| by a Special Correspondent
( February 8, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) An unreserved apology and substantial damage and costs have been agreed in a landmark out of court mediation effort on a libel action initiated by Rajasingham Jayadevan against the IBC Tamil radio operating from London.
IBC Tamil broadcasts on terrestrial and satellite platforms aimed at the Tamil community in the UK and has a substantial audience in 87 countries.
R Jayadevan stands exonerated on the allegations of fraud that had been leveled against him since 2002 by pro LTTE and the Sri Lanka government backed paramilitary EPDP sympathetic Salasalappu websites and subsequently by the IBC Tamil.
After a marathon nine and a half hours mediation meeting held on the request of IBC Tamil at the Bindman LLP offices in the Central London on 31 January 2014, mediator Richard Price OBE QC, who is an experienced and much respected commercial mediator at the Bar, conducted the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
An order was signed by both the contending parties, which was sealed by the High Court confirming by consent and order that all further proceedings in this High Court action initiated by R Jayadevan be stayed except for the purpose of carrying the under-mentioned terms into effect:
a. ‘Not to repeat, whether by his agents, servants or otherwise on IBC radio or on http://www.ibctamil.fm or howsoever cause to be repeated in any other media, the allegations complained of in this claim, including allegations that Mr Jayadevan has committed fraud, has committed a fraud on the Temple collection box, or has fraudulently handled Temple finances, or any similar allegations; and
c. ‘That, in the event that he (Mr Sathiavadivelu) transfers the licence to operate IBC Tamil Radio, he will make any future operator of the station aware of this legal complaint and his undertaking.’
As part of the order, IBC Tamil agreed to publish and broadcast the following apology in Tamil for three days in the radio and also publish the same for a month in their website from 7 February 2014. i.e.,
Sathy Media Ltd and its director Mr Subramaniam Sathiyavadivelu, broadcasters of TBC Tamil radio, would like to apologise to Mr Rajasingham Jayadevan, a Trustee of the Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam, Wembley, for broadcasting and publishing untrue defamatory statements about him in radio news bulletins and on IBC’s website.
In a news bulletin on 3 December 2012, as a result of an editorial mistake, we broadcast allegations that Mr Jayadevan had been involved in ‘major land frauds’. We are happy to clarify that this allegation was made entirely in error and was therefore false. We sincerely apologize to Mr Jayadevan for the distress that our mistake has caused him.
We also reported unverified false news claims that Mr Jayadevan was guilty of major financial frauds, had committed a fraud on the Temple collection box and had fraudulently handled Temple finances.
We now recognize that these allegations are also untrue and should never have been broadcast or published.
We sincerely apologize to Mr Jayadevan for the harm and distress caused to him and his family by these allegations and have agreed to pay him substantial damages, together with his costs.
Background to the dispute
Following his successful effort to get LTTE’s Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingam, to the United Kingdom in 1999, that led to the peace agreement in 2001 between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, a campaign of vilification and harassment was let loose against R Jayadevan by the LTTE elements in the UK, who resented him playing a role in the Tamil political arena.
These LTTE elements carried out a relentless campaign in their web media. LTTE’s Nitharsanam.com and Neruppu. net managed by the Norway based Nadarajah Sethurupan for the LTTE were in the forefront to denigrate Jayadevan and the campaign degenerated to the extent that Jayadevan and his wife’s faces were affixed to pornographic images and displayed in a clandestine website alleged to be managed by Sethurupan for six months. The campaign against R Jayadevan was obviously quite venomous, despicable and unlawful, and did not spare even his family.
The campaign reached the peak following Jayadevan’s release from kidnap and incarceration by the LTTE in Vanni in 2005. On his release, he was outspoken about his experience. This show of defiance was unexpected by the LTTE and it used the media in its control and comments sections in other websites to insult and harass him, using the allegations of fraud that had been concocted.
Jayadevan regards his involvement in the founding and management of the Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam in London, provided a platform for LTTE and EPDP affiliated elements to level unfounded allegations of financial fraud at the temple, centered around him.
There were several complaints of fraud to Scotland Yard and the Charity Commission by these elements. The campaign against Jayadevan intensified to the extent that a complaint was made by a British MP to the Scotland Yard. Investigations were undertaken and no wrong doings were found against Jayadevan. Related reports are in the public domain. The campaigners were only interested in mudslinging and their campaign was determined and relentless.
