Colombo Telegraph

British Tamil Forum Booted 

By Rajasingham Jayadevan

Rajasingham Jayadevan

Politically and financially bankrupt Tamil Forum UK Ltd, well- known as British Tamil Forum (BTF), has been booted out from its controversial nominal role of providing ‘secretariat’ service to the UK parliamentary All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T).

The recent High Court judgement of Rohini Sivagurunathan -vs- Tamil Forum UK Ltd ​(Rohini -v- BTF) opened a can of worms on the questionable conduct and management of the BTF and it was a decisive time for the APPG-T to say farewell to the BTF from providing its controversial ‘Secretariat’ service to the group.

When a dispute relates to the common law (as in this case) involving breach of contract, negligence (or even defamation), it will be heard in the High Court of the Royal Court of Justice (in the case, case number B01EC08) instead of lower Employment Tribunal.

Source: BTF website

Paragraph 237 of the judgement states there is ‘manipulation of minutes’, ‘distorted recording’, ‘deliberate omissions’ and ‘unscrupulous conduct’ by the BTF.

Additionally, the judge found BTF to have been involved in direct discrimination, victimisation and denial of natural justice against the Claimant. Costs and damages awarded against BTF amounted to £70,000 and is an additional liability for the already financially bankrupt BTF’s legal arm Tamil Forum UK Ltd. BTF’s own legal costs is unverifiable.

Sadly, a dispute that should have been resolved through alternative dispute resolution of independent mediation, reached the corridors of the High Court of the prestigious Royal Court of Justice, which ended in a 50 page judgement against the BTF.

The ground breaking ruling against the BTF did not receive the attention of the upbeat Tamil web media or the Sri Lankan national media. Even the frontline BTF patronising the Tamil gutter media maintained silence to report their masters unfortunate predicament- a news that would have been savaged if it was against a non LTTE organisation.

The BTF released its so-called ‘position statement’ (press release) in both Tamil and English and failed to explain the facts of the case and the outcome of the hearing. Translators say there are variances between the two versions. Readers, lawyers in particular, fluent in both Tamil and English can draw their own conclusions on their substance and legal implications. A concerned BTF activist in anonymity confirmed ‘press releases were full of dishonest justifications and lies. Not even a single word of regret or remorse’.

BTF went on the fishing expedition to bluntly accuse the High Court of putting them in financial ruin but failed to admit their faults and blamed the claimant for not trying to negotiate. These completely misleading public claims is said to make lay people think the court acted unfairly. The legally advised concerned activist claimed ‘they (BTF) continued to act arrogantly by not respecting the court and trying to manipulate the public about the court decision.’ The activist then snapped in aghast stating ‘it’s contempt of court’.

The very conduct could have resulted in sanctions being imposed by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner on the APPG-T. On the part of BTF not revealing the legal failure and financial bankruptcy of the Tamil Forum UK Ltd F/A British Tamil Forum (BTF) to the MPs, constitutes serious breaches of trust and a failure in duty of candour.

The BTF also has an unsatisfied county court judgement and has failed to pay its contractors, including the coordinator of the APPG-T on a timely basis – often months in arrears. Its financial statements filed with Companies House for the year ending 31 December 2017 shows the net deficit of £136,382, confirming its bankrupt state and the very issue that should have paved the way for their removal from providing a secretariat service to the APPG-T. With the judgment around £70,000, the net liability will leap further up unless income is generated to pay the sum by the Court deadline.

In desperation, BTF went on to form another company BTF Tamil Forum UK Limited. The registration details in the companies House are: Company number 11829919 – Incorporated on 15 February 2019, 12 Helmet Row, London, United Kingdom, EC1V 3QJ. One wonders what the hurry was in forming another company soon after the High Court judgement against Tamil Forum UK Limited.

It is clearly an attempt to dump the burdening Tamils Forum UK Ltd with the official bankruptcy process or to simply apply for strike off to the Companies House to dishonour the payment of Court Order of approximately £70,000. The intention clearly is to continue using the trading name of British Tamil Forum with the new BTF Tamil Forum UK Limited. Whichever way, it is not easy for the BTF, as Tamils Forum UK Ltd does not have sufficient assets for disposal to pay the liquidators fee unless BTF fund privately.

