Jagdeo vs. Kissoon libel case… Former President never called to testify on own behalf
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo was not called to defend his charge of libel against Kaieteur News Columnist Freddie Kissoon, Editor-in-chief Adam Harris and Publisher Glenn Lall.
Jagdeo’s lawyers wrapped up their case yesterday, after calling but three witnesses: Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon, and Office of the President workers Raul Kissoon and Jason Abdulla.
Now, it is time for Kissoon’s lawyers to launch their defence, and they intend to go the whole nine yards to prove that Jagdeo’s term in office was characterized by a racist ideology. The defence team plans to call over a dozen witnesses to establish their case. The first of these witnesses would be called on July 30 and is expected to be an international academic who has examined the issue of racism and marginalization under Jagdeo’s presidency.
The defence team is unlikely to bring Jagdeo to the bench. As far as the defence is concerned, Jagdeo had his chance to back up his case and refused to take the stand.
Jagdeo has sued 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.” The publisher of Kaieteur News and its Editor-in-Chief are also named in the charge filed by Jagdeo.
In court yesterday, Attorney for Kissoon, Nigel Hughes, further questioned Jason Abdullah, who claims to be employed as a Media Officer at the Office of the President.
Abdulla confirmed that his job was to look for certain words in articles written by Freddie Kissoon, and to “carry” it to Kwame Mc Coy, the Information Liaison Officer to the President. In his news-carrying job, Abdulla testified that he was not required to carry any other news to McCoy.
Abdulla could not remember when he was first asked by Mc Coy to start making the compilation of the reports which contained certain words. The witness said that one of the words he was not looking for was “ideological racist.”
Abdulla told the court that he was asked to look at an article in which the former President is quoted as accusing Hughes of being associated with criminals.
To an initial question, Abdulla said he did not believe that Hughes was associated with criminals. To another question, however, Abdulla said he believed what was said because it came from the mouth of Jagdeo and that he had heard the accusation before from other sources.
Abdulla was also asked if he would check to see if the information he was gathering was factual or not, to which he said he did not check.
Defence attorney Christopher Ram in his cross-examination of the witness sought to get information on Abdulla’s employment.
Abdulla could not remember who signed the letter giving him employment. Asked about his qualifications, the witness said he received passes at CXC, including a Grade 3 in English, and also pursued a course in Public Management at the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education, while also doing a few computer courses.
Asked if he has any positive regard for the writings of Freddie Kissoon, Abdulla said he has regard for all writings because he realizes a great deal of effort is involved in writing, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with all of the contents.