President Bharrat Jagdeo has filed a $10M libel suit against Kaieteur News and its columnist Freddie Kissoon, saying they portrayed him and the government as racist in a recent article.
Kissoon, Kaieteur News Editor Adam Harris and the National Media and Publishing Company Ltd are named as defendants in the action, which was prompted by sections contained in the June 28, 2010 article, “King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference.” The suit contends that the article contained “false and manufactured allegations” which it said were “libellous” and also “malicious, irresponsible and inflammatory, calculated and designed to excite racial hostilities amongst the people of Guyana.” Further, it said the alleged libel was intended to “cause a racial rift between the people of Guyana and their democratically elected government.”
Upon an Ex Parte application filed on behalf of the President by attorney Anil Nandlall, Chief Justice Ian Chang on Monday granted an interim injunction barring the paper and its agents from republishing the alleged libel, until after the hearing and determination of the summons. A hearing on the suit has been adjourned to August 5, 2010.
In his affidavit, President Jagdeo contends that the offending section of the article was understood to mean that he is a racist and that he and by extension the State and Government of Guyana practice racism, discriminating against Afro-Guyanese on the basis of their race and ethnicity. He also said the offending section was understood to me2an that there is an institutionalised policy to degrade, dehumanise and pulverise Guyanese of African descent and that he and by extension the State and the Government of Guyana routinely act in contravention of Article 149 of the Constitution, which guarantees all citizens protection from racial discrimination as a fundamental right and freedom.
President Jagdeo further asserts that the alleged libel is understood to mean that he and by extension the State and the Government of Guyana use “unconstitutional and unlawful methods, including thuggery, force and intimidation to silence critics and that we contravene the fundamental right and freedom of citizens of Guyana to express, communicate and disseminate their views and opinions, as guaranteed by Article 146 of the Constitution and are guilty of a criminal offence.” Additionally, he contends that the offending section was understood to mean that he is guilty of violating the Constitution and is therefore liable to be removed from office under Article 180; and that he is unfit to hold the Constitutional offices of Executive President.
He charges that the alleged libel has caused him and the government great public embarrassment, and “held us up to odium and ridicule, both nationally and internationally.” Moreover, citing previous instances involving race and ethnicity that resulted in violence and countrywide mayhem and loss of life, President Jagdeo charges that the writing, printing and publication of “false and manufactured allegations” was also malicious and intended to incite racial hostilities.
As a result, he is seeking $10M in damages as well as aggravated and exemplary damages, costs and such further orders at the court deems just and proper.
In arguing for the granting of the interim injunction, he noted that a repetition of the alleged libel could excite racial hostilities and tensions in the society and pit a large section of Guyanese against the government, potentially resulting in “irreparable” harm to him, the government and the people.
He also undertook to pay for all or any damage the defendants may suffer if it is subsequently determined that the injunction sought was wrongly granted. He noted that he receives a monthly salary and emoluments in excess of $1M and has in excess of $5M in a commercial bank and therefore he has the means to satisfy any damages awarded against him.