Connect with us

Features

The preface of Raj Rajaratnam’s book: Why I fought the good fight

Published

on

In October 2009 I was arrested and charged with insider trading. I chose to fight the charges against me because I was innocent.

The prosecutors alleged that 0.01% of my trades between 2005 and 2009 were illegal.

I understood that in the US there is a 97% conviction rate (similar to China and Russia) and a punitive trial penalty for those who dare to go to trial. Empirical studies have shown that the trial penalty is just about double that handed to those who plead guilty. If a defendant agrees to become a cooperating witness, helping the government with testimony — irrespective of the truth — to convict another defendant, the co-operating witness gets a much-reduced sentence and in many cases just parole.

I understood the stakes. I chose to go to trial. Why? It’s a question I’ve since been asked hundreds of times. Why. Why jeopardize everything. Because to my core I believed I would get a fair hearing. And with a fair hearing and a rational exposition of the facts, the truth would have prevailed. Until my arrest I had the highest regard for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I believed that most Americans felt that way in 2009. Since then, of course, the American public has become jaded about the sanctity of these institutions with multiple examples of overreach and excess.

Certain DOJ and FBI sections operate, each attempting to further its own agenda without regard for Constitutional checks and balances. The terms “fake news,” the “Dark State” are now bandied about with almost wild abandon, humor, and satire. The public now assumes the existence of “fake news” alongside “authentic” news with little effort towards journalistic integrity. During the time of my arrest and trial, information from the media, DOJ, and FBI was absorbed as unquestioned “Trust,” although some would argue that the dark state has existed for many years. While I still believe that the vast majority of those who work for the DOJ and the FBI are people of integrity, this book is an attempt to shed light on the corrupt few who act with impunity and destroy lives and families to further their career ambitions.

From the moment of my arrest, the narrative of my story was recast with a precise agenda, shaped to direct public attention away from the stark horror of the 2007-2008 financial crisis while promoting media idolatry of the publicity hungry and ambitious rookie US Attorney, Preet Bharara, who became a demi-God, the “Sheriff of Wall Street” riding into battle against myself, relentlessly personified as evil incarnate on the front pages of major newspapers around the world. Wanton disregard for the law, recognized by the judge at my trial, allowed a corrupt element within the FBI, Agent Kang, to falsify documents leading to my arrest and falsify testimony leading to my conviction.

I faced prosecutorial misconduct at its finest. The overzealous media, feasting on a human story they could sell every day, also profoundly prejudiced any hope of gathering an impartial jury by the time of the trial. These three institutions, ostensibly guardians of the public interest, charged with impartiality and integrity, bore down in a concerted campaign to make me the face of the financial crisis. My arrest and subsequent trial, a two-year process, deflected attention from a glaring fact: Not one major banker was held accountable for the 2008 global meltdown. No arrests. No searing prosecution. No jail time.

In the midst of a financial crisis which brought a multi-trillion-dollar world economy to its knees, these three institutions, independently and collectively, targeted a tiny slice of the US financial industry, hedge funds; honed in on a single hedge fund, Galleon; isolated only me, its CEO, who had recently become one of the few immigrants on Wall Street to be identified as a billionaire; and built a fabulous and intricate tale of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” to entertain the public and build their own reputations. Their two-year reality series was successful beyond measure.

Preet Bharara, the then-US attorney for the Southern District of New York, used my prosecution to launch an unprecedented press campaign to promote himself. Bharara ran roughshod over the truth, standard Department of Justice protocols, and the office’s own dignity in his extraordinary zeal to convict me. Time Magazine put Bharara on its cover, their headline proclaiming “this man is busting Wall-Street.” It was Preet’s finest moment. Bharara did not touch the real perpetrators of the 2008 financial crisis – Wall Street’s top bankers. In a rare moment of public acknowledgement, both Preet and the influential New York Magazine observed in 2014 that Bharara was almost sheepish about the insider cases — “they made our careers, but they (didn’t) change the world.”

Bharara’s impotent and poisoned approach to the non-prosecution of criminal activity on Wall Street — ranging from the mortgage bankers who precipitated the financial crisis (Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers), the money-laundering of drug cartels (HSBC), and the encouraging of tax evasion by US citizens (UBS, CSFB) — would become the defining legacy of his tenure. Each of these firms settled civil charges by paying billions of dollars in fines using shareholder money, but no single person was criminally charged or individually fined. Every one of the insider trader prosecutions was criminal. The towering hypocrisy remains startling.

