Joan took part in a debate on Sri Lanka the other day. Before moving on to talk about the current situation in the country she outlined the impact that the Tamil community have had in Lewisham:
Like many other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, a very significant number of my constituents arrived in this country as asylum seekers and refugees from Sri Lanka. They now belong to the Tamil community that thrives in Lewisham, and in my constituency of Lewisham, Deptford in particular. As others have said, the families are settled British citizens, and they bring a great sense of commerce and endeavour to our communities. They not only run petrol stations but convenience shops, and play various roles in the NHS and the IT industry. Members of the Tamil community make an extremely valued contribution, and I very much support their work. They also bring a sense of culture to my area, which I especially enjoy. I should like to mention Vani fine arts, where young children are taught to play the sitar. It is the most wonderful experience to be at one of their concerts.
It’s clear reading Joan’s speech that she has drawn on their concerns about the current situation in Sri Lanka. She says:
[I was] very distressed and alarmed when last summer the Tamil community in my area asked for another political meeting to discuss the appalling outbreaks of violence that had taken place. I went to that meeting, and heard about the many grievances that people had. I also heard the horror stories about what people in Jaffna had suffered. There was a lack of food and medicine in the city, and people who previously had been entirely self-sufficient were now relying on people from Britain to get to them the drugs, money and so on that they needed. It is a matter of enormous concern to me, as it is to all Members who have contributed today, that the violence has continued to escalate and to add to the terrible toll of previous decades.