In desperation, BTF hurriedly organised a fund raising musical concert on 2 March 2019 in association with little known ‘Light of Hope’ organisation, amidst widespread discontent and outcry.

Resolute Claimant Mrs Rohini Sivagurunathan

Controversial Tamils Forum UK Limited’s details: company number 07107934 – Incorporated on 17 December 2009 at Unit 1 Fountayne Business Centre, Broad Lane, London, N15 4AG. The official operational address of the BTF is that of the one and only resourceful Tamil Community Housing Association Ltd (TCHA) – a company registered under the Industrial Providence Society Act – enjoying the charitable status under the said Act. The regulated and non-political organisation has also facilitated the use of its premises as registered office for the political and bankrupt BTF to hold political meetings in its conference room.

Turning to the controversial arrangements of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, the secretariat service provided by BTF is said to be the provision of administrative service for the APPG-T, with staff paid by the BTF. Though a nominal sum of £1,500 – £3,000 has been declared as Benefits in Kind in the parliamentary register for the period covering 18 July 2018 to 17 July 2019, the indirect costs attributing to the management of the APPG-T Secretariat by the BTF is claimed to be far greater and claimed to be riddled with downright maladministration and a lack of accountability.

The attention of the MPs, who are members of the APPG-T, were drawn on manifold and ongoing breaches of parliamentary standards by the BTF. But judgement against the BTF in the Royal Court of Justice was the straw that led to the clamp down against the BTF.

BTF had the privilege to be the facilitator of providing the ‘Secretariat’ for the APPG-T for over a decade. APPG-T was seen as the mouthpiece of the BTF and on its part BTF prevented wider Tamil organisations having any influence on the APPG-T. This very arrangement constrained engagement of inclusive Tamil opinions with the APPG-T, as BTF and its affiliated cohorts resisted involvement of other Tamil groups that are anathema to its authority. Since the founding of the APPG-T under the chairmanship of Mr Keith Vass MP, there has been systematic alienation of incorporating wider Tamil views on issues affecting the Tamils in Sri Lanka and in the UK.

The left out organisations branded APPG-Tamils as APPG-British Tamil Forum due to APPG-T’s resistance to be inclusive. BTF is evolvement of former LTTE front British Tamil Association (BTA) and its representation of LTTE flag carrying members in the streets gives the bankrupt BTF to extend its will aggressively.

My personal experience in my attempts for interactive engagement with the APPG-T was frustrating – an experience vehemently resisted by the BTF and its cohorts and it was upheld by the successive Chairman’s of the APPG-T. Since APPG-T’s formation, I had meetings with three consecutive Chairman’s of the group. British parliament, claimed to be the beacon of democracy, failed to be the representative voice of wider democratic opinion as far as APPG-T is concerned.

The founder of the APPG-T Mr Keith Vass MP showed down right hostility towards groups other than the pro-LTTE fronts to engage with the parliamentary group. I went for an exhibition organised by the BTF in the parliament with the permission of the then Chairman Mr Virendra Sharma MP but I was not permitted to enter the exhibition room by the BTF and my protest to the founder of APPG-T Mr Keith Vass, was responded with harsh warning of legal consequences against me which I did not take lightly.

The predicament faced by the APPG-T at present is its compromising stand to exclusively choose the BTF and its cohorts and giving the responsibility to BTF to run its ‘Secretariat’. There are also allegations of back door dealing between the BTF and APPH-T.

It is alleged that APPG-T failed to make appropriate declarations as required by Parliamentary rules with regards to BTF using the parliamentary estate to raise funds; breaches of Health and Safety rules on the Parliamentary estate and among others found to have indulged in ‘unscrupulous conduct’ in the judgement.

These could have resulted in sanctions being imposed by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. Not revealing this to MPs constitutes a serious breach of trust.

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