The prosecution under Bharara’s watch advanced a theory of trading to prosecute me and several others which the second circuit appeals court subsequently overruled, criticizing it for “doctrine novelty.” Soon after my trial in May 2011, the then-SEC commissioner Mary Shapiro gloated that “the beauty of insider trading laws is the flexibility in interpreting them.” The lead prosecutor in my case, Jonathan Streeter said in December 2012, “Insider Trading cases are confusing to investment professionals.” He went on to add, “There is incredible confusion on what is illegal and it’s a real problem. The law is very complicated and the lines are a bit murky.” A US Attorney, the prosecution in my trial, and the head of the SEC, all acknowledged their reservations about a “murky” set of laws but had no “murky” reservations using them liberally in my case and at my trial.

The FBI agent overseeing my case Special Agent BJ Kang lied on his sworn affidavit to obtain wiretap authorization of my phone. Recognizing there had been government misconduct, Judge Richard Holwell who presided over my trial case, issued a searing criticism of the wiretap application used by Agent Kang, reprimanding him for “reckless disregard for the truth with respect to both probable cause and necessity.” The Judge went on to add that “false and misleading statements and omissions pervaded the affidavit (submitted by Special Agent Kang) so extensively that it was impossible for the authorizing judge to have the constitutionally required determination for the issuance of the wiretap…rather than provide a full and complete statement as required by the law, the wiretap affidavit made full and complete omissions and included literally false information.”

Kang did not stop at blowing through truth on paper. He menaced and threatened my family and employees with prosecution, frightened away crucial defense witnesses, and routinely leaked false information to the media churning up an unabated feeding frenzy that shredded me in the court of public opinion. Kang took his cues from the playbook of the publicly reviled former FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. I was tried, convicted, and sentenced in the press even before I fully understood the charges against me. The atmosphere was so toxic that my lead counsel, veteran defense lawyer John Dowd said “the prejudicial publicity orchestrated by the USA was so palpable in the courtroom…It was the most toxic atmosphere of any case I ever tried.”

My defense team led by John Dowd, along with expert testimony from a former SEC legal counsel, repeatedly highlighted that all the information discussed in the wiretaps was already in the public domain. Every bit of information was in the public domain. It did not matter. No amount of truth could overcome the false testimony trained into the co-operating witnesses by Streeter, his team of prosecutors, and Bharara, who sat on the sidelines, waiting in eager anticipation for any opportunity for a press conference. Each of the cooperating witnesses had committed his own set of crimes, unrelated to Galleon. Yet each chose to testify against me as an opportunity to reduce their probable sentences. That they were perjuring themselves was irrelevant; the government coerced them into an immediate mandate to take me down. Even the government’s star witness, Anil Kumar, offered damning testimony under oath in my case only to recant the very same sworn testimony three years later during the trial of my brother. My brother was subsequently acquitted as a result of the revised and opposite version of Anil Kumar’s testimony. A few newspapers picked up on this gross disparity, but that was it. The fact of perjury had no consequence. The cycle was vicious. “Innocent until proven guilty,” the cornerstone philosophy of the American judicial system was proving to be a farce.

I was convicted by a jury, sentenced to 11 years in jail, and paid fines of over $150 million. The irony is that even in setting the fines, the prosecutors working in tandem with the media kept up the unceasing drumbeat of punishment for the financial crisis. Never mind that I did not personally make any money from the alleged trades. And never mind that not one single investor sued me. Galleon went through an orderly process of closing down the firm and returned all the funds with a gain of 22%. Not a single investor lost money. Most important to me, personally, was that not one single investor sued me.

In July 2019, I was released after serving 7.5 years of my 11-year sentence under the First Step Act.

I wrote this book entirely in prison and by hand. I began by writing about an hour a day. Soon that increased to two hours. Then three. I am choosing to publish the book for two specific reasons: First, I want my peers, professionals who understand the nuances of managing money, to hear the facts of my case. I want them to judge me. It is my assertion that I was entrapped, framed, unlawfully wiretapped, surveilled, and then made to endure a brutal and very public media lynching.

