(Jamaica Observer) Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has emerged from the shadows with a lawsuit against embattled Florida-based Jamaican law professor, David Rowe.
Golding, who had been maintaining a low profile since his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lost the December 29, 2011 general election, alleged in his suit that Rowe defamed him in a statement on the Radio Jamaica programme, Hotline while speculating about the cause of his (Golding’s) resignation.
Reference was reportedly made in the statement to former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the United States prosecuting authority during a September 26, 2011 interview.
Hotline host and political commentator Richard ‘Dickie’ Crawford and Radio Jamaica Limited are named as second and third defendants.
According to Golding’s suit, the “defendants broadcast and published, or caused to be broadcast and published by radio and on the Internet, recklessly, not caring whether they were true or false… words defamatory” to him.
“In consequence, the claimant’s reputation has been seriously damaged, and he has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment,” according to the suit.
He is claiming damages for libel, legal cost and any further relief as the court deems fit in the circumstances.
Golding resigned his post as prime minister in October last year and left politics, citing pressure of work in the wake of Coke’s guilty plea in New York on racketeering charges. It was widely speculated that the former prime minister succumbed to plummeting popularity over his handling of the United States’ request, in 2009, for the extradition of Coke on drug-trafficking and gunrunning charges.
Coke waived his rights and was extradited in June 2010, following a bloody resistance from gunmen who barricaded themselves into his stronghold of Tivoli Gardens in Western Kingston, part of Golding’s then constituency. An estimated 73 Jamaicans died in the clash with security forces. Coke is now awaiting sentencing.
Golding is further contending in his lawsuit, filed in the Jamaican Supreme Court by attorney Kathryn Phipps, that first defendant Rowe had not responded to requests by e-mail and registered post for an apology for the statement.
Radio Jamaica Limited had refused to tender an appropriate apology, he said.
But in its defence, Radio Jamaica Limited, which is represented by the law firm Henlin Gibson Henlin, is contending that the words complained of by Golding “are honest comment upon a matter of public interest”.
RJR, claiming privilege, said that in October it offered Golding or his attorney an opportunity to reply to any comments that were made or provide clarification that they felt “warranted”, and that any clarification and comment would have been accommodated at Golding or his lawyer’s “earliest convenience” on the said Hotline programme.
The offer was, however, rejected by Golding.
“In all the circumstances, the third defendant published the words complained of with full compliance with the duties and obligations of responsible journalism, pursuant to its duty to publish the article to inform the readership of matters in which they had a corresponding interest,” RJR said.
For his part, Crawford is denying the claims made by Golding. He, too, is claiming privilege and honest comment.
Yesterday, Rowe through his secretary, referred the Jamaica Observer to his US attorney, David Brown, before this reporter could explain his reason for calling. When contacted, Brown said he could not speak to Golding’s suit as it was filed outside the jurisdiction.
Rowe is facing a libel suit by Daryl Vaz, a former minister of information and telecommunications in the then Golding administration.
It is being alleged in the Vaz suit, which was filed in Florida, that Rowe, using a pseudonym, published damaging e-mails about Vaz. Several other Jamaican politicians and businessmen have been libelled in the e-mail, sent under the name ‘Paul Azan’.