Right Of Reply

Solicitor Rengan Devarajan Esq. – The Truth

On September 11, 2011 The Sunday Leader published a full page article entitled “Solicitor Rengan Devarajan Esq” supposedly written by Tarrin Constantine. It is intended to cause maximum damage to my professional, personal, social and political reputation. Since the publication of this article the lies contained in this article have been repeatedly used against me by many without verifying whether they are true or false. The defamation is not confined to Sri Lanka but internationally, notably in Europe.

I wish to thank The Sunday Leader’s Editor for giving me this opportunity to undo the wrongs done to my name and reputation by providing evidence based reply to the defamatory allegations in the above article.

Mr. Constantine has misused the press freedom provided to him by The Sunday Leader in a very unethical manner. He has abused one whole page of a widely and internationally read newspaper in English language to write an abusive article about me. I am not Nelson Mandela or Barak Obama, or a politician or a celebrity to warrant a one page write- up about me. I am an ordinary person, who worked as a solicitor in the UK and now works as an Attorney-at-Law in Jaffna. Everyone knows how difficult it is to secure one whole page in such newspapers.

People who knew Mr Constantine and read his article told me that he was incapable of writing such a long article in English. However, who wrote this article is less significant than the lies contained in it. Irrespective of who the author of this article is, I intend to reply to all the defamatory abuses and allegations contained in this article. Every single accusation against me in this article is false and without a shred of evidence. They constitute nothing but blatant lies and/or distortions.

I am a Sri Lankan Tamil, holding Sri Lankan nationality. Soon after qualifying as an Attorney-at-Law in 1984 I went to England and qualified there as a Solicitor and practised successfully for nearly 26 years. Politically I am a democratic socialist, campaigned against the war in SL, campaigned for justice, human rights and good governance, consistently opposed the politics of Tamil nationalists while critically supporting the government and the speedy conclusion of the war in 2009.

This defamatory article has included my photograph, which shows I am speaking through a hand held hailer at a demonstration outside the Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, organised by Tamil Forum for Peace, supported by many groups opposed to the continuation of the war. It was essentially a protest against the LTTE’s ruthless war efforts and killings and for peace and negotiation contrary what the caption underneath this photograph says.

In this connection I refer to an article in Thesam Magazine in Tamil published in London by the very same Tarrin Constantine (Issue No.26 dated January 6 and March 6, 2006). Even his own article confirms the purpose of this demonstration referred to above as ‘anti war demonstration’. This reference confirms that this demonstration was an anti-LTTE protest and not an anti-government protest by me as alleged by in this article.

The caption underneath my photograph claiming that I was taking part in an anti – government demonstration, is therefore clearly a lie. It was intended to make readers believe that I was engaged in anti-government activities while in the UK and supporting the Sri Lankan government while in Sri Lanka and portray me as an opportunist.

In the defamatory article the author claims that he was helping me to establish my “business”. The truth is other way round. In fact it was him who came seeking my assistance to help him build his business. I did not need his assistance at all. I already had a legal practice, regulated by the Law Society of England. In fact this practice is still run under the same name by my associates and assistants in Ilford, Essex in the UK.

While holding his lucrative position with the Cypriot Group of Companies, Tarrin formed three other companies of his own..

He first formed First Management Systems Ltd., an IT company. Then he formed First Management Shop, a liquor shop.

Then he decided to form a Legal Services Company, in spite of the fact that he has no legal knowledge or qualification. The motive behind this venture was nothing but profit. The Cypriot Company who employed Mr Constantine was paying well over 250,000 sterling pounds annually for securing their legal services. Mr Constantine along with a mutual friend Mr Jeyapalan therefore decided to form a Legal Practice to provide these services using my professional legal expertise cheaply and siphon off the profits for himself. So he formed ‘First Management Solicitors’ together with his friend Jeyabalan at the end of 2007. He entered into a contract with me, inter alia, on the following terms:

A)      Monthly net salary of  2000 pcm

B)      2 months paid holiday per year

C)      His company (Tarrin) is liable to pay all overheads (office rent, electricity bills, rates, office maintenance, cleaning services etc.)

D)      He will provide me an interest free loan to be repaid monthly.

I have in my possession the original of this contract.

I had always been a Sole Practitioner in the UK running a Firm on my own for over 20 years and was getting tired of running the practice and this prompted me to accept Mr. Constantine’s offer.