Secondly and more importantly, I want to begin a public discussion by creating awareness of how certain corrupt prosecutors and FBI agents are allowed to get away with criminal behavior. There are no checks and balances in our Justice system. Recently there has been a lot of discussion as to whether the President should be above the law. The President is so closely scrutinized that doing anything against the law would ring alarms bells the world over. Instead, my assertion is that the focus should be on the corruption within the American judicial system, on a handful of corrupt US attorneys who live their lives exempt from the law by which they control the lives of others and the rest of the country. In this book I will show how ambitious prosecutors actively take advantage of murky laws and coerce testimony from government witnesses to obtain wrongful convictions. Winning at all costs, regardless of the truth appears at every level to be an operative mantra. I realize there is only one book I can write to set the record straight. This is it.

My story is also about greed. In all its forms, greed boils down to avarice, hunger, power, money, ambition. All of these are readily available and identifiable in the financial industry, by definition. In fact, I would say that in the financial industry, greed is effectively a cliché with fear being on the flip side of a pair trade. Fear and greed are easy to communicate, and the media hones in on these aspects of Wall Street. But what I would like to do in this book is to hone in on the excess and greed in the judicial system. Ambition in the judicial system also translates to power and money, a far more insidious and dangerous consequence to society because it goes unchecked. After I was convicted, the press had a field day speculating whether the “new sheriff” of Wall Street, Preet Bharara, was actually in line to succeed Eric Holder as the next US Attorney General when Holder stepped down. While Bharara was at first coy about his intentions, he eventually made clear his goal to secure the job based on his work prosecuting Wall Street. He may have wanted the job but did not get it.

The same ambitions were true for the three government prosecutors in my case – all three left government shortly after closing out my case for higher paying jobs as partners in leading law firms. They and their new employers spent considerable effort drumming up business on the heels of the skills honed during their time as former prosecutors to future defendants accused of insider trading. They had no problem making the transition from denouncing apparent “greed” in the financial markets to defending that same greed, switching sides in an effective demonstration of greed. As partners at leading law firms they would be highly compensated. The “protectors from greed” sold themselves to the highest bidder, all under the trusting gaze of an unaware public. The door meant to separate and maintain a balance between the public and the private sectors revolves efficiently and profitably.

It is important to understand context of the time and the prevailing mood of the country in October 2009 when I was arrested.  In 2008 we had seen the near collapse of the financial system and the wiping out of trillions of dollars of home equity and life savings of the American middle class. The government was forced to bail out the major banks. Mortgages that were bundled up or securitized and sold by banks had contributed to the crisis. Millions of American homes went into foreclosure.  Institutions such as Lehman Brother, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, AIG and Freddie Mac either filed for bankruptcy or lost over 90% of their market value. An estimated $7 trillion in US household assets were wiped out. And to add to the catastrophe, in late 2008, Bernie Maddoff admitted to running the largest Ponzi scheme under the very eyes of the regulators. Politicians and the public placed the blame squarely on Wall Street. The pubic was clamoring for blood and there was no blood forthcoming. From anywhere.

I had nothing to do with the housing crisis. I was an easy target for politicians, for prosecutors, for pundits, and for Bharara who had just been handed leadership of the Southern District of NY including a mandate for bringing Wall Street under control. I was a successful and expendable hedge fund manager who employed just 250 people. We obtained an overwhelming amount of information on a daily basis and my trading was 100% consistent with the written recommendations of my analysts. In ALL cases, I had a pre-existing position in the stock before allegedly receiving the “tip.”  In 2009 and even today, insider trading laws are murky at best and often (intentionally) misinterpreted by prosecutors. The government painted our systematic, well-researched investing as being criminal. Theirs was an overreach of enormous proportions to show that “Wall Street fat cats” were being brought to justice. If I am guilty, then the entire investment business should be declared illegal.

As the Wall Street Journal noted insightfully, “Under standard rhetoric, the public is somehow cheated by all this, but the standard rhetoric is nonsense. The public isn’t damaged because another party wants to sell or buy (and most hedge funds strive to make sure their trading doesn’t affect prices anyway).  But a cynic might note one thing: insider-trading law provides a bottomless reservoir of (supposed) financial ‘crime’ for Washington to investigate whenever it needs a Wall Street prosecution to flounce in front of the press.”  [Endnote 1]

As a child, having gone to boarding school in a foreign country at the age of eleven, I learned quickly and early to be a fighter, a scrapper. This is a blessing and a curse. Over the years, I have learned that you don’t always have to fight. The kindness of many people has defanged and disarmed me to a large extent. However, when people try to take advantage of me, I have to respond. I don’t back down. And I am fortunate to have been blessed with the mental fortitude and financial resources to fight for my innocence. Too many people do not. They plead guilty to indictments they cannot challenge.  In my experience about 10% of the inmates at the prison in which I spent seven-and-a-half years were innocent.

