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PM Gonsalves wins lawsuit against TNT newspaper

PM Gonsalves wins lawsuit against TNT newspaper


A court in Trinidad and Tobago, on Wednesday, awarded Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves TT$400,000 (approx. EC$200,000) in damages and TT$150,000 in costs, over an article published, by a newspaper in that country.{{more}}

The TNT Mirror is said to have published on February 9, 2007, “grave allegations of criminality and misbehaviour in public office made by Mr Ramesh Maharaj.”

The statement to which Gonsalves objected was published in an article headlined “Ramesh versus Gonsalves”.

Reports say Anthony Bullock, a lawyer for Gonsalves, had written to the paper, seeking on behalf of his client TT$760,000, an apology, and a retraction of the article.

The letter, according to Trinidad media, said that the article published allegations that were maliciously made, completely and absolutely false and constitute a serious defamatory attack on Gonsalves personally and by way of his office as Prime Minister of a sovereign democratic state.

The article is said to have resulted from comments reportedly made by Maharaj about Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party government’s early release from prison of convicted drug offender Alex Lawrence.

According to the media reports, the letter identified five grounds on which the words printed are defamatory, including that Gonsalves acted illegally and/or with a corrupt and dishonest motive, in that he agreed to release a person convicted of drug offences in exchange for a campaign contribution.

Another meaning attributed to the words being objected to is that Gonsalves used his office as head of the Mercy Committee to secure the release for a drug dealer for his contribution of EC$500,000 to Gonsalves’ 2005 election campaign.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Gonsalves travelled to Trinidad Tuesday night and appeared in court on Wednesday.

The court had ordered Gonsalves to deposit TT$100,000 as security for costs in the event that the judgement had gone against him. Lawyers for the newspaper had argued that the deposit should be made, since Gonsalves is not a resident of Trinidad.

Gonsalves will get back his TT$100,000 in addition to the damages and costs awarded by the court.

Lawyer Douglas Mendez, QC, represented Gonsalves at the hearing on Wednesday.(KXC)