By Latoya Giles
UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, is expected to be called as a defence witness in the Bharrat jagdeo libel suit against Freddie Kissoon, Kaieteur News and Editor Adam Harris.
This disclosure was made by attorney Nigel Hughes yesterday when the matter continued before Justice Brassington Reynolds at the High Court.
McDougall visited Guyana between July 28 and August 1, 2008. Her sojourn focused on the relations between and comparative situations of Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese. She considered the legacy and impact on communities of an ethnically divided society and ethnic-based politics, and made recommendations to ensure that non-discrimination and equality is achieved through legislation, policy and practice.
During her visit, apart from her interviews in Georgetown, she travelled to surrounding communities. In Georgetown she held consultations with the President, Ministers and other senior government representatives, NGOs, civil society groups, political parties, religious leaders, academics and others working in the field of minority issues and anti-discrimination.
According to her report published online, she had visited Buxton, and talked to community members about their lives and issues.
The report stated that Afro-Guyanese with whom McDougall met, described feeling excluded from having a full voice and stake in the national polity and equal enjoyment of rights in many fields of life including employment and economic participation.
They reported stigmatization of young Afro-Guyanese males and entire African communities.
Hughes said that McDougall is expected to testify “via Audio Visual means”.
If this happens, it would be the second time that such a testimony is accepted in the High Court.
Justice Reynolds ruled that he would not allow McDougall’s report on race relations in Guyana to be admitted through the chief witness, Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon.
Khemraj Ramjattan’s observation was that the courts have a wide discretion as a result of the amended Evidence Act of 2002. That Act would allow the court to admit what was previously treated as document hearsay, he argued.
On that basis the judge said that that would not be an appropriate case to do so.
“ In my view, also by the view of the witness’s reluctance to verify the document, the authenticity is not satisfied, the witness having not being able to contend with the official report from the United Nations website,” the judge ruled.
The judge said that allowing the report through Luncheon would be very “unsafe…and unfair to the witness”.
Reynolds said that the report could be admitted through another witness, but not Luncheon.
Anil Nandlall, lawyer for the plaintiff, started his re-examination yesterday. However, as that began there were several objections by the defence, citing that the questions being asked by Nandlall were already answered in the cross examination.
Both Hughes and Ramjattan asked the court to ensure that the rule of law prevents Nandlall’s tactics, which they said was his trying to bring in new matters.
Nandlall argued that his line of questioning was admissible and cited several cases to support his claim.
The judge interjected and said that Nandlall should ask specific questions which would be for the benefit of the court, and they ought to be amplified or clarified.
As the matter continued, Nandlall questioned the witness about Linden residents only having access to the government television station NCN. Luncheon was asked to explain why licences have not being granted for broadcasts in Linden.
Luncheon in his response explained that in 2001, the plaintiff and the then leader of the opposition Desmond Hoyte agreed on a number of issues which were to be critically examined.
Out of that deliberation one such was a commitment by the plaintiff not to extend the licences until the enactment of the broadcast legislation.
That legislation was passed some ten years after that discussion.
Luncheon further told the court that the plaintiff has honorably complied with the agreed points committed upon and as such the licences have not been extended, not only in Linden, but nowhere else in Guyana.
“In essence it was the basis in the agreement between the government and the PNC, that the licencing is not extended since 2001,” Luncheon stated.
The witness was then questioned about the Norman Chapman and Mortimer Heywood case. However Nandlall’s questions asked were objected to by both Hughes and Ramjattan. The defence lawyers suggested that Nandlall was attempting to lead the witness.
Chapman and Heywood had moved to the High Court, prior to the 2006 general elections, claiming that their fundamental rights were being breached by their not being able to have radio or TV broadcasts other than from state-owned radio and TV.
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