Legal misconduct and media manipulation
by Lucien Rajakarunanayake
Two of the biggest champions of the LTTE’s separatist cause and apologists of its terrorism have been exposed this week in the United States and the UK for gross illegal activity and dangerous misleading of the public. Those thus exposed are Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, the leader of the so-called Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam or “Eelam Government in Exile” who operates from the US, and Channel 4 in the UK that has been carrying out a determined attack on Sri Lanka through its hugely doctored video footage of alleged war crimes.
The two exposures, one for the violation of the much valued and respected traditions and ethics of the American judicial system, and the other for creating social unrest and posing a threat to welfare recipients in the UK respectively, raises important issues about the credibility of these advocates of separatist terror and the distortion of facts in the media to serve the cause of terrorism.
Rudrakumaran, the son of the former Jaffna Mayor Viswanathan, is a lawyer in the United States who lives in New York. He was the international legal advisor to the LTTTE’s supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and in-charge of its international & diplomatic affairs. He co-ordinated lawyers in the defense of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, assisted in the Suresh Manikkavasagam trial in Canada and in challenging the US decision to name LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and represented the LTTE in peace talks with the Government of Sri Lanka.
The decision of the United States’ Courts Committee on Admissions and Grievances for Serious Misconduct, that gave its ruling on charges against Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, the current leader of the so-called “Eelam Government in Exile”, dealt with issues such as the failure to refund a client’s fee in full when necessary, misleading clients, mismanagement of the affairs of clients, treating a client unfairly, lack of reasonable diligence causing injury or potential injury to a client, acting recklessly while knowing the relevant facts of a case and unreasonably failing to appreciate the high degree of risk involved to a client by his actions. These involved several US clients.
The LTTE connects
In mitigation for his misconduct in the practice of law, Rudrakumaran submitted several items including his volunteer work for the LTTE, his travels abroad for LTTE related work, that he was not an LTTE employee or contractor and that his work for the LTTE was in compliance with US Federal Law. The Courts Committee has held that all those matters were beyond the scope of the proceedings against him, which has no relevance or lacked evidence to reach any conclusions, and therefore, rejected as “unnecessary for Rudrakumaran’s request that the Committee’s reference to his ‘work for the LTTE’ be stricken from its findings.
These are certainly interesting issues to be considered when dealing with a person who claims to lead a “Government in Exile”, which represents an organization that was once described by the US State Department and the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, and is now in the forefront of the actions by the pro-LTTE Tamils in western countries to demand accountability from Sri Lanka, for nothing other than the defeat of terrorism in this country.
The Committee concluded in its report that there was clear and convincing evidence that Rudrakumaran had engaged in misconduct warranting the imposition of discipline. The Committee found that Rudrakumaran had, inter alia: (a) defaulted on scheduling orders in twenty-seven cases, resulting in their dismissal, although he succeeded in reinstating eight of them; (2) created an unnecessary and substantial risk of potential injury to those clients who eventually received relief after their defaulted cases were reinstated; (3) caused injury or potential injury, through lack of reasonable diligence, to two clients who were denied reinstatement of their defaulted cases; (4) failed to withdraw seventeen cases despite knowing that the clients did not wish to proceed or that other circumstances rendered further proceedings unnecessary; and (5) on a number of other occasions, violated this Court’s rules and orders by untimely filing various documents.
After considering various aggravating and mitigating factors, the Committee recommended that Rudrakumaran be publicly reprimanded, and required to complete eight hours of continuing legal education classes, in law office management, and to submit periodic reports concerning his caseload – providing an explanation for any “late briefs or motions, or any non-excused non-compliance with a scheduling order of any sort before any Court,” comply with the refund procedures in law, disclose this decision, and its appendices, to all courts and bars of which he is currently a member, and as required by any bar or court rule or order.
“Finally, the Clerk of Court is directed to release this order to the public by posting it on this Court’s web site and providing copies to the public in the same manner as all other unpublished decisions of this Court, and to serve a copy on Rudrakumaran, this Court’s Committee on Admissions and Grievances, the attorney disciplinary committee for the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, and all other courts and jurisdictions to which this Court distributes disciplinary decisions in the ordinary course.”
