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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 03:36 GMT 04:36 UK
UK Sikhs form political party
Sikhs at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Hounslow Middlesex
Britain's Sikhs want their concerns to be heard
Members of Britain's Sikh community will launch their own political party on Sunday.

The aim of the Sikh Federation is to lobby politicians, and back parties willing to address the community's concerns.

The party will not field its own candidates, but has drawn up an eight-point agenda and intends to set up offices in areas with significant Sikh populations.

The launch will take place during a three-day conference of the National Sikh Convention being held in Wolverhampton.

I think for too long Sikhs have been fairly quiet on the issues that matter to them
Dabinderjit Singh,
Sikh Secretariat

The party's agenda includes calls for greater Sikh representation in public life and single faith schools.

BBC religious affairs reporter Martha Doyle said it would be a political party with a small 'p' - one which hoped to encourage existing politicians to take seriously the issues of their community.

About three quarters of the UK's 340,000 Sikhs are thought to vote Labour.

Our correspondent says the formation of the new party will be seen as a warning to the government that the Sikh vote cannot be taken for granted.

The new party will be allied to another new lobbying body representing the country's 250 plus Gurdwaras (temples), the Sikh Advisory Group.

Neighbourly

This weekend's convention, which started on Friday, is expected to attract a total of 10,000 people from the UK's Sikh community.

Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin is planning to visit the event on Sunday, where he is set to praise the religion's ideals of service to the community and neighbourly society.

Mr Letwin, who will attend the event at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton, is also expected to call for the Commission for Racial Equality to monitor Sikhs as a separate ethnic group.

Mr Letwin will tell delegates: "Sikhs now constitute one of the most numerous and most economically active ethnic groups in the country; their contribution to business and to many professions is enormous."




SEE ALSO:
Faith groups get bigger policy role
04 Aug 03  |  Politics
Golden Temple at last
30 Jul 03  |  South Asia


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