McDougall Report ruled inadmissible in Jagdeo $10M libel suit

– defence plans to call author as witness

Justice Brassington Reynolds yesterday ruled the 2008 McDougall Report inadmissible as evidence, but the defence later signalled its intention to have the author, UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay Mc Dougall, testify via audio videoing.

The defence had sought to have the document admitted into evidence in the $10 million libel suit filed by President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News,   its publisher, Glenn Lall and columnist Freddie Kissoon.

Giving his ruling after reviewing written and oral submissions from both sides, Justice Reynolds said that because the witness (Dr Luncheon) said unequivocally that the document was rejected in its entirety, “I believe that it will be unsafe to allow any attempt to have the witness answer any questions which will go to the truth of the contents of the document”.

Anil Nandlall

The judge said that it occurred to him that any answers on questions pertaining to the document would amount to Luncheon’s opinion of the author’s opinions. “In that sense I rule that it will be unsafe through this witness, for the document to be taken into evidence”. He said that maybe another witness would have been in a better position to answer questions regarding the document but for Luncheon it would be “unfair”.

Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes later indicated to the court that the defence plans to call several witnesses to testify including McDougall via audio video.

This was the defence’s second attempt to have the report, which was rejected by government, tendered as evidence.
McDougall had said that a serious concern was the stigmatisation of young African-Guyanese males and entire communities, which reported feelings of being excluded, discriminated against and victimised. On the part of African-Guyanese, McDougall said, there is a widely held belief that they are discriminated against by an Indian-dominated and supported government that puts Indian interests to the fore, particularly in resource allocation, government contracts and employment. At the same time, she said Indian Guyanese believe that an Afro-centric political opposition, if in power, would settle political scores and work solely in the interests of African Guyanese.

Meanwhile, head of Jagdeo’s legal team, Anil Nandlall re-examined Luncheon. Many of his questions were met with objections as according to Hughes his questions have to be based on the evidence given during cross-examination.

However Nandlall rejected this and said, while citing legal opinions, that re-examination is not confined only to clarification but rather that that is only one function.

Another defence attorney Khemraj Ramjattan submitted that Nandlall was seeking “opinion evidence” adding that Luncheon was not an expert to give that kind of evidence especially in re-examination.
Nandlall was accused by the defence of trying to raise new matters.

Nandlall insisted that all he was seeking to do was get an explanation of issues raised during the cross-examination.
The judge later asked Nandlall to identify for the benefit of the court, the questions he wanted amplified or clarified.
Luncheon later answered two questions to which there were no objections by the defence.

Asked why TV licences were not granted for broadcast in Linden, he said that in 2001, Jagdeo and then leader of the opposition, the late Desmond Hoyte, agreed on a number of things aimed at examining critical issues. Out of this, he said, there was a commitment by the president not to extend licences until the enactment of the Broadcast Legislation. He noted that that legislation was enacted this year, ten years later.

According to Luncheon, the President had complied with the agreement and licences have not been extended in Linden or anywhere else in Guyana.

“In essence, sir, it was on the basis of the agreement with the leader of the opposition and the plaintiff that licensing was not extended since 2001 to any part of Guyana,” he said.

In response to a question from Nandlall regarding the considerations to locate the Berbice Bridge at its present site, he said cost was an overwhelming consideration.

He said the type of bridge – fixed or floating and the current flow were also among the other considerations. He added that the Louis Berger Group, an international firm of engineers, based on his memory, had put these factors into consideration and recommended the present site.

According to Luncheon, the work services group was persuaded and later informed cabinet. He added that cabinet’s decision was in accordance with that recommendation.

Columnist Kissoon, Kaieteur News Editor Adam Harris and the National Media and Publishing Company Ltd, publisher of Kaieteur News, are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was prompted by statements contained in the June 28, 2010 article, ‘King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference’, which allegedly portrayed Jagdeo as an ideological racist heading a government that practices racism.