Minister of State Joseph Harmon is threatening to take legal action against Kaieteur News (KN) unless there is a public apology and retraction of what he contends are thirteen “defamatory” reports on his recent trip to China and his association with Chinese logging company Baishanlin.
Harmon, through his lawyer Roysdale Forde, is also seeking from KN the donation of $13M to the Veteran’s Foundation.
A letter, dated May 11th, 2016 and signed by Forde, outlined Harmon’s grievances and gave the newspaper 24 hours from receipt to comply with the demands contained therein.
Contacted yesterday, Kaieteur News’ Editor-in-Chief Adam Harris said that the newspaper’s owner, Glen Lall, is presently abroad and that the matter can only be addressed upon his return.
He said that no money is going to be paid unless “forced by the courts.” Harris added that the newspaper “may” offer an apology and a retraction.
“Lall is out of country and we will wait until he returns and take a decision on the matter,” he said.
In the letter, seen by this newspaper,13 articles, published during the period March 31st, 2016 to May 1st, 2016, were cited.
“In your Newspaper, Kaieteur News, which is published by National Media and Publishing Company Limited, a series of defamatory articles were printed and extensively circulated to the general public and on the World Wide Web, specifically republished on Facebook and other social media networks,” the letter, which was delivered on Thursday, said.
The letter stated that the “reasonable reader” of the publications would conclude that he knowingly “engaged in shady dealings; is unfit to hold Ministerial office and the office of Secretary of the Defence Board; unfit to be a Member of Parliament and to hold any other public office; corrupt; oppressive and dishonest.”
It was stated that the effect of the publications “seems calculated to affect my client in his capacity as an Attorney-at-Law, a Politician and a Minister of Government with a view of
lowering him in the estimation of right thinking persons in society, render him the subject of disapproval and rejection by the electorate of Guyana and to negatively affect my client’s creditability, character and reputation.”
“I am informed by my client that the aforesaid insinuations, allegations as well as the contents of the aforesaid publications are completely untrue, false, malicious and deliberately misleading and hence I have advised him that they constitute a grave and serious libel against him,” it said.
As a result, Forde said that he was instructed by Harmon to demand firstly that the mentioned defamatory publications be removed from the newspaper’s online archives; that it publish an “unconditional retraction of the insinuations, allegations and contents of the said publications with equal prominence;” that it issue an “unqualified” apology for any harm and or hurt that the said publications may have caused Harmon within 24 hours of the receipt of the letter; and that it make a donation to the Veteran’s Foundation in the sum of $13M.
The letter said that the failure to meet these demands would result in legal proceedings being instituted.
The articles being challenged are “Joe Harmon’s China trip raises several questions,” published on March 31st, 2016; “Minister halts seizure of Bai Shan Lin vehicles, published on April 1st, 2016; “Political interference in GRA/BaiShanLin scandal…Govt, must desist from following PPP path, must chart its own – WPA Member,” published on April 2nd, 2016; “Harmon’s action warrants immediate investigation…President Granger must take action which shows zero-tolerance for reckless, unlawful and/or corrupt behavior – Chris Ram,” published on April 3rd, 2016; “Harmon’s behavior mirrors politicians he once criticized, if not worse – Goolsarran,” published on April 4th, 2016; “Minister Harmon’s continuation in office should end,” published on April 5th, 2016; “Order to stand down on BaiShanLin’s vehicles – Govt, silent in way forward,” published on April 5th, 2016; “Transparency International, others so silent on Harmongate?” published on April 6th, 2016; “The curse of corruption continues to haunt Guyana” published on April 6th, 2016; “GRA Will Now Operate Without Political Interference,” published on April 6th, 2016; President Burnham would not allowed Harmon such latitude,” published on April 9th, 2016; “This will not blow over, ‘Honourable’ Joe Harmon,” published on April 10th, 2016; and “Bandit shoot dumb man, not Donald,” published on May 1st, 2016.