As the libel case against columnist Freddie Kissoon, National Media and Publishing Company, the publishers of Kaieteur News, and the newspaper’s Editor-in- Chief Adam Harris continued yesterday in the High court, chief witness Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon under cross examination said that the article which was the basis for the lawsuit did not change his view about President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Jagdeo is suing for $10 million, claiming that a column entitled “King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference” pointed to him (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 presiding judge is Brassington Reynolds.
Attorney at law Nigel Hughes asked the cabinet secretary whether he would normally or frequently respond to statements made about the plaintiff (President Jagdeo). Luncheon disclosed that he would frequently do this.
He was then asked if it would be correct to say that he has a weekly press conference about various attributes concerning the plaintiff. Luncheon said he holds a weekly press conference and would inform the media about different attributes of the president.
As the cross examination continued, Hughes asked Luncheon if he was familiar with the Wall Street Journal. Luncheon answered in the affirmative. The witness was then asked if he believes the Wall Street Journal had a decent publishing reputation. Luncheon said he was aware of its content and it was widely stated.
The witness was then asked about an article dated August 21, 2011, in the same journal, where the plaintiff was quoted as stating “India is alive and well in Guyana”.
“I have no recollection of being questioned or asked to comment on the statement at any recent press conference,” Luncheon told the court.
The witness was then asked by Hughes on whether he had heard the plaintiff stating that any country from the African continent was “alive and well”. Luncheon said that he has no recollection of a specific statement in that regard
Luncheon was then asked if he was aware that Freddie Kissoon was a critic of the plaintiff.
To which he said he conceded that Kissoon was a critic of the President.
The chief witness was then asked if he had read the article in question and if he thought it was unusual article by Kissoon.
Luncheon stated that he was not a frequent reader of Mr Kissoon’s artcles and as such he could not state if it was usual or unusual.
He was then asked if after reading the article, he permitted the article to change his opinion about the plaintiff.
“No Sir,” Luncheon replied, “the article did not change my opinion about the plaintiff.”
Hughes also questioned the witness about the composition of high ranking governmental decision-making bodies.
The question was put to Luncheon about the fact that no Afro Guyanese was selected by the Rice Assessment Boards, in regions two, three, four, five and six during the tenure of the plaintiff.
Luncheon indicated that he was neither able to confirm that statement, nor would he be in a position to deny it.
There was an objection by lawyer for the plaintiff, Anil Nandlall, with regard to the questions surrounding this. However it was overruled by the judge.
The names of the Indo-Guyanese representatives were called out, but Luncheon said he could not confirm or deny it. This brought the cross examination from Nigel Hughes to come to an end.
Attorney-at-Law, Christopher Ram, was second in line to take up the cross examination against Luncheon.
The cabinet secretary refused to accept that former ambassador to Brazil Mrs. Cheryl Miles was not reappointed, but was replaced by a lesser qualified and non-career diplomat Mr. Harry Narine Nawbatt, because he was an Indo-Guyanese.
The court was told that Mrs. Miles had a Master’s degree and was bilingual, and that Nawbatt did not have the same qualifications.
“I don’t accept that……it wasn’t only the qualification that determines choices of nominations for ambassadorship,” Luncheon stated.
Luncheon was also questioned about the fact that Charge D’Affaires at the Guyana Embassy of China, Cecil Pollydore, was recalled instead of being confirmed. He was later replaced by Cho-Ann Hing who was subsequently replaced by Professor David Dabydeen.
The matter continues today.
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