Justice Brassington Reynolds yesterday admitted into evidence a United Nations report on the status of the minority population in Guyana, as the cross examination of Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon in the libel case brought by President Jagdeo against Kaieteur News columnist Frederick Kissoon, National Media & Publishing Company, publishers of Kaieteur News, and Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, continued.
Monday’s court proceedings had ended with the two sides locked in arguments over the admissibility of a document – the 2009 report of independent expert Gay McDougall, after she had visited Guyana for the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Attorney for President Jagdeo, Anil Nandlall, had objected to the document being admitted on the grounds that it was simply “hearsay upon hearsay”.
He argued that the document, which was rejected by the government, was not an original one, was not certified, and had no signature.
Yesterday Luncheon was asked by attorney Nigel Hughes, Counsel for columnist Frederick Kissoon, whether the basis on which the report was rejected by the government was based on the methodology deployed by the expert.
Luncheon responded that he would not use the word methodology. He said his recollection is that Mc Dougall had accepted the Government’s invitation to do the report on the state of the minority in Guyana.
Luncheon went on to say that the report predominantly dealt with Africans in Guyana and to a significantly lesser extent, Amerindians, who according to him were being seen and treated as the main subject of the minority.
Secondly, he said that Government had objected to the report on the basis of her outreach, which refers to the stakeholders McDougall had consulted with during her visit to Guyana.
Thirdly, Luncheon said that the government had objected to the report because of McDougall’s short stay in Guyana and the profoundness with which she pronounced in her findings.
Fourthly, Luncheon spoke of McDougall’s failure to give an audience to suitable cross-sections of the society, particularly those who sought an audience with her. Those places included the Constitutional Rights Commission and Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC). He said that he was disappointed that the ERC made the request and it was not honoured.
“Those were some of the main objectives that were captioned by the formal government response to the report,” Luncheon said.
Hughes asked Luncheon if the Government knew that McDougall was an expert on minority affairs when they accepted her to conduct her exercise.
The witness said that it was the United Nations that offered her to be in Guyana and no objection was raised by the Office of the President.
Luncheon was then asked if he knew that the expert was an African-American, and he responded by saying that they became more familiar with the expert after a review prior to the commencement of her study here.
Luncheon was then asked whether McDougall’s report had to deal with the scope of her investigation into Afro-Guyanese and Amerindians.
The witness said that it was not scope, but it was the status of the minority. The question was put to the witness on whether the Government had objected because the expert spent more time with the Afro-Guyanese instead of the Amerindians.
Luncheon conceded that he was “troubled” that there was a much greater level of detail on Afro-Guyanese than Amerindians, since he said that the government felt that the Amerindians had a more legitimate claim to be dealt with as a minority than Afro-Guyanese.
The witness was further grilled about if the government thought the report was inaccurate. The witness answered in the affirmative.
Hughes argued that he merely wanted the document to be admitted not for its truthfulness, but as the document that the government rejected, so that when the time comes for the defence to present its case using the said document it would not be a surprise to the plaintiff’s lawyers.
After listening to both sides, the judge admitted the McDougall Report as evidence.
As the matter progressed, the witness was asked about the process of electing a Head of the Elections Commission, and if it was done by the Carter Formula.
It was explained that the opposition parties would put up a slate of names, from which the Presiden,t after approving of them, would pick one to chair the Elections Commission.
The question was put to him, that on the two occasions President Jagdeo had to pick the Elections Commission Chairman, he picked someone of East Indian origin.
Those two persons were Major General (ret) Joe Singh and Dr. Steve Surujbally, and Dr Luncheon answered in the affirmative.
He was then asked if he was familiar with the list that was put up; Luncheon said he was not familiar on both occasions.
Hughes then referred to the recommendation by Spain for Afro-Guyanese Hamley Case to be accredited as the Honorary Consul to that country.
Dr Luncheon told the court that he recalled the request but could not say how long the government had taken to deal with the matter.
Hughes then informed him that after the government procrastinated on the matter, Case filed a complaint to the Ethnic Relations Commission on the government’s refusal to appoint him on the basis of race.
Hughes also presented documentation that that effect.
Luncheon replied that that being so, he had no recollection that a complaint was made to the government.
Hughes then questioned Luncheon on whether he was aware that the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had written to the ERC on the matter and he said no.
Luncheon was questioned about if he could deny a statement that representation was made for an Honorary Consul position for Finland and the person chosen was Indian. This was approved within four weeks, whereas the representation for an Honorary Consul for Italy was an Afro-Guyanese and that matter is still pending after four months.
The witness said he has no recollection of the matter so he could not deny it.
Soon after this Nandlall made an objection, stating that no connection was being made between the plaintiff and what was being stated. He urged the court to take charge of the proceedings.
He claimed that throughout the hour of cross examination, no reference was made of the plaintiff.
However it was pointed out that the basis for the legal action was the fact that the plaintiff “and his government” were being accused of practicing racism.
Dr. Luncheon also denied that contracts were awarded by the Works Services Group, without the input of the Ministry of Works and Communication, which is headed by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds
Henceforth, the day’s proceedings came an end, after Luncheon was asked about the fact that all 22 of the top positions at the Georgetown Hospital are filled by East Indians.
Luncheon said he knew of the persons in the positions, likewise a few have resigned and also there were a few whom he did not recall.
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