Jayadevan’s determined effort to deal with the harassment was not successful. Criminal, civil and regulatory avenues were not adequate until recently to deal with campaign of harassment, threatening calls and hate news publication in websites.
This is not the first time Jayadevan sought justice in the Court of Law. In 2005, when the temple was forcibly taken over by the LTTE during his captivity in the Vanni, he had to seek legal remedy on his release and return, and the High Court released the property from LTTE control.
The present dispute with the IBC Tamil was a result of management difficulties at the temple involving the delegated Executive Committee at the Eelapatheeswarar Aalayam in December 2012 that needed the intervention of the Board of Trustees of the temple constitutionally. There was a need to effectively bring an end to the Executive Management Committee as constituted, in view of financial irregularities and irresponsible management. Jayadevan was involved in the process. The Board of Trustees intervention was heavily resisted by the some members of the Executive Committee who involved the police and used ‘IBC Tamil’ to broadcast false news against Jayadevan.
IBC Tamil broadcast on December 3, 2012 claimed that ‘Jayadevan had involved himself in ‘major land frauds’, ‘committed a fraud on the collection box in the temple’ and that ‘a case is to be brought against him for his fraudulent handling of the finances’. The news report further emphasized that: ‘Mr. Jayadevan belonging to the Wembley Eelapatheeswarar Temple and who has been speaking against the Tamil Nation and criticizing the National Leader on radio’. The news report of December 3, 2012 was followed by a further damaging report on December 8, 2012.
Jayadevan engaged his solicitors Bindman LLP, a leading firm of solicitors in the UK. A complaint was formally lodged with the media regulator – The Office of Communications (‘Ofcom’). They are the independent regulators and competent authority for the UK communication industries. The ‘Ofcom’ went into detail on the complaint and held that: ‘the broadcaster (IBC Tamil) had not given Mr Jayadevan an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the significant allegations made about him in the reports broadcast on 3 and 8 December 2012. In these circumstances, Ofcom considered that Mr Jayadevan was treated in a way that was unjust or unfair to him. Accordingly, Ofcom has upheld in part Mr Jayadevan’s complaint of unjust or unfair treatment in the programme as broadcast(Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 239 07/10/13 page 35).
Despite the outcome IBC Tamil’s campaign of harassment against Jayadevan continued.
For a period of one year from 6 December 2012 to 2 December 2013, Jayadevan repeatedly sought to resolve this matter through correspondence. According to Bindman LLP ‘Jayadevan demonstrated great patience and reasonableness in the face of hostile and distressing campaign against him by the IBC Tamil, in circumstances where it is likely that others would not have been so patient’.
The Ofcom Fairness ruling on 7 October 2013 instructed Bindman LLP to write to IBC Tamil inviting them to attend a mediation. But the IBC Tamil responded to the effect that ‘mediation… appears to be a waste of time and money, as our position remains that all our claims are substantiated and we have the required evidence’.
Instead of reaching for the opportunity that was being offered, the IBC Tamil went further and said: ‘it is the intention of the radio station to carryout interviews in regard to the large Temple fraud allegations for the period from 23 August 2010 and 10 April 2012, with several member of the Temple committee of that time as we have in our hands documents of fraudulent activity having taken place during this period’.
This was despite Ofcom adjudication finding in relation to the fraud allegations that ‘ IBC did not provide any evidence to substantiate this claim’. And that ‘there was an insufficient evidential basis for the report to include the specific allegation of fraud’.
IBC Tamil further threatened: ‘…now that OFCOM has published its report, we believe that the programme should now go ahead’. Between 13 October and 6 December 2013 to Jayadevan’s distress, IBC Tamil sent no less than 15 emails to his solicitors making a wilde array of claims and threats including on 18 October 2013 stating: ‘it is the intention of the IBC Tamil Radio to broadcast a programme this Sunday evening, 20 October 2013 regarding the matter of the Undiyal (Money Box) fraud in which your client is implicated’.
Subramaniam Sathiyavadivelu appointed his solicitors, Clark Barnes Solicitors LLP, only in December 2013 after Jayadevan’s solicitors formally filing the Particulars of Claims in the High Court. In their defense, they could not give any credible arguments other than saying that IBC Tamil ‘aver, amongst other things, that they did no more than repeat allegations that had been previously been widely disseminated within the same community’.
Two days after the mediation meeting the IBC Tamils has changed hands and is said to be bought by someone connected to a leading telecommunication company owned by the Tamils.