Statement regarding the proposed travellers site in Beaumont Leys

Beaumont LeysMy speech to Council can be viewed here.

“On Thursday 24 January 2013, at a meeting of the Leicester City Council, I will join my fellow Beaumont Leys Councillors in strongly opposing the City Mayor’s decision to build a 6-pitch travellers site on Greengate Lane in Beaumont Leys.

Unauthorised gypsy and traveller encampments have been causing a nuisance in Beaumont Leys for many decades. However this is a problem that has affected the whole city and there must therefore be a city-wide solution.

The planned site poses a real threat to the city’s Green Wedge, local environment, residential amenity and transport infrastructure, and travellers themselves have also voiced serious concerns.

Building a travellers site in Beaumont Leys and another larger site in nearby Abbey ward is completely unacceptable to a large number of my constituents. Consequently I will be voting AGAINST the City Mayor’s decision at Council and urging all Councillors to do the same.

I hope that the City Mayor will think again on this extremely important issue.”

Cllr Sundip Meghani

Speech to Council: motion to recognise the contribution of Ugandan Asians

Click here to watch my speech on the Leicester City Council webcast video archive.

Speech delivered at a Leicester City Council meeting on 13 September 2012

As the son and grandson of Ugandan Asian immigrants who came to this city with virtually nothing, it gives me great pride to bring this motion before Council tonight.

In August 1972 the entire Asian population of Uganda was expelled by the dictator Idi Amin. They were given 90 days to leave the country or face being put into concentration camps. Some 80,000 men, women and children were stripped of all their possessions and forced to leave the only home they had ever known.

Around a third of the Ugandan Asian population held British passports. The Tory Government at the time initially tried to avoid letting them come here, but after weeks of wrangling the Government relented, and a huge resettlement effort began. In the end more than 25,000 Ugandan Asians came to the UK and around 10,000 moved to Leicester.

Here in Britain 1972 was a difficult year. With an oil crisis, a three-day week and crippling strikes; the economy was stagnating and times were tough for almost everyone. In addition there were widespread anti-immigration protests throughout Britain, spurred on by the likes of Enoch Powell and the National Front.

The people of Leicester and the Council at the time were reluctant to see a huge influx of new arrivals. But 40 years on Leicester is a very different place; a much better place. By living together, working together and going to school together, communities in Leicester have become more integrated and multiculturalism is part of everyday life.

When the Ugandan Asians came to Leicester they settled mainly in Highfields and Belgrave where housing was cheap. Despite an ailing economy there were plenty of manual jobs and Ugandan Asians ended up working in factories and businesses such as Imperial Typewriters, Thorn Lighting, Leicester Garments, Wilkinson’s and the British United Shoe Machinery Company to name a few.

It was in the factories and on the shop floors that barriers began to break down between the native British population and the newcomers from Uganda. If discrimination did occur, Ugandan Asians found solidarity with those in the trade union movement; a strong and vital link that remains just as important today as it was back then.

And on the subject of discrimination let me say categorically that we in the Labour Party have always and will always stand for core values of equality and fairness. And that is why we condemn today those, particularly on the far right, who seek to discourage people who are fleeing persecution, from coming here. Yesterday’s National Front are today’s BNP and EDL, and we must never be complacent about the threat they pose or the damage they do, even from a brief visit to our city.

In theory the Ugandan Asians who came here fleeing persecution were refugees, but in practise they lived and behaved like economic migrants; not seeking hand outs but working hard, not taking from society but contributing to it. And – as the Prime Minister said in the Commons yesterday – the contribution that Ugandan Asians have made to the United Kingdom has been ‘extraordinary’.

Those who came to Leicester were strong-willed, hardworking and entrepreneurial. They brought with them an excellent work ethic, core family values, a respect for others and an appreciation of the need to obtain a good education – values that all of us can identify with.

Some of those who were expelled ran successful businesses in Uganda. Here in Britain many had to start again from scratch – which they did – building multi-million pound businesses, and working to help their children become the doctors, lawyers and accountants of tomorrow.

40 years ago the people of Leicester accepted – albeit reluctantly – an unprecedented amount of change. Today our city is not only at peace with its diversity but proud of it. Asian culture imported from East Africa has influenced everything from our food to our fashion, from our festivals to our friendships.

