PM demands apology and compensation from Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has demanded an apology, compensation in the sum of EC$250,000 as well as legal costs from Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday.
Also, three radio stations, Nice Radio, WE FM and Hot 97.1 FM, have been ordered to issue an apology to the Prime Minister.
This latest legal action by Gonsalves follows comments made by Friday, President of the New Democratic Party (NDP), during a press conference on July 30, 2019 which was broadcast live by Nice Radio from Democrat House at Richmond Hill.
During the press conference, Friday called on the Tenders Board to disclose the full tender evaluation reports for the Yarabaqua river project, on which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had declared a mis-procurement. He had also called for four things to be done by the government to demonstrate its transparency and answer the “legitimate questions” of the people in relation to the project. The press conference had also heard words like corruption and fraud being bandied about.
Bollers said in his letter, that by the words used in the press statement, Friday has expressly or implicitly, accused the Prime Minister of the criminal offence of misbehavior in public office regarding the issuance of the contract.
“These allegations were broadcast to the world in complete and absolute disregard of the facts, and in the face of the total absence of any factual or evidential basis for the allegations. This recklessness, or intentional conduct on your part, was and is calculated to cause irreparable harm to the Prime Minister’s reputation, simply to score cheap partisan and political points,” Bollers stated.
He added, “We are instructed by the Honorable Prime Minister that the grave allegations of criminality which were broadcast to the world with your consent and or on your instructions and that of the NDP, were maliciously made, completely and absolutely false, and constitute a grave defamatory attack on him personally and by way of his office as Prime Minister of a sovereign democratic State.
“As a result, the Honorable Prime Minister has been brought into odium and contempt and has suffered considerable damage to his reputation as the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines not only in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but in the wider OECS and CARICOM.
“Finally, we advise that we have instructions to commence litigation should you not comply with the above requests. In the meantime, the Prime Minster reserves all of his rights….
“The Honorable Prime Minister has therefore given instructions to us to demand from you the following:
A retraction and apology within seven (7) days of the date of this letter in terms to be settled by Counsel, to be broadcast with as much prominence as the offending advertisement. Compensation in the sum of ECD$250,000.00 to be paid within seven (7) days of the date of this letter. Legal costs,” lawyer for the Prime Minister Grahame Bollers said in a November 11, 2019 letter that was sent to Friday and carbon copied to the three radio stations.
Bollers, in the letter said that NICE Radio broadcast the press conference live and also repeated the defamation in its subsequent broadcasts; the other two stations also published the said defamation in one or other of their broadcasts. Each of the radio stations was requested to issue an apology to the Prime Minister in terms to be approved by them.
A letter dated November 17, 2019 and signed by Manager of Nice Radio Douglas “Dougie” DeFreitas acknowledges receipt of the November 11, 2019 letter sent by Bollers.
“First let me state that Nice Radio is a separate entity from the NDP, and it is normal for Nice Radio to carry paid programming for the NDP. Nice Radio has no intention or at any time set out to defame anyone including Dr Gonsalves.
“We hereby apologize for any information that was carried live on that press conference of the 30th, July 2019 which may be deemed to be defamatory, which I personally did not listen to and not being a legal mind will have to seek further legal advice on the matter,” DeFreitas said in the letter.
He goes on to say, “However, we again apologize for any information that may have caused discomfort to Dr Gonsalves or may have been defamatory. Which I don’t admit to be defamatory.
“I will read this apology on Nice Radio and send it to the Newspapers and at the same time seek legal advice,” DeFreitas ended.
Managing Director of WE Fm Jules Williams said his radio station has already apologized to the Prime Minister. Luke Boyea, Managing Director of Hot 97.1 said the letter has been forwarded to his lawyer.
On Thursday, Friday told SEARCHLIGHT that he stands by what he said at the press conference and it is totally up to the Prime Minister if the matter will proceed to court.