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UK denies Vaz under probe for Tiger links
Vaz: Skilful MP

London, Dec. 24: Scotland Yard today denied police were “investigating” the Labour MP Keith Vaz following complaints about his appearance at a Tamil rally in London where suicide bombers were indirectly praised.

“We are assessing material from the event to see if there is evidence of criminal offences being committed — that is the not same thing as investigating,” said a Scotland Yard spokesman.

According to newspaper reports, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London, Kshenuka Senewiratne, has written to Gordon Brown to express her “serious concerns” at Vaz’s presence at the rally which was held at London’s ExCeL exhibition centre.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that “more than 10,000 supporters at the rally on November 27 saw a video address by Velupillai Prabhakaran, the commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist group officially banned in Britain. In a reference to the Tigers’ use of suicide bombers, Prabhakaran, posing in uniform in front of a flag, hailed ‘the immeasurable dedication and sacrifice of our heroes’.”

It was suggested by the paper that Vaz had attended the rally for reasons of political expediency — he has “7,000 Tamils in his Leicester East constituency”.

Vaz had made his own position clear: “My position on Sri Lanka is very simple: you have to return to the negotiating table. I condemn all forms of terrorism.”

The Times provided more detail about the rally, which was “organised by British-based Tamils on the birthday of the Tamil Tiger leader”. It said that Vaz, who spoke after the televised address by Prabhakaran, told the rally: “I understand the demands made by some for an independent Tamil state. They will grow, unless there is justice.”

It said the rally had provoked an angry response from the Sri Lankan High Commission which had argued the event was a “clear violation of the UK terrorism laws”.

It is not unusual for MPs to be vulnerable to constituency pressures. Those with large numbers of Pakistani Muslims, for example, generally have to make sympathetic noises about Pakistan’s views on Kashmir.

Vaz has to be particularly skilful because for the past 20 years he has represented a city where more than a quarter of the population is of Asian origin — and the MP, to his credit, knows the personal history of almost every family. At each election, Vaz has been returned with huge majorities.

However, in some senses, Asian MPs who represent non-Asian constituencies are better off because their constituents are less demanding. After being Europe Minister, Vaz had to suffer the disappointment of returning to the backbenches. But he is now enjoying a new lease of political life as chairman of the powerful Home Affairs committee.

In this role, as the Sunday Telegraph pointed out, “he has clashed with Brown and Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, over plans to increase from 28 to 42 the number of days terror suspects can be held without charge”.

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