In yet another twist to the ‘Barber shop’ debacle, the Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, has moved to the courts with the complaint that he has been a victim of libel by Kaieteur News
Chief Justice Ian Chang, on Friday, granted a temporary injunction against Editor in Chief Mr. Adam Harris and the National Media and Publishing Company Limited.
According to the writ, the injunction bars the two defendants from saying the words “Minister Baksh lied; Education Ministry approved $223M computer contract” or any similar libel to the effect that Minister Baksh lied.
The Minister is also seeking $10M for libel.
In his affidavit, Shaik Baksh states, “This article suggests that I covertly and deceitfully misled the general public …”
“I categorically state that the Ministry of Education did not award the said two contracts to Digital Technology.”
And he argues that “whilst the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education”, Phulander Khandai “ was the Chairman of the Evaluation Committee he was Chairman as a representative and nominee of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and not in his capacity as the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education.”
Baksh also argued that Kaieteur News got the facts wrong when it stated that the ‘Barber shop’ Company, Digital Technology was awarded a $223M contract before another valued at $70M.
He then goes on to “categorically state” that the Cabinet Decision for the award of the $70M contract was approved on April 13, 2011 while the Caribbean Development Bank’s “no objection” came afterwards on April 15, 2011.
The Minister then states that a given passage in the article contains “clear imputations and inferences that … I am a liar, deceitful, trickster, crook, cheat, rogue and corrupt person” and “that I am unfit to hold the high office of Senior Minister of Education in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana or any other office in Guyana.”
He goes on to admit that the “libel” has caused him “great public embarrassment” and held him up to “odium and ridicule, both nationally and internationally”. But he doesn’t stop there, and continues that it has also caused him “pain and suffering and embarrassment.”
Baksh also admits that he is the owner by transport of “immovable properties valued at over $30 million and has the ability to pay damages if so required.”
The debacle began when news of Digital Technology snagging nearly $300M in contracts hit the papers in two contract signings held just days apart. Kaieteur News chose to examine the company in greater detail after its bid for the $1.8B One Laptop Per Family project. What the newspaper found was that in Guyana, the company’s local address is 54 Grove Public Road, East Bank Demerara. This address is part of a business complex at Grove, which did not have a single computer to sell recently when a Kaieteur News reporter researching the bidders for the project visited.
The reporter was directed to the company’s office in Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, and the result was no different. The matter was laid aside after the bids were thrown out and a re-tender announced.
When the company came to light again during the Ministry of Education contract signing, further checks were made and it was discovered that Digital Technology in Guyana is listed as the Caribbean and Latin America Office of a company that goes by the name Digital Waves Technology Inc., which has as its Head Office this address: 3154 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11208.
Checks by this newspaper revealed that this address housed a company called Assets Realty Inc. a few months ago and is today the “Antonio and Martin Barber Shop.”
Thereafter the debacle grew to epic proportions with the state newspaper proclaiming boldly that Kaieteur News was ‘caught lying’ even though the Minister was stumped by revelations by this newspaper discredited his claims that the company had been in existence since 2002.
As the story currently stands, the Minister says that he is in possession of 38 contracts that have been awarded to the company since 2002 but to get them the newspaper must write a letter to the National Procurement and Tender Board.
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