He finally set up the Firm, named it ’First Management Solicitors’. He rented out a one room office premises with car park facility. The Tenancy Agreement to this office room is in Mr Constantine’s name. In fact  Mr Constantine kept ’everything’ relating to the business in his name save the Bank Accounts since a signatory to the Solicitors accounts must be a qualified Solicitor. Mr Constantine claimed in his article that the Landlord had evicted me since I had failed to pay the rent which is like everything else is false because (a) the Tenancy Agreement was between Mr Constantine and the Landlord and (b) according to the UK laws, the Landlord can’t evict a tenant without a Court  Order.

A debt collector’s notice was also included in Mr Constantine’s article, suggesting that I have defaulted payments and that I am the one liable to pay the bills referred to – a first order deception and Mr Constantine was a master at it.

Another hilarious claim he made against me needs to be sited here just to amuse readers! All the office equipment provided to me as per contract was in fact supplied by Mr Constantine’s Cypriot Company employer. When I vacated the office I left behind all the office equipment. I only took my client files for reasons already mentioned. However it did not prevent Mr Constantine from sending me a letter with some supporting bills claiming the cost of all the office equipment. When I queried he had no reply. He wanted payment from me for the equipment in his possession and pocket this money.re is fraud behind this claim. .

When recession hit UK economy, the property market was on the verge of collapse and sale of properties plummeted. There was hardly any work for the First Management Solicitors and this company became unviable.

Mr Constantine wrote to me on 24.12.2008 requesting me to take over the building lease in my name, contrary to our contract. I of course refused to do this and I moved out of this office with all the clients’ file in accordance with the Law Society rules. Being the in-house solicitor for First Management Solicitors, I am responsible for all my clients and their case files.

He ended up paying for an empty non-functioning office – rent and all other bills as per the contract between us. The contract clearly states that he was responsible for paying these bills. There was no justification in asking me to pay his debts. This has infuriated him. He was not expecting that I would leave his premises taking the Solicitors Firm with me.

In the ‘First Management Solicitors’ Mr Constantine had employed, on a part-time basis, employees of his Cypriot Firm to assist me in the reception duties and, one of his uncles to do the accounts. The ’uncle’ was a retired Accountant and he told me that he was just there to help Mr Constantine on a pro-bona basis and I knew that the other two part-timers were on the pay-roll of Mr Constantine’s Cypriot Company. However, when I left, Mr Constantine had claimed that he had paid them and demanded me to reimburse him. When I asked for evidence he provided letters from them, which in fact confirmed that they did not receive payments from him.

Mr Constantine’s article makes another totally false and defamatory allegation. He falsely claims that I failed to turn up to a Court appearance to defend one of my clients from Negombo. This client came to the UK as a refugee. He was new to the country, had no money and no job and was generally in a very vulnerable situation. Mr Constantine, capitalizing on his vulnerability, also. I was providing free legal advice, under the British free legal aid scheme, to this client. I still have the original letter signed by this client confirming that he was receiving free legal advice from me.

I took this client’s case up to the High Court and one of the leading Immigration Barristers in the UK commissioned by me represented this client. Lately this client got his case transferred to another firm, on my advice, since I couldn’t continue to provide him free legal advice as I couldn’t secure a contract to provide free legal service.  I still hold this client’s complete file of papers relating to his immigration matter which includes original Court Orders. For clients confidentiality reasons I can’t provide copies of these documents. I intend to submit them in Courts. So here again Mr Constantine is lying shamelessly.

At no time in the entire history of my legal practice, either in the UK or in Sri Lanka, I have failed to turn up to represent my clients except on one or two occasions when I was too sick to attend court and that too only after notifying my client and Court and arranging if necessary a substitute lawyer to represent my client.

Mr Constantine has displayed a copy of a cheque as proof of having loaned me 5,000 sterling pounds.  First of all, this is not a loan because he owed me a lot more money than this pitiful sum of money. Secondly, when he gave me this cheque, he requested me not to bank it for a while. So I kept it w/o banking and I still have not banked or cashed it. I have the original cheque in my possession even now. Of course I cannot bank it now as it is out of time.

After I returned to Sri Lanka, Mr Constantine had the audacity to issue court summons against me in the name of his company, claiming that his company had loaned 5000 sterling pounds to me and that I had not paid him back. I filed a defense and counter claim against him from Sri Lanka. The Solicitor who represented Mr Constantine had to withdraw the case and Mr Constantine paid my costs in the end. You can see below the evidence for payment of cost in Mrs & Mrs Constantine’s personal cheque, signed by him! I still wonder why he and his wife had paid my costs out of their pocket when their claim was made in the name of Mr Constantine’s employer! The truth is Mr Constantine had pocketed his company’s money 5000 sterling pounds.

