An Independent elected member for Wakefield East, with no party affiliation, attempted to deliver an immediate Gaza ceasefire motion at a full Wakefield Council meeting yesterday, Wednesday 24th January.
Lawyer and councillor, Akef Akbar says it was extremely difficult to speak ‘against’ so many on such a sensitive matter that many of us ‘hold dear to our hearts’.
However, councillor Akbar hoped to be a voice for the oppressed in Palestine amid the ongoing war, but comments that the Labour Party had other intentions, and he faced an up hill battle right from the onset.
“Sadly the Wakefield Labour Group decided to play petty political games and voted against it,” stated councillor Akbar.
“Cllr Sharp seconded my motion and spoke about her families experiences including how her grandfather was shot by the IDF.
“The Labour Leader Cllr Jefferies acknowledged the substance of my motion but confirmed the leader group would vote against my motion. They decided to submit a very similar motion but wholly watered down to fit the Labour Agenda.”
Cllr Akbar adds that leaders of the opposition spoke and failed to understand why Labour are making such a sensitive matter political.
Cllr Girt expressed his disappointment and further advised that a few months ago at the request of a resident Cllr Hemmingway had failed to submit a motion.
Cllr Nadeem Ahmed stated that the Labour group were acting dishonourably. They should have submitted an amendment and highlighted that this was a copied motion.
Both confirmed that they supported Cllr Akbar’s motion, and that they did not submit a further motion as the one submitted was acceptable.
“I had the right of reply to close my motion,” says Cllr Akbar.
“I informed the Wakefield Labour Group leader that the difference between me and her was that I serve the public, whilst she serves her party and leaders.
“I made it know that the Labour group are playing politics at the expense of a Genocide. Cllr Jefferies has shown a lack of leadership, for over three months, and she has failed to take action on this issue.
“Their watered down motion is nothing but a PR stunt to fit their party’s agenda.”
Cllr Akbar called out any councillor within their party that had the honour and courage to do the right thing. Further, highlighting that the absence of certain councillor’s did not go unnoticed.
“I called for a recorded vote. All Labour Cllr’s voted against my motion,” he adds.
After voting against Cllr Akbar’s motion, the Labour group submitted a similar motion to mine albeit to fit their parties agenda.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Cllr Girt raised a point of order. Labour’s motion could not be heard as my motion was already heard and the rules do not allow for the same motion to be heard twice.
However, of course rules are interpreted to the benefit of the leading group.
“Due to this absurd decision, the Liberal Democrats left the chamber as they did not wish to take part in a meeting where the rules are exploited,” comments Cllr Akbar.
“I made three minor amendments to the copied watered down Labour motion. These included, raising the Palestinian flag until the end of the conflict above the Town Hall in solidarity with the Palestinians suffering a genocide at the hands of Israel.
“It is important to call this ‘conflict’ for what it is, a genocide, something labour have failed to recognise within their motion.
“Secondly, too demand the cessation of selling arms to Israel; and thirdly to allow the access of medical supplies, food, fuel electricity and water, to guarantee that international humanitarian law is upheld and that civilians are protected in accordance with those laws.
“Ex Labour Cllr Sharpe supported my amendment and spoke about how she was prevented from attending protests or submitting a motion by the Labour leader.
“I think it’s important that the Palestinian flag is raised and remains raised on our town hall until the end of the conflict to show solidarity.
“Everything else is talk but this is real action and a statement to the entire country that we are not scared to openly support Palestine.”
“The deputy leader of the Wakefield Labour Group made a statement rejecting my amendments stating they were ‘not necessary’. A Labour fan at this point walked out shouting ‘I am never voting Labour again’.
“I raised my Palestinian flag in the chamber anyway.”
The submitted amendments were voted on and again the Labour Group unanimously voted against the proposed amendment. Cllr Akbar and numerous Councillor’s left the chamber and left the Labour group to vote on their own motion.
The Labour group passed their own motion and were met by protestors outside the County Hall.