When I was researching the Justice Department while in prison, I came across a paragraph that struck a chord in me. Unfortunately, I did not write down the name of the author or the source. “Criminal punishment is the greatest power that governments use and wield against their own people. When employed justly and appropriately, it is vital to any safe and productive society.  But when employed aggressively based on vague laws and personal agendas the criminal justice system unnecessarily destroys lives, livelihoods, and families.”

Oddly, my experience of the law has left me without rage or a sense of victimhood. While I would never say I am grateful for the experience, I can say with confidence that I like myself better because of it. When I finally broke through the wall of despair, I realized I had gained a sense of peace and awareness that had opened me up and cracked me free.  I realized how incredibly strong the human mind is and that nothing can beat a person who refuses to be beaten.

Finally, I want to say that despite what happened to me as a result of a corrupt prosecutor, I love this country just as much as I did before I went to prison. I feel truly blessed to be one of the 5% of the world population who live in America. I do not see people lined up to emigrate to China, Russia, or Japan, for example.

As I reflect on my circumstances and my past, if God had arrived at my doorstep when I was 11 – with a crystal ball — and told me, “Raj, I will give you the wife and children you see here, these friends, and ensure that both your parents live long and happily and give you also the ability to help the less fortunate — But you need to sacrifice about seven years of your life,” I would have taken that deal in a New York second.

I feel very fortunate.

I am very fortunate.

Raj Rajaratnam

February 2021



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Features

How many Lawyers, Accountants does the Minister need to change an electric bulb?

Published

on

Unbundling the Ceylon Electricity Board:

by Rajan Philips

There is no question – the Ceylon Electricity Board has grown into a public sector behemoth. It has become the Leviathan of Sri Lanka’s political economy. It sucks up government cash and owes an unpayable debt of about LKR600 billion; it counts 21,988 employees on its payroll and is on the hook for their pensions and provident funds; and it charges its consumers at rates much higher than in any other South Asian country. A once exemplary union of Professional Engineers is now disrespected for collective incompetence and systemic corruption. The big sucker needs even bigger time reform. No argument about it.

But how many Lawyers, Accountants and Administrators, and how few Engineers are needed to accomplish power sector reform? That was the first question that arose in my mind while reading the Sri Lanka Electricity Bill that the government introduced in April. I am not the only one, it turns out. The Supreme Court raises the same question and answers it perceptively on page 52 of its ruling on the constitutionality of the Bill following hearings in May:

“It is certainly not a fanciful hypothesis, and it would be fully compliant with Clause 38(2) as it currently reads, for three Attorneys-at-Law with ten years experience to be appointed to the Secretariat and as the Director General. Given the absence of any provision to appoint other staff members to the Secretariat, the Secretariat would not have the benefit of any persons with experience in the field of power system planning and operation or an electrical engineer.”

Judicial Frustration

Here the Court is referring to the setting up of the Power Sector Reform Secretariat, a key one among many agencies in the complex architecture of the new law to reform the power sector, and the criteria for its composition detailed in Section 38, Part XIII of the Bill. The Court’s concerns are outlined under the heading “Expertise of those entrusted to manage the entities that are established,” and they are a response to one of the arguments on behalf of the petitioners that the law must ensure that the newly created “entities are led and managed by experts and professionals with experience in the relevant disciplines, and that the criteria for appointment be laid down to prevent friends and family of the appointing authority from being appointed.”

The Court then makes the clarion call that “the time is certainly ripe for this Court to insist that meritocracy be restored, respected and adhered to when appointments are made by a Minister, or any governmental authority and we therefore take the view that any failure to do so would result in the fundamental rights of the People guaranteed by Article 12(1) being infringed.”

Article 12 (1) enshrines the fundamental right that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.” This is quite a statement by the Supreme Court – to emphasize ‘meritocracy’ and to assert the fundamental right of citizens to have meritocracy recognized and observed in any and every instance by any government and every government.

Indeed, the Court held that the Bill as a whole and several of its provisions are inconsistent with Article 12 (1) of the Constitution and suggested a number of amendments to address the inconsistencies and avoid the need for passage by a two-thirds majority. As it has now become the legislative practice in Sri Lanka, the amendments recommended by the Supreme Court were passed during the Committee Stage of the Bill, before the Third Reading and passage on Thursday, June 6. Parliament and the country would seem to have come to take the governments’ word for incorporating mostly substantial amendments in Committee.

