UN Minorities report accepted as evidence in Jagdeo-Kissoon libel case

UN Minorities report accepted as evidence in Jagdeo-Kissoon libel case |
Written by Denis Scott Chabrol –  Demerara Waves
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 17:39

    Dr. Luncheon leaving the High Court recently. >>>>

A High Court judge on Tuesday admitted into evidence a copy of a United Nations report on the status of minorities in Guyana that was rejected by the Guyana government.

The report, painting a poor condition of African Guyanese, was tendered by the defence in a libel case brought by President Bharrat Jagdeo against Kaieteur News newspaper columnist, Freddie Kissoon, newspaper editor, Adam Harris and publisher, Glen Lall.

Jagdeo believes that he was libeled by Kissoon characterizing him as an ideological racist in a June 28, 2010 article titled ‘King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the Conference’. Kissoon was alluding to the near-break up of the annual historical conference at the National Library by persons who had heckled pro-government sentiments when he was about to deliver his presentation. 

Justice Brassington Reynolds, after hearing submissions by both Jagdeo’s lawyer, Anil Nandlall and defence lawyer, Nigel Hughes ruled that he would admit the document only for identification purposes.

The Tuesday afternoon hearing was dominated by Hughes efforts to elict testimony from the first witness- Cabinet Secretary, Roger Luncheon- that government’s practices in approving Guyanese as Honorary Consuls to foreign countries, the selection Chairmen of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the granting of Cuban medicine scholarships, award of road contracts and employment practices at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation favoured mainly Guyanese of East Indian descent.

In ruling on the admissibility of the report by the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay Mc Dougal prepared after her visit in July 2008, Justice Reynolds emphasized that he was doing so for identification purposes only. The reason, he explained, for such a ruling was that Luncheon said that he had “digested” a copy of the document and that it was repudiated in its entirety. “There will be no need to examine him on the content of the document,” said the judged.

Luncheon, who is also Head of the Presidential Secretariat, told the court that he recalled that the document was rejected because Mc Dougal had failed to address the condition of Amerindians but focused mostly on the situation of African Guyanese. “We invited her to do the report and she produced the report that predominantly dealt with African Guyanese and to a significantly lesser extent with our Amerindian brothers and sisters who we insisted had a much greater legitimate expectation from being seen, considered and treated as a subject of her work as a minority,” he told the court.

He said government was also taken aback by her failure to accept an invitation by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), one of the constitutional rights commissions.

Government, he recalled, also objected to the report because she failed to give an audience to a suitable cross-section of those who sought an audience with her, and her profound pronouncements after three days.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Nandlall, in his submissions, had opposed the document being admitted, saying that it contained documented hearsay, opinion evidence, no signature or anyone who could have identified a signature, was written by someone outside Guyana. “We don’t know where the document came from,” said Nandlall.

In reply, defence lawyer, Hughes told the court that the document was not being tendered to test the truth of the content because Luncheon on Monday told the court that it was rejected. “The reason for tendering the Mc Dougal report into evidence is because he was familiar with it and it was rejected and repudiated,” said Hughes. “We are merely seeking to tender the document as one which the government has repudiated,” he added.

The case continues on September 20 when Hughes is expected to continue grilling Luncheon on whether the 22 top positions of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation are held by Guyanese of Indian descent.

UN Minorities Report by Gay McDougall



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