London mayor’s ‘links’ to political extremism questionedApril 23rd, 2008 - 11:17 am ICT by admin
London, April 23 (IANS) London Mayor Ken Livingstone has appointed a former member of a banned pro-Khalistan organisation to his transport board and addressed a group alleged to be linked to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also banned, a newspaper reported. In articles published this week, the London Evening Standard reported that Livingstone has appointed Dabinderjit Singh, a decorated civil servant, to the Board of Transport for London, the public-private partnership that runs buses and underground trains in the British capital.
The paper said until 2001, Dabinderjit Singh, OBE, was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), which is banned under British anti-terrorism laws. The group, which became well known in India for its role in the 1984-85 troubles in Punjab, was described by former British Home Office minister Lord Bassam as a “threat to national security”.
Dabinderjit Singh told the Evening Standard: “I was a sympathiser of the ISYF but the only time I came into the limelight with the ISYF was in 2000. The organisation was put up for proscription about two months later. When an organisation is proscribed, it’s the organisation, not the individuals, that are banned.”
The newspaper said there is no suggestion that Dabinderjit Singh has been personally involved in facilitating or carrying out an act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, Livingstone, who is bidding for a third term as London Mayor in elections scheduled for May 1, addressed a meeting last week co-organised by the British Tamil Forum (BTF), described by the Sri Lankan government as a front organisation of the LTTE.
An article published on the website of the Tamil Eelam News Services (TNS) said Livingstone had sought the group’s support for his re-election bid.
However, a spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission in London told the Evening Standard that High Commissioner Kshenuka Senewiratne had written to Livingstone early last week to express her concern about his plans to speak but did not hear back from him.
“The British Tamil Forum is one of the main front organisations for the Tamil Tigers in the UK,” the spokesman said. “We did not know whether the mayor knew what the background to the meeting was so the High Commissioner wrote to inform him.”
The TNS hit back on the claims, with its website quoting the BTF’s Brian Capaloff as saying: “Quite clearly the Sri Lankan High Commission, which is hardly angelic in its governance, is going to denigrate any organisation that is critical of the Sri Lankan government and the best way to do that is to claim it to be an arm of the Tamil Tigers.”
BTF spokesman Suren Surendiran said the forum “shares the same aspirations as the Tamil Tigers, but we do not subscribe to their methodology”.
The Evening Standard said in an editorial Monday: “As for the mayor, one problematic element of Mr Livingstone’s record is his past support for individuals linked to religious or political extremism.”
On Sunday, Livingstone’s Tory Party rival Boris Johnson queried him over his decision to welcome a controversial Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, to the City Hall in 2004.
The Qatar-based Egyptian cleric has described homosexuality as an “unnatural and evil practice” and said the Quran permitted wife-beating in certain circumstances but Livingstone defended al-Qaradawi saying he was strongly opposed to the Al Qaeda terror network.
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