One senses an undertone of judicial frustration in the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Electricity Bill that the government finally introduced in April after withdrawing an earlier draft Bill that had been criticized for its significant errors. Obviously, not all the errors had been addressed in the Bill presented to parliament in April, and they became the subject of a number of fundamental rights petitions that the Court heard and seemingly agreed with in its ruling.

Before dealing with the question of meritocracy, the Court summarized the legal submissions on behalf of the petitioners into “two categories”: (1) the “unclear, vague and irrational” provisions of the Bill that the Court itself would seem to have acknowledged as “permeating” much of the Bill; and (2) the “unbridled power” assigned to the Minister by the Bill. The upshot of the two could potentially lead to “arbitrary implementation of the provisions of the Bill.” The Court identified the specific provisions that could lead to arbitrary implementation and suggested amendments to address them.

Addressing the arguments for the government by the Additional Solicitor General on the need for electricity reform and her assertions of safeguards in the Bill against arbitrary implementation, the Court noted that it is “mindful that the task of making policy is the prerogative of the Executive, and that the enactment of laws is within the domain of parliament,” and that “whether the Government wishes to shift the electricity sector from being a Government owned utility provider to a profit earning sector consisting of many players is entirely a matter of policy.”

At the same time, the Court went on, the President and the Cabinet of Ministers must constitutionally be guided by the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in Article 27, and specific to the project of unbundling the CEB, it must be carried out without vagueness but with clarity and precision. Otherwise, although the Court did not quite put in this way, the cure of unbundling the CEB might turn out to be worse than the diseased bundle.

Judicial Drafting

Perhaps the most glaring vagueness as some of the Counsel for the Petitioners pointed out with the Court agreeing is in the assignment of dates on which the different provisions of the law will come into operation. The Bill before the Court provided for the main body of the law to come into operation on a date appointed by the Minister or at the end of six months whichever is sooner. Four exceptions were identified. Two of them, namely, the provisions for the establishment of the National Electricity Advisory Council and the establishment of the Power Sector Reforms Secretariat will come into operation upon the enactment of the law by parliament. The other two, the operationalization of open access and the operation of the Wholesale Electricity Market, are both set to commence on dates appointed by the Minister, but the Minister is given a window of five years to determine those dates and the option to extend them one year at a time for another five years.

In other words, the Advisory Council and the Reform Secretariat could be established as soon as parliament enacts the Electricity Act, but without any of the supporting provisions of the law, including the provision stipulating the objectives of the Bill and the provision enabling the making of electricity policy and mobilizing resources, the two agencies would be constrained to function in a vacuum.

The anomaly was pointed out in challenging the constitutionality of the Bill, and the Government was ready at the hearing to submit and confirm that the Bill would be amended at the Committee Stage to include four additional provisions that would also come into operation on the day of law’s enactment, while extending the Minister’s discretion to enable the operation of all the rest of the law from six months to twelve months. Two of the amended additions would activate the objectives of the Bill and enable policy making. The Court found the Government’s addition of four provisions to be inadequate for streamlining the operationalization of the law and added further provisions to enable the establishment of the National System Operator.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that as part previewing bills for their constitutionality, the Supreme Court has been forced to undertake the task of redrafting badly drafted bills. In the case of the Electricity Act, the poor drafting of the Bill is also indicative of the level of competence that the government seems able to muster to implement the reforms of the power sector that the new law sweepingly envisages. The bigger worry should be the warning about the challenges of privatization in Sri Lanka that the late Saman Kelegama once alluded to: “in a weak regulatory and legal framework with weak institutional capacity, poorly managed and badly conceived privatization can compound the problems.” Further, “the weaker the economy and governing institutions, the more difficult it becomes for privatization to yield benefits.”

The Electricity Act is now in place, but the Minister has one year to appoint the date on which most of the provisions of the new law, save those amended by the Supreme Court, to come into operation. He could do it sooner, but the provision of such a long window would suggest that the present government is not confident about having all the pieces in place to operationalize the law. Within one year, there is the certainty of a presidential election and the distinct possibility of a parliamentary election. The obvious and passive question to ask is what will happen to the implementation of the Electricity Act if there were to be a new President after October, and a new parliament next year. The question that ought to be asked, however, is what the opposition leaders who want to be elected as President and form the next government, will do with the Electricity Act.

(To be continued).

