By: Sandesh M
January 20 2023
The visuals are of a cultural event held in Canada by members of the Tamil community to celebrate Pongal and not of a lunch hosted by Sunak.
Many Indian news outlets and several social media accounts shared a 26-second video of some police officials and others eating food on banana leaves with the claim that United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a traditional Pongal lunch at his official residence at 10 Downing Street on January 14. Pongal is a festival celebrated by the Tamil community to mark the beginning of the harvest season. In the viral clip, police officials and some formally dressed men and women are seen eating food served on banana leaves. Men wearing blue shirts and veshti(an unstitched skirt mostly worn by men in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and parts of Sri Lanka) are seen serving them food in the video. However, the photos are not from a lunch hosted by Indian-origin Conservative leader Sunak at Downing Street, London but from a private event held in Ontario, Canada.
Upon analyzing the keyframes in the video and using relevant keywords for Google search, we found that the video was originally shared by the Facebook page 'Tamil Culture Waterloo Region' on January 15. The post caption read: "TCA Tamil Thai Pongal Celebration (Tamil Thanksgiving) region of Waterloo politicians, Regional Chair City Mayors, councilors and Police Chief and staff." Photos of the attendees, who can be spotted in the viral video, having lunch at the event were shared on the official website of 'The Tamil Cultural Association (TCA) of Waterloo Region' in Canada. The pictures were shared in the album, 'Thai Pongal 2023' on the website, which also said the event was held in Ontario (including the Regional Municipality of Waterloo) on January 14.
Moreover, the uniform worn by the police officials in the video also indicates that they are from Canada and are not British. While officials of the London Police traditionally wear white shirts with dark-coloured pants, police officials in the video are wearing navy blue uniforms. We cross-checked the uniform of the Waterloo Regional Police and found them to be similar to what police officials in the video wore.
The event in Canada was also attended by Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, who shared some pictures from the event on his Twitter account. He said the local Tamil Canadian community had organised the event to showcase their traditional food and culture. Other attendees seen in the video clip included Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe, Member of Parliament(MP) Bardish Chagger, chair of the Police Services Board Karen Redman, and MP Tim Louis. They all tweeted images and video clips of the Pongal lunch held on January 14. The visuals are similar to the video falsely claimed to be from UK PM Sunak's Pongal lunch in Downing Street.
On January 14, 2023, the British High Commission in India tweeted a video of PM Rishi Sunak wishing the Tamil community on the occasion of Pongal. In the clip, Sunak is heard saying, "I want to send my best wishes to everyone celebrating Thai Pongal this weekend. I know how much this festival means to families across the country….Let me wish everyone here and around the world health, happiness, and prosperity this Thai Pongal." However, there was no announcement of any official Pongal lunch or party hosted by him.
Videos from a Pongal lunch held by the Tamil community in Canada are being used to falsely claim that UK PM Rishi Sunak hosted a lunch to celebrate the festival in his official residence in London. Therefore, we mark the claim false.