they have overdone it, especially at a time when the immigration issue has become such a hot topic in the election campaign. The indications are that the indigenous British have had enough of immigrants; the Tamils are no exception. They feel their country is swamped by them; so, the last thing they want to hear is their endless whinging – and over petty issues which have nothing to do with them.

When Tiger supporters indulged in endless protests just before the end of the war, neither the media nor the indigenous British citizens took to the streets in support of them – much to the dismay of Tiger loyalists. It is a clear indication about the support they get from majority of Britons for their cause.

The chequered reputation of Mr Vaz and Mr Sharma does not endear them to the British public either. They are not rated as those of Gandhian calibre by the British; the truth is far from it. Both saw their names in the list published by the Daily Telegraph for claiming huge expenses.

Mr Vaz was at the centre of an inquiry by the parliamentary watch dog in 2000 for not declaring some funds that ran into thousands. He was forced to resign as the minister for Europe when Tony Blair was the prime minister for his role in a passport scandal involving wealthy Indian businessman in the UK, in 2001. Then he got suspended from the House of Commons for one month in 2002 on the recommendations made by a Committee on Standard and Privileges.

Eloquent speech has never been the strongest point of Mr Sharma. He goes down in the history of House of Commons as someone who hardly raised his voice on the famous floor. The man who started his life in England as a bus conductor for a London bus company, then won a scholarship allocated for workers, to study at prestigious London School of Economics and then earn his degree. His campaign against the closure of his local post office in Norwood Green, West London and then vote in favour of the bill for such closures at the House of Commons, did not make his electorate hug him in the streets in Southall area for taking that strange stance. He voted in favour of 42-days detention of terror suspects, something that even Conservatives opposed and voted against launching an independent inquiry into the Iraq war – yet want an inquiry into the war in Sri Lanka!

The Labour party made a monumental mistake by its reference to the need for an inquiry into the last phase of Sri Lanka’s war against the Tigers, while opposing a public inquiry proposed by the opposition in the United Kingdom: the civilian death toll in Iraq ran into hundreds of thousands; the civilian death in Sri Lanka is nowhere near that colossal figure even during the three decades of conflict.

The Labour party got into this embarrassing mess by the questionable motives of few members of the party, not all. There were sane MPs – a lot of them - in the party who didn’t want to be seen hypocritical by classifying terrorists into categories of good and bad.

In post-election Britain, the Labour party can start clean-up operation straightaway by launching an inquiry into the conduct of MPs who had been hell bent on speaking on behalf of terrorists or organizations that support them by stealth which made mockery noble concept of freedom and democracy. Sensible people turn away from parties which appear to nurture blatantly obvious double standards.

Those who indulged in gimmicks to woo Tamil votes, in actual fact, distanced many ordinary people away from the Labour party. When the blame game gets into full swing after bad election results, there will be no escape for a handful of MPs who tarnished the reputation of a great political party for petty gains, because they have been clutching at the proverbial Tiger tail.

- Asian Tribune -

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