Freddie vs Jagdeo libel case – Updates of trial

These are the Kaieteur News Reports of the Trial:

Day 1 – Freddie vs Jagdeo court battle begins

August 20, 2011 | By KNews | Filed Under News
– Court told Ambassadors, heads of key state agencies all Indians – Luncheon claims Govt. impartial
By Latoya Giles

The highly published and much anticipated court battle – President Bharrat Jagdeo vs. Kaieteur News Columnist Frederick Kissoon – got underway yesterday with Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon being the first person called to give evidence in chief. The Head of State is suing Kissoon and National Media and Publishing Company, publishers of Kaieteur News, and Editor-in-Chief Adam Harris for over $10M, claiming libel in one of Kissoon’s daily columns last year.

Read complete ReportFreddie vs Jagdeo court battle begins

Day 2- Luncheon grilled on govt. contracts, postings, policies and land awards

AUGUST 25, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

  Freddie vs Jagdeo libel case…

Lawyers for President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday failed in their bid to prevent Freddie Kissoon’s defence team from questioning Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, on the award of contracts, as the libel case brought by the Head of State against the Kaieteur News columnist, the newspaper and its editor-in-chief, continued in the High Court yesterday.
Dr Luncheon testified that it is the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board that awards contracts – therefore not the President.

However, upon further questioning, Luncheon admitted that as per procedure contracts are awarded by the Tender Administration Board only after a “Non Objection” is issued by Cabinet – the Cabinet being the Council of Government Ministers chaired by the President.
The Head of the Presidential Secretariat further agreed that if the Cabinet, again chaired by the President, makes an objection to a contract, then it cannot be awarded by the Tender Administration Board.

Read Complete Report: Luncheon grilled on govt contracts postings policies and land awards

Day 3- Jagdeo vs Kisssoon Libel Case…

Freddie vs Jagdeo libel case…Court hears Black candidates overlooked for DPP position

