Tamil hunger striker wins libel claim against Daily Mail, Sun

[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 July 2010, 09:36 GMT]
British newspapers Sun and Daily Mail, represented by their Counsel at the Royal Court of Justice in London on Thursday, apologised sincerely and unreservedly for untrue and highly defamatory allegations against Parameswaran Subramanyam, who was on a 23-day hunger strike April, last year, demanding international community to stop Colombo’s war on Tamils. The newspapers also agreed to pay substantial damages and legal costs, according to Carter-Ruck solicitors. “The false allegations about Parameswaran were not just hurtful but clearly aimed at undermining Parameswaran’s credibility and the credibility of the whole Tamil protest,” commented Liberal Democrats' Deputy Parliamentary Leader Simon Hughes. According to Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, the ‘authorities’ who gave the information to the newspapers, “did it to undermine and shame the Tamil demonstrators in Parliament Square”.

Parameswaran Subramanyam
Parameswaran Subramanyam photographed while on hunger strike. He was hospitalised for 5 days after the hunger strike.

In October 2009, Daily Mail and Sun said that while 7 million pounds of public money had been wasted in policing the situation Parameswaran was faking the hunger strike, eating hamburgers secretly. While Daily Mail titled its article “Hunger Striker’s 7 million Big Mac”, Sun said, “Hunger Striker was Lovin' It”.

In their stories, the newspapers claimed existence of supporting evidence caught by police surveillance camera. But, the police superintendent who was in charge of the police operation at the Parliament Square confirmed that the police did not see Parameswaran eating and that these allegations were false.

“Many Tamils place faith and belief in what they read in the English newspapers.[..] Scotland Yard has a reputation in Sri Lanka as being the best and most trustworthy police force in the world. Tamil readers (and quite possibly others) believe the allegations have been made by Scotland Yard and therefore they must be true. My denials of the allegations have appeared hollow given the alleged police evidence to the contrary”, Parameswaran commented in the press release.

When Parameswaran’s solicitor Magnus Boyd told the Court that the allegations were entirely false, the Counsel of the newspapers accepted it.

“Both Associated Newspapers limited and News Group Newspapers Limited, through me withdraw all the allegations complained of and apologise sincerely and unreservedly to the Claimant for the allegations published and for the hurt and distress that publication caused. Both defendants are pleased to set the record straight”, said the Counsel of the newspapers.

But the Counsel hinted at hidden hands giving the false information when he said that the Associated Newspapers published the article in good faith based on information that, at that time, was understood to be reliable.

The real culprits are shielded, commented Tamil circles in London.

“I honestly believe someone gave this story to the newspapers [..] The newspapers have not told me the identity of the sources or if they were paid money for their stories. Unfortunately, this is something that I may never know”, Parameswaran said.

The youth uprising in the Eezham Tamil diaspora last year, against genocide taking place in the island with the abetment of the so-called international community, was a matter of serious concern for the authorities of many Establishments. At that time they were trying very hard through their agents to discourage youth participation in the agitations. After the war their focus was on creating disenchantment in the diaspora on the goal of national liberation, by discrediting and blunting independent political moves of the diaspora.

Thanking people who stood by him, 29-year-old Parameswaran said: “My sacrifice during the 23-day hunger strike was real and for the sake of my fellow Tamils who are suffering in Sri Lanka.”

“I am relieved that this matter is now resolved and I can start to rebuild my life again. The past 8 months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life. As a result of the lies that the Newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community,” he further said.

But how these newspapers that discredited the youth movement at the most wanted time, immediately following the genocidal war, are going to compensate the damage they have done to the political organization process of the nation of Eezham Tamils, and what courts of justice are there to sue them and the hidden hands behind them for that, ask Tamil diaspora youth circles.

Parameswaran Subramanyam
Parameswaran Subramanyam
Scenes of the hunger strike at Parliament Square in London in April 2009.

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