Freddie vs Jagdeo libel case…’King Kong’ was not Afro-Guyanese – Luncheon
…”but that was opposition’s label for Burnham”
The High Court yesterday heard how ‘King Kong’ was a term used widely in the Guyanese political realm for describing the late President Forbes Burnham. This revelation came as the libel case brought against Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon, the newspaper’s publisher and its editor-in-chief, continued yesterday before Justice Brassington Reynolds.
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 yesterday continued being cross examined by attorney at law Nigel Hughes.
The lawyer asked the witness if he had ever seen the movie ‘King Kong’, or read the book ‘King Kong’ or even saw the comic ‘King Kong’.
Luncheon answered in the negative to all three of the questions. The witness was then asked if ‘King Kong’ was ever in Guyana.
To this Luncheon said yes, and said that it was Guyanese political folklore. He was then asked when was the first time he had heard such folklore.
Luncheon told the court that he had heard the folklore back in the 1980s, and it was made in reference to then president Forbes Burnham. The lawyer then queried whether the witness would conclude that ‘King Kong’ was a black man or an Afro-Guyanese.
Luncheon’s reaction was that while the folklore was attributed to Burnham, he would not conclude that ‘King Kong’ was an Afro–Guyanese.
Hughes then asked the witness about who he thought authorized the ‘King Kong’ folklore.
Luncheon then responded that he suspected that it was the opposition that started it. Hughes further questioned the witness about the fact if they were any books or writings on the Guyanese Folklore ‘King Kong’.
Luncheon responded that there were handouts and brochures about ‘King Kong’.
He was then asked if in the Guyanese Folklore of ‘King Kong’ if he was supposed to be strong, to which the witness said he suppose he was strong.
Luncheon said that as far as he knew Burnham was not a racist, when questioned by Hughes.
Moreover Luncheon was questioned about the transfer of 11 state own entities through the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to third party owners.
The court heard yesterday that over 158.182 acres of prime state-owned land within Georgetown was given out, and far less than one acre (.0128) was given to an individual of African descent, namely Stanford Solomon.
Nandalall objected to the line of questioning and stated that in his evidence in chief his client was not discriminatory nor was his government.
Luncheon was then asked if NICIL was the government body that transferred all government properties, and he answered in the affirmative.
He was then asked by Hughes if he was part of the board of NICIL, to which he answered yes. He was further asked if NICIL was guided by government polices and again the cabinet secretary answered in the positive.
Luncheon sought to explain that the policies specifically deal with NICIL, and the disposal of state assets is done by a parliamentary framework document which was approved in parliament before the plaintiff (President Jagdeo) was in office.
Luncheon was asked when he first went on the NICIL board, during the time the plaintiff was in office, if they had transferred about 160 acres of government property.
The witness said he could not confirm that.
The lawyer then went on to show the witness a copy of gazetted documents, so he could help confirm his questions.
This prompted lawyer for the plaintiff, Anil Nandlall, to make an objection. The objection was, however, overruled by the judge.
The court was then told that a foreign company in the British Virgin Islands had 4.7 acres of land transferred to its name.
The company goes by the name of Scady Business Corporation at PO Box 3321 Broke Chambers Road Town British Virgin Islands, Tortola, BVI. Queens Atlantic through NICIL got 18.87 acres, and then National Hardware Limited got 103.88 acres.
Hughes sought to question Luncheon about if he could agree with the fact that the company (Scady Business Corporation) was external.
The witness was then invited to look at a certified copy from the Deeds Registry. Attorney Nandlall objected and stated that his client, who is not versed in law, could not answer the question.
Hughes then asked the witness on whether he could agree that Linden is mostly populated by Afro-Guyanese. Luncheon said that he was aware of this. The witness was then asked if he was aware that NICIL had transferred 1.571 acres of land in Linden to the People’s Progressive Party. He answered in the affirmative.
The lawyer then sought to question the witness about his knowledge regarding any other political party who was given that benefit. Luncheon said he had no such recollection.
Luncheon was questioned about Guyana’s Ambassador to Brazil Cheryl Miles, who according to Hughes, failed to get a high ranking position at the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.
Luncheon was asked if he was aware that the woman was a Guyana Scholar. Further he was questioned about his knowledge of Miles being nominated and recommended for the Secretary-General position in the prestigious organisation.
It was put to him that the government refused to recommend her nomination.
With respect to that, Luncheon said that he was totally unaware of the issue. He explained that her term as ambassador ended and she returned home.
Luncheon was then asked if there was any written condition when it comes to appointing ambassadors. He said that most countries, after accepting the person, they are ambassadors, but prior to that they are just nominees.
Luncheon when grilled further said that he was not aware of the criteria for appointing nominees.
He was then asked if the selection was random, Luncheon said that it was not so. The witness was then asked to identify an ambassador who had any diplomatic experience.
An objection was put forward by the plaintiff’s lawyer, asking for the questions to be disallowed.
Luncheon was asked if former Ministers Kellawan Lall, Ronald Gajraj and Harry Narine Nawbatt among others had any diplomatic experience. The witness said they did not.
Out of the list that was disclosed to the court only Professor David Dabydeen, Elizabeth Harper and the Ambassador to Suriname had diplomatic experience.
The afternoon session for the case finished shortly after 16:00hrs yesterday. The matter is to continue today in the High Court.