Without understanding how a professional legal firm functions and how I conducted my legal practice and my professional ethics etc. Mr Constantine had sent a petition against me to the Law Society in England. He clearly assumed that I am also a crook like him. As a result, the Law Society Forensic Accountants visited my premises immediately after I left Mr Constantine’s company “First Management Solicitors” for a 2 day investigation. Within 2 hours of investigation into my legal practice files etc. they were satisfied with the professional and ethical way I was conducting my practice and they had no concerns whatsoever about my legal practice. A clean bill of health for my legal practice was the end result.

Mr Constantine’s narration of what happened at a party held at the Blue Ginger Restaurant brings out the petty, antisocial and primitive attributes of Mr Constantine, who has not yet grown up to be a social person with all the opportunities provided to him by the civilized ambience in Sri Lanka as well as Britain.

This party was in fact organized by Mr Constantine for his family, friends and business partners to celebrate launching his business, First Management Solicitors. He is quite right in recognizing that I was the star at this party because I was the generator of income for this company. It was nothing but my legal services that produced the entire profit for his company. His creative input was zero but he pocketed the bulk of the profit.

The fact is that at the end of the party I was more sober than Tarrin. To say that I was drunk makes him a hypocrite of first order. I drove my own vehicle home after dropping off my friend Paul Sharma, who was my only invitee to this party. Needless to say that drinking over the limit and driving is a criminal offence in the UK. Therefore Mr Constantine’s mourning over this non-issue makes no sense. He is claiming to be an angel of all angels!

Another accusation levelled against me was that due to my drinking habit I neglect my duties and responsibilities to my clients etc. I take objection to this allegation because it is completely false and unfounded. He knows nothing of good practices. He only understands malpractices, which is his way of living. Mr Constantine has to grow out of his petty, antisocial and primitive attributes and prepare himself to live in the 21st century as an honest man.

Further, Mr. Constantine, in his article, claims that I have borrowed hundreds of thousands of pounds from my clients and have failed to pay them back these monies. This is a lie and a fabrication. Neither have I borrowed any money from my clients nor do I owe them any money. Why did he not provide the names and the amounts owed by me in his article? I challenge him to do this.

I am not claiming to be a teetotaler. Unlike many hypocrites who drink and pretend that they do not drink, I am proud to accept that I do drink socially and responsibly and it has never affected my professional care or service or my commitment to people, my friends and family. I leave it to the readers, my clients and the legal community to make their own judgments about me and Mr Constantine. I certainly do not need any moral preaching from the likes of Mr Constantine.

I went to the UK in 1984. It was always my intention to return and serve my country after passing UK solicitors examinations. Even though I had a very successful legal career in the UK and enjoyed living in England, which I found culturally, historically, politically and economically fascinating.

I also found living in London intellectually very challenging. But my country gave me free education and free health service and made me what I am today. I grew up in the lap of Sri Lanka. It is my country. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people, cultured people, compassionate people and I am proud to be part of this. So I felt that I owe it to them to share my gains with them. All my political activities in the UK were aimed towards pushing Sri Lanka towards democracy and socialism. My active involvement in exposing the anti-democratic and barbaric activities of the Tamil armed liberation groups in Sri Lanka prevented me from returning to my country before 2009.

Immediately after the war was concluded, I returned to Sri Lanka to share my knowledge and experiences and to serve my people. But abuses, derogatory behaviour and defamatory articles like the one written by Tarrin Constantine against me in The Sunday Leader, are not only unreasonable, inhuman, hurtful and anti-social but are preventing my mission.

Since publication of this article I have initiated defamatory charges against the author but while this matter is before the court, the defamatory contents of this article are being used by Uthayan newspaper and its owner, who is also a TNA Member of Parliament, to character assassinate me purely for political and financial gains. It raises serious questions about the role of media in Sri Lanka. Only the reading public can ultimately challenge, minimize or end media injustices and abuses.

Finally I owe it to the readers an explanation for why I had not done my response to Mr. Constantine’s highly libel article until now. I did not want to deviate or digress from my mission to serve my country. I wanted to devote all my energies to resettling in Jaffna and Sri Lanka after being away from my country for over 26 years by finding a home to live, by re-establishing my legal practice here for my living and more importantly to prioritize my political work which cannot be postponed. So I am satisfied that I have got my priorities right.

 

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