November 20, 2009
PM wins case against Nice Radio, Matthew Thomas

In the wake of a second victory in a slander case, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is warning his opponents they are on a campaign of recklessness.{{more}}

Last Monday, pharmacist/talk show host Matthew Thomas and BDS Limited, owner of Nice Radio 96.7 FM, had their defence struck out by High Court Judge Justice Jennifer Remy in a lawsuit that was brought against them by Gonsalves for slandering him.

The judgement came almost three years after Gonsalves had sued Thomas and BDS Limited for words spoken by Thomas which were broadcast to persons in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia regarding the dismissal of Junior Bacchus.

The prime minister sought, among other things, damages and costs against the parties involved.

Justice Remy in her ruling stated in this particular case the Defence had no reasonable chance of success.

“… is incurably bad, wholly unsustainable, without merit and is an abuse of the process of the Court,” stated Remy, as she struck out the defence.

Remy added that Thomas and BDS Limited are liable jointly for damages to be assessed.

She also granted an injunction preventing the defendants from further speaking or publishing the said or similar words, and prescribed costs to Gonsalves based on the quantum of damages awarded.

In essence, the Defence arguments of fair comment, public interest, qualified privilege could not be justified.

The judgement comes almost one year to the day when radio firebrand Elwardo Lynch and BDS Limited were ordered to pay Gonsalves a total of EC$430,000 in damages and costs for defaming his character.

The Court ruled that Lynch and BDS Limited each pay Gonsalves damages in the sum of EC$160,000; they will also each pay EC$33,000 for the Prime Minister’s costs in the High Court; EC$22,000 each for his costs in the Appeal Court; along with interest of 3 per cent on the total sum of EC$160,000 from the service of the writ to May 25th, 2005, when judgement was delivered, and thereafter interest be paid on the total judgement sum of EC$215, 000 at the statutory rate of 5 per cent until liquidated.

That saga began in July 2002, following the prime minister’s much publicised visit to Rome to have an audience with the late Pope John Paul II. He was accompanied by his wife Eloise, his mother Theresa and daughter Isis. The prime minister was accused of abusing his power by using government or consolidated funds to pay travel and or accommodation costs for his mother and daughter.

“They just don’t learn. They are on a campaign of recklessness and bile and venom. And interestingly, the more they curse me, the more they verbally abuse me and other people in the community, including the religious leaders, the trade union leaders, young men who come on our platform,” said Gonsalves.

He said the statements often made by his political opponents go beyond the ordinary piccong.

“You know if a man is heckling you at a meeting and you throw back a hard piccong on him that’s that you gone…But what they are doing now is entirely outside of the norm and people are revolting against it, and I think they would pay a price,” said Gonsalves. (HN)