Continue Reading

Features

The evolution of legislative reform from the British times

Published

on

By Nihal Seneviratne

The Colebrook and Cameron Commission came to Ceylon in 1833. This marked the commencement of legislative and constitutional development in Ceylon, as we were then, under colonial rule. The Commission, named after its two prominent members Alexander Johnston Colebrook and Charles Cameron played a pivotal role in shaping the legislative and constitutional reforms of Ceylon.

This Commission which was established by the British colonial administration sought to comprehensively study and reform various aspects of Ceylonese society with a primary focus on legal, administrative and economic reform. It was tasked with investigating the existing systems and proposing changes to bring about more efficient governance and development.

One of the key areas of focus was the legal system. As Ceylon then had a complex and fragmented legal framework consisting of traditional customs, Dutch laws and British colonial regulations, the Commission recommended the establishment of a unified legal system based on the English common law which laid the foundation for Ceylon’s modern legal system.

The Commission’s recommendations extended to land tenure and property rights. It proposed reforms to the traditional land tenure system, aiming to provide some security to land owners and encourage interested in agriculture. It further recommended the establishment of English medium schools and laid the groundwork for the introduction of Western education in Ceylon.

The Commission’s work in 1833 marked a significant turning point in Ceylon’s history. Its reforms and recommendations had a profound and lasting impact on Ceylonese society. Its work had been subjected to critique and debate and its influence cannot be denied. It serves as a reminder of the complex dynamics between colonial powers and the societies they governed.

It was over a long period of time that the British granted a conferment of power to the people. They were very conscious of the presence of the Tamil minorities and did everything to protect their interests. making a full study of the prevailing situation when granting their demands.

The two cornerstones of the recommendations were the establishment of an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. The Councils were presided over by the Governor and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The Executive Council had six members headed by the Governor and the Legislative Council had the members of the Executive Council, and four ex-officio members, viz. the Government Agent of the Western Province, the Surveyor General, the Principal Collector of Customs and the Auditor General. The unofficial members with a tenure of six years, comprised of one each from the Sinhalese, Tamil, Burgher and European communities, and a member each from the planting and mercantile communities.

These were the first Sinhalese and Tamils in the Legisslative Council from 1833-1911.

SINHALESE

J.G.Phillipsz Panditharatne (1833-1843). J.C.Dias (1843-1860), H.Dias (1861-1865), E.H.Dehigama (1865-1875), James Alwis (1875-1878), J.P.Obeysekera (1878-1881),A.L. de Alwis (1881-1888), A.de Alwis Seneviratne (1888-1900) and S.C.Obeysekera (1900-1911).

TAMIL

A.Coomaraswamy Pulle (1835; died in 1836), S.Casie Chetty (1838-1843), S.Edirimanasingham (1845-1848); (1851-1860), Muttu Coomaraswamy (1861-1879), P.Ramanathan (1871-1891), P.Coomaraswamy (1893-1898), Dr W.G.Rockwood (1898-1905) and A.Kanagasabai (1906-1911)

NOTE

E.H.Dehigama was the only Sinhalese representative who had no direct kinship with the Dias Bandaranaike and Obeysekera families.

Coomaraswamy and Ramanathan (brothers) were the nephews of Muttu Coomaraswamy.

In 1889, Kandyans and Muslims found representation in the two Commissions. In 1912, the McCallum reforms were introduced to Ceylon followed up by the Manning reforms in 1922.

The functioning of these two Councils were found ineffective but the British Government was keen to grant more powers to the people. As a result it Government decided to send Lord Donoughmore assisted by Dr Drummond Shields and Francis Butler for further study. They were approved by Sydney Webb who was the Labour Secretary of State for Colonies in 1927. There then took place an effective change from the Legislative and Executive Councils to the State Council.

The first State Council was from 1936 to 1939. The functioning of the State Council was found to be wanting and the Soulbury Commission was sent to Ceylon which decided to grant full independence with the establishment of Parliament.

(The writer is a former Secretary General of Parliament)

Continue Reading

Features

D-Day invasion of Normandy – a day for peace, a never-ending dawn

Published

on

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on the legacy of Pointe du Hoc, and democracy around the world, on Friday as he stands next to the Pointe du Hoc monument in Normandy, France.

Convicted felon Trump says he prefers to be electrocuted rather than eaten by sharks

by Vijaya Chandrasoma

The news about the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the Normandy beaches by allied forces on June 6, 2044 was breaking as I was finishing my column last week. I was not able to do full justice to the celebration of the greatest military operation the world has ever seen. A joint endeavor carried out by the Allies, led mainly by the United States, Britain, France and the USSR, which saved the world from the threat of the monstrously evil ideology of fascism. Which would have taken human civilization back to the feudal ages, had it been successful. D-Day marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the onset of the Normandy invasion, “They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate”.

