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Labour MP lands in LTTE soup

Keith Vaz has gotten himself into a probe by anti-terrorism police, after the SL high commissioner wrote to Gordon Brown about Vaz's presence at a rally in support of the Tamil Tigers. Vijay Dutt reports.

world Updated: Dec 25, 2007 01:35 IST
Vijay Dutt

Asian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz has gotten himself into an embarrassing investigation by anti-terrorism police, after the Sri Lankan high commissioner, Kshenuka Senewiratne, wrote to prime minister Gordon Brown to express her "serious concerns" at Vaz's presence at a rally here in support of the Tamil Tigers.

Vaz, who heads an all-party Home Affairs Select committee that scrutinises all anti-terrorism legislation, is said to be under pressure, to explain his decision to speak at the rally last month.

No stranger to controversies and in riding them out, in this case the fact that Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command is investigating the rally will put political pressure on Vaz. A source close to the inquiry was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying, "We have recovered some evidence, including video footage, which we are studying."

At the rally attended by more than 10,000 Tamil Tigers' supporters on November 27 a video address by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist group officially banned in Britain, was screened. Prabhakaran, posing in uniform in front of a flag, hailed "the immeasurable dedication and sacrifice of our heroes (suicide bombers)".

Vaz has said he was unaware the Prabhakaran recording was to be shown and defended his decision to speak at the event. "Parliament has to decide who chairs select committees — not foreign governments or Gordon Brown," he said.

Under the Terrorism Act, the Tigers cannot operate in Britain, own property or raise funds. It is also an offence to glorify their activities or to incite support for them.

Vaz, who has 7,000 Tamils in his Leicester East constituency, added he attended at the request of constituents and that he had been "happy to do so". He had also received a "lovely letter" from the Sri Lankan authorities asking him to attend a cultural event days later, he added.

"My position on Sri Lanka is very simple: you have to return to the negotiating table. I condemn all forms of terrorism."