My Lord Mayor, it is right and proper that we acknowledge the contribution that all communities have made and that we thank all the people of Leicester for making our city what it is.

But tonight we pause to reflect on the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Ugandan Asians fleeing persecution and formally recognise the contribution that they have made to the fabric of our city.

I hope that the inter-cultural harmony and social cohesion that we enjoy here in Leicester continues to go from strength-to-strength, and I pay tribute to the values and achievements of the Ugandan Asian community in Britain, and the awesome impact they have had on this great city of ours.

Thank you.

Speech on achievement delivered to Soar Valley college students

Speech delivered to Soar Valley college students on 22 September 2011

Good evening everyone. I’m Sundip Meghani. I’m a lawyer and a politician, so everything I’m about to say is of course true. I’m very proud to be a governor of Soar Valley college. Not because we’ve got an amazing building, brilliant teachers and a fantastic principal – although of course we do – but because we have some of the brightest and most talented students in the whole of Leicester. I’m very glad to be here with all of you, to celebrate your success, along with your parents and your teachers.

I think it’s fair to say that when compared to me, you guys really are the next generation. When I was your age, I didn’t have a mobile phone, I didn’t watch satellite television and I didn’t use the Internet. Mainly because those things were still being invented.

So in many ways I envy what you have. And I don’t mean materialistic things, I mean what you have in terms of time and the extraordinary possibilities that you have in your lives, as you get older. You may not realise it but when you look at the history of the world, you’re all very lucky to be alive at this moment in time. Now I know that sounds a bit strange so let me just expand on what I mean.

At this moment in time, there is no World War, and there is not likely to be another catastrophic World War anytime soon. You live in one of the richest nations on Earth, where you have access to free education and free healthcare. You and your family are protected by the police, and your rights and freedoms are guaranteed by law. You live in a world where the human genome has been mapped and virtually all life threatening diseases will be eradicated in the coming decades. And you live in a world where for the first time in human history, thanks to the Internet, all the people of the world are able to communicate with each other instantly, to share ideas, and work together to tackle man-made problems.

Why am I telling you all this? Well firstly, to illustrate how lucky you are, to be where you are. Secondly, and most importantly, to demonstrate how special you are – each and every one of you. Not just to your families – of course they already think you’re special – but you are special to the world. And to me, to your teachers and to Soar Valley college.

You’re special because you are the future. How well you do in your studies, the kind of career that you eventually attain, and the achievements that you go on to make in your life, matter to all of the adults here in this room today.

So when all these wonderful people put on a graduation ceremony like this, it’s not because we enjoy each other’s company – although we do – it’s because we actually care, about you, and about the future of your education.

I myself was born and raised on a Council estate in Leicester. When I was quite young, in my family, we sometimes didn’t have enough money for food. I never owned the latest gadgets or wore the trendiest clothes. And I certainly didn’t have any major ambitions to really do anything in the future.

The turning point in my life, besides the hard work of my parents to provide for me and my siblings, was the kindness, the encouragement and dare I say it, the love of a handful of my teachers, when I was at school. I was mentored, I was motivated and I was inspired to work hard, think big, to discover my talents and to dream about a different, more exciting future.

As the son of immigrants who came to this country from Uganda and Kenya with virtually nothing, I’m proud to stand in front of you today as a university graduate, a solicitor and the youngest Councillor in the city of Leicester.

So you see whatever your background or upbringing, whatever your ambition in life at the moment, you have the chance to achieve anything you want, and the opportunity to be the master of your own destiny. However it won’t come easy and it won’t happen overnight.

You’ll have to keep doing what you’re doing; achieving good grades and attending regularly at school. You’ll have to undertake extra-curricular activities that you enjoy, and allow them to broaden your horizons. You’ll have to show initiative and motivate yourself to work hard to complete projects, assignments and homework on time. And you’ll have to start thinking about what you want to do later in life; the kind of lifestyle you want to lead, the type of job you want to have, and the subjects you want to study at university or college.

In closing, I would urge you all to not only listen and trust the advice of your teachers and your families, but to also start seriously thinking about the future. Start to aim high and think big, be optimistic and dream the impossible. Most importantly of all, create for yourself a life of purpose, where you put love and hope ahead of greed and fear. And where going to work never feels like a chore, because you’re doing something that you enjoy and something that stimulates your mind.

Congratulations on today and best of luck for the future.