AUGUST 30, 2011 | BY  |

The High Court yesterday heard how President Bharrat Jagdeo overlooked two Afro-Guyanese candidates for the post of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in favour of Indo-Guyanese, as the libel case brought against Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon, the newspaper’s publisher and editor-in-chief continued yesterday.
President Jagdeo is suing for $10 million, claiming that a column entitled “King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference” pointed to Jagdeo as King Kong. The President has claimed that the article suggests that he is a racist and that “by extension, the State and Government of Guyana, practice racism as an ideology, dogma, philosophy and policy.” 
Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon – the President’s chief witness – testified that during the Jagdeo Presidency, only two persons were appointed to the post of DPP, namely Dennis Hanomansingh and Shalimar Ali-Hack, both of Indian descent. Luncheon said the appointments were made according to constitutional provisions.
He was questioned on the fact that Hanomansingh was brought from outside the DPP’s Chambers and appointed to the post over Yonette-Cummings Edwards, an Afro-Guyanese who had served within the DPP’s chambers for 15 years, and within that time acted as Deputy DPP for several years, but was not favoured by the President for the job in the end.
On September 23, 2003, Hanomansingh was among the almost dozen persons who were injured when gunmen opened fire at the popular Natoo’s bar in Kitty and killed four persons.  
Subsequent to the incident, Hanomansingh resigned as DPP, and Roxanne George, an Afro-Guyanese, performed the functions of DPP. She did not receive the appointment, and left in 2004 to become a High Court Judge.
Following George’s resignation, Ali-Hack performed the functions of Acting DPP until she received the substantive appointment in April 2008.
Luncheon concurred with Attorney Nigel Hughes on the appointments of Hanomansingh and Ali-Hack, but did not go into details as to why the two Afro-Guyanese candidates, Yonette-Cummings Edwards and Roxanne George, were not favoured.
On the issuance of Broadcast licences, Luncheon admitted that Linden, which he acknowledged is inhabited by mostly Afro-Guyanese, was the only place in Guyana where only one television station is licenced to broadcast, and that station happens to be the state-owned and controlled NCN.
At this point, Luncheon’s attorney Anil Nandlall objected on the grounds of relevance, saying that the case is based on the Freddie Kissoon column in which the President claims he was libeled.
Nandlall said that whether the people of Buxton, Crabwood Creek, or anyone else has one or more TV stations has nothing to do with the matter at hand, since neither the people at Paramakatoi nor Kurupung have access to TV, and it didn’t matter whether they were “Black, White, Mulatto or Brown.”
He told the court that such questions have no “probable” value, but more prejudicial value, as the answers to such questions would be “spun” by the press and serve the interests of those who want to use the case for their own agendas.
Attorney Hughes then told the court that the case rests on the President’s challenge that he is not an “ideological racist” and it was Dr Luncheon who testified that the President does not practice racism.
Hughes said he was, therefore, entitled to challenge Luncheon on every statement he had made, and therefore his questioning on the granting of licences was to show how by restricting the people of Linden to only the State television, it was being prejudiced against Afro-Guyanese.
The Judge, Brassington Reynolds, overruled Nandlall’s objection and allowed Hughes to proceed with his line of questioning.
Luncheon was asked if it would be correct to say that the government, headed by the President, has not licenced any other challenge or company to broadcast in Linden.
To this, Luncheon said that may be so, but he was not in a position to confirm. Luncheon’s attention was then drawn to a December 3, 2008 Parliamentary motion by the Alliance For Change’s Sheila Holder, which called for the town of Linden to receive additional channels.
When asked, Luncheon could not say if the government voted against the motion, but he did recall the motion being taken to the National Assembly.
According to press reports, the government voted 31-24 against the opposition to have the motion defeated. Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira, at the time said what stymied the process was the fact that a communiqué signed between President Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Robert Corbin, ordered a freeze on the issuance of licences until a Broadcast legislation could be implemented.
Nine days after the motion was defeated in Parliament, Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang ordered that the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) speedily grant broadcast licences to those who want to broadcast in Linden and Region Ten.
Chang ruled that the rights of citizens under Article 146 of the Constitution cannot be abridged based on an agreement made between Jagdeo and Corbin.
Lindeners Norman Chapman and Mortimer Yearwood had moved to the High Court, prior to the 2006 general elections, claiming that their fundamental rights were being breached by their not being able to have radio or TV broadcasts other than from state-owned radio and TV. Luncheon’s attention was brought to the ruling, but the Court did not allow questioning on it.
The Head of the Presidential Secretariat was then questioned on statements made by the President at Babu John, Corentyne, at a March 13th 2011 activity to commemorate the life of late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, and at Buxton, East Coast Demerara on August 18th 2010, during a ceremony for the reconstruction of Tipperary Hall.
Hughes sought to show that at Babu John, of predominantly Indo-Guyanese, the President called on young people not to forget the past, while at Buxton, of mostly Afro-Guyanese, the President called on young people to forget the past.
Hughes quoted what Jagdeo stated at Babu John, “they’re counting on poor memories and they’re counting on the lack of knowledge on the part of young people to bring these white elephants, behemoths, the fossils of the past back in the political arena, and I hope that you will as I ask you, make sure that people are educated about that past…”
Luncheon, during testimony, said that while he was not present at Babu John, he recalled reports of the President’s statement. When he was allowed to explain, Luncheon said that the context in which the President was speaking dealt with the years of denial of free and fair elections and the support provided by elements in the military.
According to press reports, the President’s statement was made during his reference to the Presidential Candidate of the main opposition, David Granger. The President accused Granger of having blood on his hands owing to an incident surrounding the 1973 elections when three of the PPP’s supporters were killed in Berbice, when the government tasked the Army with transporting ballot boxes.
Hughes quoted the President as telling the people at Buxton that he did not want them to go back and analyse the past, since that was part of history.
Luncheon said that the President there was addressing the perception that Buxton was seen as a haven for criminals and was being treated in a discriminatory manner as a consequence.
Luncheon was then questioned why the government had stopped the provision of subvention to Critchlow Labour College, which he agreed is attend by mostly Afro-Guyanese. He was then asked if he was aware that it was during the Jagdeo presidency that the subvention to the institution was terminated. Luncheon agreed, and explained the reason for this was the non-submission of information the government had requested of the college.
The day’s hearing ended with a request by Nandlall to verify the authenticity of a document from which Luncheon was going to be questioned on further.
The document Hughes tendered was the 2009 report of independent expert Gay McDougall, after she had visited Guyana for the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Dr Luncheon said he was familiar with the Commission and that he had read the report and also recalled that the government had repudiated the entire report.
Hughes presented the document to Nandlall, and he (Nandlall) then agreed to hand the document to Luncheon, who told the court that was the report he had read and which the government repudiated in its entirety.
When Hughes was about to proceed with his questioning, Nandlall told the court he could not vouch for the authenticity of the document and needed time to verify this.
Hughes requested of the Judge to put on record that Nandlall was accusing him of producing a forged document to the court, but the Judge did not concede that that was the accusation being made as Nandlall had just prior referred to Hughes as someone of “integrity.”
The court was adjourned to today when Dr Luncheon will continue to be questioned after the Judge meets with Attorneys on both sides to decide on the integrity of the document and if it would be admitted into evidence.
McDougall, visited Guyana between July 28-August 1, 2008.
During her visit, she travelled to Georgetown and surrounding communities. She held consultations with the President, ministers and other senior government representatives, NGOs, civil society groups, political parties, religious leaders, academics and others working in the field of minority issues and anti-discrimination.
According to the report published online, the independent expert visited communities, including Buxton, and talked to community members about their lives and issues.
According to the report, Afro-Guyanese with whom McDougall met, described feeling excluded from having a full voice and stake in the national polity and equal enjoyment of rights in many fields  of life including employment and economic participation, and they reported stigmatization of young  Afro-Guyanese males and entire African communities

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