Fascism is a system of domination by one section of humanity over another, which has existed throughout history under different labels: Nazism, totalitarianism, communism, fundamentalism, colonialism, imperialism, and other -isms, plus the monarchy and the caste system, which have tyrannized human activity through the ages. World War II may have defeated the latest of these incarnations, but they have merely moved on to the next stage, just as humanity itself is evolving.

Today, we have the feudal, religious monarchies of Saudi Arabia, the autocracies of Russia and China, the poverty-stricken, the so-called Banana Republics of the Third World, the unique, kleptocratic democracy of the United States of America, and the more compassionate socialist democracies of Scandinavia, Western Europe, and other developed nations. These will also evolve, as the human race either achieves “the perfect society” or self-destructs. The fate of the planet will entirely depend on the decisions we make today.

Today, we face the struggle and greed of white European capitalist powers, struggling to preserve their superiority in wealth and privileges, against the nations and the immigrants from nations, whose wealth they had plundered over the centuries, who are demanding their share of the world’s wealth, land and resources which had been plundered from them.

A danger of far-right religious radicalism that threatens not only the United States of America but independent democracies throughout the world. Indeed, extreme far-right elements in France and Germany, to name just two NATO allies, even the European Parliament, have recently been showing significant resurgence.

This swing to a conservative, white, Christian nationalist movement in the USA is spearheaded by a convicted felon, a white supremacist madman, who aims to destroy the core principles of the Great Experiment of Democracy that the USA, a nation of immigrants, has been striving for over two centuries.

The Prince of Wales, Prince William, standing in for King Charles, who is suffering from cancer, joined French President Macron, US President Biden and a host of NATO leaders at the international commemoration of the anniversary of the Normandy landings at the American cemetery off Omaha beach. President Zelensky of Ukraine was an honored guest, as his country is embroiled in a bitter war against the Russian invaders. But the real guests of honor were the dozen or so survivors of the June 1944 invasion and about 200 World War II veterans. Most of them in their 90s, a few past the century mark, they continued to show their bravery and resilience by attending the historic event in person.

President Macron made the keynote speech at the international ceremony with an address honoring the soldiers who fought in the greatest air, land and sea operation in military history. He also drew parallels with current wars, notably in Ukraine, raging in Europe.

Macron said, “Here, 80 years ago to the day, these men defied all odds to liberate our soil, our nation…We know that liberty is a fight for every morning. For everyone in this world that lives hoping for liberty, for equality, for fraternity, the sixth of June is a day without end, a never-ending dawn”.

Ending his speech with a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Macron said, “Faced with the return of war to our continent, faced with the questioning of everything they fought for, faced with those who claim to change borders or rewrite history, let us be worthy of those who landed here. Your presence here today, Mr. President of Ukraine, says it all”.

President Biden and First Lady made America proud that day with their presence in Normandy. With his distinguished deportment, President Biden made fools of those who dare to insult him as a stumbling old man who couldn’t string two sentences together coherently; who cast doubts on his physical capacity and mental acuity.

An old man he is, physically frail he may be, as many 81-year-olds are. But stumbling he is not, intellectually challenged he is not. He is a decent man, who displayed the dignity expected of an American President during the closing ceremonies with a speech that challenged the oratorical skills of a Reagan. A speech made with the beautiful backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, honoring all those heroes who played a part in what Winston Churchill called “the greatest, most complicated operation ever”.

Biden’s address resonated with many of the points made by “The Great Communicator” during his speech at the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1984, when Reagan said, “You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man”.

Below are a few extracts from President Biden’s speech:

“From the sea and air, nearly 160,000 troops descended on Normandy. Many never came home. Many survived that ‘longest day’, kept on fighting for months, until victory was finally won. And a few, a noble band of brothers, are here with us today”.

He honored many of those by name, detailing their acts of heroism, “from those providing direct gunfire support for the Rangers scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Huc on their mission to take out the German batteries…to the medics of the 82nd Airborne, who did their duty, dragging injured soldiers to safety, treating wounds, saving lives, while the battle raged.

“Theirs has always been the story of America…. Different races, different faiths, but all Americans. All served with honor when America and the world needed them the most.

