COLOMBO: While ten Indians, nine Pakistanis, three Bangladeshis and even a Sinhalese, have entered the British parliament in the general election held on Thursday, not a single Tamil has made it, though the population of Lankan Tamils in the UK is said to be between 300,000 and 400,000.
There were only two Tamil candidates, Uma Kumaran (Labour -Harrow East) and Sockalingam Yogalingam (National Liberal Party-Ruislip), and both lost.
“Uma Kumaran lost because of the major anti-Labor Party swing, and Yogalingam was a candidate of a small, new, party. However, apart from these particular factors, there are general factors inhibiting Tamil political participation,” explained S.A.N.Rajkumar, a London-based human rights activist.
“The Tamils are a small community as compared to the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. And unlike the other South Asians, they are geographically dispersed. Nowhere are they big enough to count politically,” he told Express on Sunday.
The Tamils are also relatively recent immigrants, he pointed out.
“It’s only a third generation immigrant who feels confident enough to take to local politics and aim at parliament. Most of the Tamils in the UK are either first or second generation immigrants.” Rajkumar said.
And the Tamils lack encouragement from their families and the Tamil community to enter politics.
“ To the typical Tamil, with lingering memories of politics back in Sri Lanka or India, politics is a dirty game which decent men and women should avoid. It will take time for them to realize that politics in Britain is a different,” he said.
The other inhibiting factor is the Tamils’ single minded involvement in the rights issue in Lanka and what is happening in the UN Human Rights Council, to the exclusion of what is happening in British politics. But this is changing.
“The local councils have many Tamils. And with Tamil businesses beginning to contribute to mainstream political parties, the community will be accommodated by these parties in course of time,” Rajkumar said.