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Sir Edward Heath 
Pran C. Arjan Dhanak - Editor

LONDON - Sir Edward Heath, aged 89 died yesterday, 17th July 2005 at home in Salisbury. His four year tenure as prime minister was between 1970 and 1974 and retired from parliament in 2001 after serving more than 50 years in the House of Commons. Mr. Heath came to power in 1970 pledging to end Britain's long cycle of post-World War II decline, but he was thwarted and, in the end, brought down by militant unions. In 1992, he became Sir Edward, a member of the country's most prestigious order of chivalry, the knights of the Garter. "He was a man of great integrity and beliefs he held firmly from which he never wavered, and he will be remembered by all who knew him as a political leader of great stature and importance," Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday.

Mr Heath fondly remembered by Ugandan Asians

In 1972, August 4th, President of Uganda, Idi Amin announced that he had a dream in which God had told him that the Asians should leave his country and asked Britain to assume responsibility for all Asians of British nationality in Uganda. He said there was no room in Uganda for British-Asians.


 Despite opposition by many politicians including Mr. Enoch Powell, Conservative MP who gave a "rivers of blood speech", Mr Heath's government made a decision that decided the fate of Ugandan Asians. 'We will accept our responsibilities and we have a responsibility, which we have always accepted for people who hold UK passports.' announced Mr. Heath.


He said that Britain had a moral responsibility to help all those Asians who had British passports and put into top gear departmental machinery to handle the great influx of immigrants.


Uganda's loss, Britain's gain

 There were many tales of intimidation. On the way to the Entebbe airport Asians were stopped and robbed by troops many times at gun point and every piece of jewellery and Ugandan money were stolen. Those who had owned their own businesses left largely penniless, after they were expelled without compensation for their businesses and property. Almost 27,000 Ugandan Asians flew into Britain in the clothes they stood up in and what they managed to pack into a bag.


The government prepared for their resettlement by establishing transit camps for 12,000 Asians centres across the country. One of the main hubs of settlement was at Stradishall in Suffolk, a former RAF base.

Asians leaving Uganda

Pattni members along with other Asians proved that far from being a drain on the resources of host countries, immigrants often become creators of wealth and employment.

My fond memory

 Mr Heath's decision and with it the arrival of Ugandan Pattnis, played an important part of my own life i.e. my own wedding. May 1973 was a memorable year for me. Yes, I was getting married! 
First Pattni Soni Wedding in UK

My own wedding was also a historical event for our Pattni Samaj because as to my knowledge, mine was the very first ever Soni wedding in the U.K.  In those times, there were very few Indian shops.  So it was a Herculean task to assemble all the materials required for the ceremony.   Even the Mandap had to be made by giving some timber to the carpenter. The life has become so much easier now days.


We only had very few relatives living in this country in those times. So it was pointless to hire a coach to take the wedding party.  It would have gone half empty!! All the relatives were invited and then we called upon my friends to make up the rest of the party.

The total numbers of guest at the wedding were expected to be around 300.   However whilst the ceremony was going on, large crowds of unexpected guests started arriving, almost doubling the expected numbers. As these guests entered the hall, they started hugging each other. A few of them had tears running down their faces.


I made some tentative inquiries whilst performing the wedding ceremony to find who these people were. It was then that I found out that these were the Sonis who had recently arrived from Uganda.  It was over six to seven months since they came to UK. Many had not met other Pattni members since they were separated from Uganda

As the word spread that a Soni wedding was taking place, these new arrivals could not resist themselves and came uninvited.  For many, this was the first time that they met each other. The atmosphere became very emotional. Everyone talked intensely about their traumatic experiences of leaving Uganda and were so happy to see each other. Due to the unexpected large number of guests, we ran out of food. Luckily the wedding was taking place in old Southall, which was at that time was the only Indian area in London. Men were rushed out to the nearest Indian sweet shop and nearly emptied their entire stock! It became a joyous and memorable occasion for everybody.


Over three decades have since passed.  Many arrived almost penniless. It was through sheer hard work that all made tremendous progress and became prosperous. People still talk and remember those times and now thank the self titled  �His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal, Al Hadji Dr Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular;  Idi Amin, as because of his mad dream, Asians from Uganda now have a much better life!! It became a blessing in disguise. Were it not for this historical event, Pattnis would still be in Uganda. Their children never would have opportunities in education, business and general progress. Thus what became Uganda's lass has now become Britain's gain.

The government under the leadership of the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Edward Heath helped Asians settled in UK. For this the Ugandan Asians had always a soft corner for him. It was because of his generosity that many still have high respect for Sir Edward Heath and will always be remembered.  Michael Howard, the Tory leader rightly said that Ted Heath was one of the political giants of the second half of the 20th century.

Former PM Heath left Pounds 5m in will

Sir Edward, who died last July aged 89, bequeathed most of the �5,410,364 to a charitable foundation in his own name. The will, drawn up in 2002, leaves only two legacies: �20,000 to his brother's widow and �2,500 to his housekeeper.

Sir Edward, a lifelong bachelor, was prime minister from 1970 to 1974. He retired from the Commons in 2001 after more than 50 years as an MP.