Standing ovation for Burma refugee's plea

A MOVING speech by a Burmese refugee sparked a standing ovation during a meeting of Sheffield Council - and helped convince every councillor to vote in favour of the same motion.

Wednesday, 3rd October 2007, 6:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th October 2007, 9:52 am

The woman, a representative from the Karen Community Association, addressed the full council after handing them a petition signed by 95 people.

The petition was signed in support of the people of Burma who have been subjected to violence following weeks of peaceful protest against military rule.

Sheffield is one of two 'host countries' who welcomed Burmese refugees under the United Nations Gateway programme and as a result is home to one of the largest groups of Burmese exiles in the UK.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The spokesman for the Karen Community Association - Karen is an ethnic group - said the petition had been put together to highlight the problems in Burma and asked the council to show their support by recognising the atrocities.

"I came here as a refugee just over a year ago with my family. Over 120 of us Karen live in Sheffield," she said.

"I am grateful for your hospitality and will always remember how the good people of Sheffield took us in.

"But we Karen people of Sheffield feel we must do something for our friends who are still suffering all those miles away and we are asking you to help us.

"Monks are not violent people and they do not take to the streets without good cause.

"You brought hope to us when you welcomed us in but now we must bring hope to those who are still in Burma where hope is fast running out - they need to know not just that the World is watching and listening but that it is on their side."

Her speech was greeted by a standing ovation from councillors and members of the public gallery.

Coun Jan Wilson described the speech as "the most moving we have had in this chamber for some time - if not ever".

She then went on to outline a motion on behalf of the council which condemns the violence in Burma, highlights the courage and integrity of the Burmese people and voices anger at the military regime's lack of response to calls for the violence to stop.

Her motion also confirmed Sheffield's link with Burma and reaffirmed the city's pride in welcoming the refugees through the Gateway programme.

A copy of the motion, which was seconded by Lib Dem leader Paul Scriven, will be sent to the secretary of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and all Sheffield MPs asking for their support in putting pressure on Burma's rulers to restore democracy.

Every member in the chamber - from all the political parties - voted in favour of carrying the motion.

Coun Scriven said: "This issues transcends party politics and I am absolutely delighted to be able to second it - it brings us all together."

Click here to return to main news index.

What do you think? Add your comment below.