Such humiliation is hard to match for any lawyer who practices in a well established legal system that has excellent traditions cherished by the legal profession. It is now interesting to make a judgment on how this would be seen by those who hold him as the standard bearer for the so-called State of Eelam, unless they see in his violation of the ethics of the judiciary his continued commitment to the cause of terrorism that the LTTE will remain to be known for. This will also be an interesting study for Justice C. V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister of the NPC, who is largely influenced by the pro-LTTE Tamils of the so-called Tamil Diaspora.
Channel 4 – agenda
UK’s Channel 4 is facing increasing protests about a controversial documentary which deals with UK citizens who obtain welfare benefits, the first part of which was aired last Monday (6th). An online petition has been launched urging it to axe the series Benefits Street with the number of complaints about the show keep rising.
The Guardian (9th) reported that more than 3,000 people have signed the change.orgpetition, which asks Channel 4 not to air any of the four further episodes of the series, and to make a charity donation for the harm caused by “stirring up hatred”.
The UK’s Media regulator, Ofcom, said it had received nearly 300 complaints about the show by Wednesday morning, relating to unfair, misleading and offensive portrayals of benefits claimants, alleged criminal activity and excessive bad language. Channel 4 said it has received nearly 400 separate complaints about the show late on Wednesday.
Arshad Mahmood, of Bradford, who used to live near the Winson Green area of Birmingham, where the documentary was filmed, set up the petition on Tuesday night, saying he was shocked by the public backlash on social media towards people on income support. He said: “Having lived in Birmingham, not far from where the programme was made, I can honestly say this show is not representative of people in the area.
“Benefits Street has portrayed people on income support as scroungers and it’s wrong. I have worked for 33 years, but after major surgery am now unable to work and receive some benefits. The backlash and abuse of social networks towards people on benefits as a result of this show has shocked me.
“Channel 4 should not broadcast any further episodes of the programme – it is creating a skewed image of a section of society and stirring up hatred. This is not a responsible approach from a public service broadcaster.”
Those who signed the petition left messages of support for the people affected by the programme.
Some residents, who featured in the documentary, said they has been tricked by the programme makers, Love Productions, and were told it would be about community spirit, The Guardian reported.
A Channel 4 spokesman said Benefits Street was a “fair and balanced observational documentary”, with contributors briefed extensively before filming and given the chance not to be included, or to view and comment on programmes they featured in before broadcast.
On Tuesday, other residents were coming to terms with a kind of celebrity they had not exactly been looking for. Within hours, one said, people were tweeting threats and making comments on social media. By Tuesday afternoon, young men in fast cars were driving down the street shouting “Benefits Street!” and laughing at people walking down the road.
In another development, footage from the documentary prompted West Midlands police to consider launching new investigations after they were inundated with comments from viewers concerned that it may have featured criminal activity.
The Independent (Jan 7) reported that police are investigating death threats made against five members of the public who starred in Channel 4’s Benefits Street.
Shortly after the broadcast began [Monday night], aggressive and abusive messages were posted on social media by viewers enraged at the ‘benefits spongers’ presented on the programme. One tweet said: “I want to walk down #BenefitsStreet with a baseball bat and brain a few of these scumbags,” while another wrote: “Set fire to #Benefits Street”.
It is also reported that the show’s stars believed they had been “tricked” into appearing on Benefits Street by Channel 4 producers.
Qualified support worker Dee Roberts, mother of three Charlene Wilson and local resident Nikitta Bell are among those angry about their portrayal on the programme – largely as unemployed scroungers, drug abusers, irresponsible parents and potty-mouths.
“They said they wanted to film for a TV show about how great community spirit is in the street and how we all help each other out on a daily basis,” Roberts told the Birmingham Mail. “I participated in the show on that belief, but this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It makes people out as complete scum.
“They lied to us from the very beginning. We opened our doors and hearts to them and they violated us and abused our trust.”
The next episode, to be broadcast [next] Monday evening, will show the impact of the arrival of Eastern European immigrants on the street.
Channel 4 will have a plenty to do to convince viewers, especially those who obtain welfare benefits in the UK, that it is fair in its reporting and has not distorted the image of welfare recipients to satisfy the political agenda of David Cameron and the Conservatives who are keen to further prune welfare benefits, and show welfare recipients as those who are not ready to work. It raises again the issue of media manipulation by Channel 4, as in the doctoring of video material in its documentaries that have been used to attack Sri Lanka on alleged war crimes in the final stage of the battle to defeat the LTTE in 2009.
Courtesy : President Media Unit