Liberal Democrats in East London have condemned the actions of Council Leader Grace Williams after she controversially ordered the removal of the TRNC flag from outside Waltham Forest Town Hall, despite the Turkish Cypriot community having permission to fly it for a day.
In their statement issued earlier today, the Waltham Forest Liberal Democrats (WF Lib Dems) said the manner of Cllr Williams’ intervention following complaints from Greek Cypriots “was as reactionary as it was inflammatory”.
The TRNC flag had been hoisted on the flag pole outside Waltham Forest Town Hall on 15 November – Independence Day in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus’ (TRNC) – following a ceremony attended by dozens of British Turkish Cypriots. It was due to remain there until dusk, but after Greek Cypriots complained to Waltham Forest Council the flag was removed and discarded.
Cllr Williams went on to permanently ban the TRNC flag from flying again, announced in what WF Lib Dems described was “a racially charged statement”.
The offensive statement – labelled “racist” by Turkish Cypriots – remains on the Council website despite generating thousands of complaints and petition signatures demanding its removal.
Turkish Cypriots are tonight holding a protest outside Waltham Forest Town Hall to protest the “racist” actions of Cllr Williams and Waltham Forest Council.
The WF Lib Dems said that by “singling out the Turkish Cypriot community for humiliating treatment” Cllr Williams had gone against the borough’s “diversity and inclusivity policies”.
The opposition party also highlighted the confusion caused by the Labour-run Council seeking to avoid claims of “discrimination” by extending the ban to other communities.
Last month, in a written statement the Council told T-VINE: “The new Leader, Cllr Grace Williams, has decided that the Council will not raise flags of territories not recognised by the UK Government.”
The extended ban by Waltham Forest Council includes the Palestinian, Kashmiri, Kurdish and Tibetan flags, and potentially also the gay and transgender communities, who have their own flags.
The Lib Dems, who currently have no representation on the 60-seat Waltham Forest Council, also reminded the Labour Leader that the borough’s two Cypriot communities “deserve to be treated with respect and dignity”, and that they “remain equal before the law.” They urged Cllr Williams and the Council “to take immediate steps to rectify” the damage done.
Full Lib Dem statement on the removal of the TRNC Flag
“The response of Grace Williams, the Labour Leader of Waltham Forest Council, to the raising of the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus outside the Town Hall on 15 November was as reactionary as it was inflammatory.
“While Greek Cypriots would have been understandably upset at seeing the flag of this disputed territory raised, the Turkish Cypriot community had received prior approval from the Council, in accordance with Waltham Forest’s diversity and inclusivity policies.
“Yet the Council Leader decided to intervene, singling out the Turkish Cypriot community for humiliating treatment by ordering the removal of their flag ahead of the agreed time, and issuing a racially charged statement announcing its permanent ban.
“In its chaotic attempt to justify its knee-jerk response to this issue, the Council has gone on to ban flying the flags of Tibet, Kashmir, and the Pride flag. All of this has been done in an attempt to cover up the original decision that discriminated against Turkish Cypriots.
“The response of these elected Labour councillors lacked the sensitivity and consideration required in a Borough as richly diverse as Waltham Forest. It has polarised the two Cypriot communities and damaged community cohesion.
“Grace Williams must take immediate steps to rectify this, and the Council must hold a full and transparent investigation into the incident. Action must also be taken to repair the trust with the two Cypriot communities in the Borough. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and remain equal before the law.