Bangladesh minister barred from Olympic host Tower Hamlets’ council chamber

An investigation is being called to find out why fire-alarms were mysteriously set off which disrupted a civic visit today (Thurs) by a Bangladesh government minister to Tower Hamlets Olympic ‘host’ borough.

Labour and Tory councillors were already fuming at executive Mayor Lutfur Rahman banning use of the council chamber—when the alarm rang 15 minutes into the visit by Bangladesh Minister Syed Ashraful Islam and the tower block had to be evacuated.

Mr Islam, in London for the 2012 Olympics, had earlier been herded into a side office along with other VIPs and guests when he was barred from the council chamber which Mayor Rahman ordered to be kept locked.

Now Labour and Tory councillors want CCTV footage examined to find out if the fire-alarm had been malicious.

Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, one of the VIP guests, told the Advertiser: “It would be very serious if the fire alarm was triggered maliciously. To happen at the same time as the minister’s visit warrants investigation.”

Mr Fitzpatrick condemned the mayor’s earlier action in refusing use of the chamber which could be seen as “offending international guests.”

The MP said: �It’s sad when we should be offering the hand of friendship during the Olympics that the mayor decides to withdraw any opportunity to see what Tower Hamlets is all about.

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“It’s a big mistake by Lutfur Rahman, whose refusal could be regarded as offending international guests.

“The council chamber was locked up—it wasn’t being used for any other purpose.

“His ban seems perverse, petty and demeans the mayor’s office.”

Labour councillors want to go further with a full investigation. Their deputy group leader Motin Uz-Zaman said: “We want every alarm and any CCTV footage checked to make sure anyone responsible should be reported. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Cllr Uz-Zaman had earlier asked if he could give the visiting minister a tour of the chamber to show how local government functions—but was refused.

Tory group leader Peter Golds said: “Locking up the council chamber was embarrassing and put Tower Hamlets to shame.”

Council chairman Rajib Ahmed, Tower Hamlets’ First Citizen who had invited Mr Islam to the Town Hall, had to hold an impromptu gathering in the street where the Bangladesh minister gave his speech, after the Town Hall near the Blackwall Tunnel was evacuated.

Mr Islam, a member of the ruling Awami League government which heavily defeated the Bangladesh National Party’s Jamaat Islam alliance in the 2009 elections, later went on to a civic reception in Islington—where he was welcomed into the council chamber!