“The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest or the fiercest, but because they were given an audacious mission knowing – every one of them knew the possibility of dying was real, but they did it anyway. They knew, beyond any doubt, there are things that are worth fighting and dying for.

“Freedom is worth it. Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. The world is worth it – then, now and always.

“We proved something else here as well: the unbreakable unity of the Allies. …We established the NATO Alliance, the greatest military alliance in the history of the world….Today, NATO stands at 32 countries strong… more united than ever and even more prepared to keep the peace, deter aggression, defend freedom all around the world.

“Isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago and it is not the answer today.

“Let me end with this. History tells us freedom is not free. If you want to know the price of freedom, come here to Normandy…Go to the other cemeteries in Europe, go back home to Arlington cemetery where our fallen heroes rest. Go there and remember. The price of unchecked tyranny is the blood of the young and the brave.

“Democracy is never guaranteed. Every generation must preserve it, defend it and fight for it. That’s the test for the ages.

“Let us be the generation that, when history is written about our time….it will be said: When the moment came, we met the moment. We stood strong. Our alliances were made stronger. And we saved democracy in our time as well”.

Reverting from the sublime to the ridiculous, Trump met with his probation officer last week. Yes, the presumptive Republican Party candidate for the presidency, a convicted felon, has a probation officer to whom he is required to report periodically. This officer’s job is to make sentencing recommendations, based on Trump’s answers to questions during this remotely conducted interview. It would then be up to New York Judge Juan Merchan to make a final sentencing decision on July 11.

Trump will, as a first-time offender of a felony, probably escape with probation. However, this minimum sentence does have certain restrictions. If he commits a crime, or associates with other felons (a serious problem for Trump as many of his friends are felons), or incites violence, the conditions of his probation could be revisited to include jail time. I don’t see the desperate and terrified Trump resisting the need to incite his base to increased violence as November approaches, as the economy, especially inflation, is showing marked improvements, and his ratings keep tanking in the polls. Perhaps we may have the great pleasure of seeing Trump in an orange jumpsuit – standard prison attire – sooner than we hoped.

Trump held a campaign rally last Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada. During a three-hour incoherent ramble, he was talking about his opposition to transition to electrical vehicles, when the teleprompter malfunctioned and Trump was left on his unhinged own.

Which forced Trump to go off script. In the scorching Nevada heat, he went on a bizarre rant about a meeting he had with a boat manufacturer in South Carolina. I do not have the space to include the entirety of his deranged comments, which included a story about sharks being hungry enough only to eat a young lady’s leg in Florida. For those of you curious to see true lunacy in motion, I would urge you to type the words TRUMP LAS VEGAS NEVADA RALLY TELEPROMPTER MALFUNCTION ELECTROCUTION BOATS BATTERIES SHARK on your server.

But, hand to heart, these are the exact words he used at the end of his speech:

“So I said, there’s a shark 10 yards away from the boat, do I get electrocuted if the boat is sinking, water goes over the battery, the boat is sinking? Do I stay on top of the boat and get electrocuted or do I jump over the boat and not get electrocuted? Because I tell you he didn’t know the answer. He said, you know, nobody has ever asked that question. I said I think it’s a good question. It must be because of my relationship with M.I.T. that I am very smart”.

(Trump claims to have had an uncle who taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the foremost universities in America, which relationship made him smart – by osmosis?)

“I said, what if the boat sank from its weight and you’re in the boat and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery is now underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there?

“Do I stay in the boat and get electrocuted, or jump off and get eaten by the shark?

“I’ll take electrocution every single time. I am not getting near the shark.

“So I am going to end it for (electrically powered) boats and trucks”.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Trump’s energy policy in a nutshell. The emphasis being on the “nut”.

President Biden is old, and sometimes gets mixed up with some words. But he always makes sense. These are the words of a raving lunatic.

Trump’s campaign rally rants are getting increasingly unhinged, whining about being a victim of a perennial witch hunt, threatening dire retribution against his imagined political rivals, and packing the federal government with his supporters. Not a whisper about plans for the future except for tax cuts, continued reliance on fossil fuels and opposition to the development of renewable energy in the face of an imminent climate crisis.

Whatever the polls predict, America will never elect an adjudicated rapist and a convicted felon, especially one arrested and facing trial for three more serious crimes, sedition, election interference and espionage, showing signs of maniacal dementia, even foaming at the mouth in a recently televised speech, to the highest position in the land.

Continue Reading

Trending