August 7, 2009
PM says ‘defame me and I will go to court!’

Many persons have said or published things about Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, which he considers to be defamatory, but he does not bring lawsuits against them in every case.{{more}}

Declaring that there is complete freedom of the media in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the prime minister said that he reserves lawsuits for those who are political activists dedicated to undermining him.

Dr Gonsalves explained this on Wednesday morning while a guest of the “A.M. Mayhem” radio programme on Hot 97.1 FM hosted by Christopher “2 Kool Chris” Jones.

“I have not sued one single bona fide journalist, not one,” the prime minister said. He explained that there are times when a journalist may write something about him that is defamatory. He said in those instances, he speaks to the journalist, pointing out the error and gives them the opportunity to correct it.

However, in the case of declared political foes, the veteran politician vowed: “If you declare ‘I am devoted to bringing the man down’… I will treat you as a political activist…. You defame me, I will go, if I choose.

“[There are] some people in the NDP (New Democratic Party) who want to be on a campaign of malice against me. I am not taking them on… but when they cross the line, I will put them in court. I will decide who I put in court and who I don’t put in court,” said Dr Gonsalves, who is also leader of the Unity Labour Party.

One person who Dr Gonsalves has decided not to put in court is the policewoman who had accused him of raping her in January 2008. In response to a question from a caller to the radio show, who asked if the prime minister intended to sue the two women who had accused him, in 2008, of sexual assault, the prime minister said, “In relation to the police lady, I made my position clear. Let bygones be bygones.”

The prime minister reiterated that the allegations are untrue, but did not comment on his position in relation to the other accuser, a human-rights lawyer based in Canada.

Both cases brought by the women were discontinued in the local courts for lack of evidence by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and eight months after the first charge surfaced, the policewoman sacked her lawyers and discontinued all remaining matters which were still before the court.