Weeks after filing 17 lawsuits against Kaieteur News over the contents of the satirical column, ‘Dem Boys Seh’, a senior Government official in charge of overseeing state investments and privatization deals, will have to prove his cases in court.
This is because the newspaper has categorically denied the libel claims of Winston Brassington, stating in its defence that the comments were true, fair and published in the course of disseminating matters of public interest.
On July, Brassington, the Executive Director of National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) filled 13 actions saying he was libeled in the popular column, over a period of time. He said that he was targeted for his role in the state-owned power company, Guyana Power and Light Inc. and the Marriott Hotel construction, among other things.
In September, Brassington again filed four more lawsuits saying he despised being called a ‘fat crook’.
However, in its defence, the National Media and Publishing Company Inc, which publishes Kaieteur News, and Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, stated several instances in which the issue is in the interest of the public and will be justified in the trials.
Brassington, who also sits as Chairman of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL), allegedly used inside information to invest in the Hand-In-Hand Trust Company, “ostensibly on behalf of a brother”.
The official’s role in the sale of Goverment lands to the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry and John Fernandes Limited were also cited in the defence.
Brassington was also said to have been engaged in asset stripping of Guyana Stores Limited after an agreement was entered for it to be sold.
His role in illegally waiving hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends from the Berbice Bridge Company payable to NICIL will also have to surface during the trial.
Significantly, Brassington’s handling of billions of dollars in public funds will also have to come up. “The plaintiff controls billions of dollars of public funds which have not been accounted for in accordance with the laws governing public finance. The plaintiff has issued financial statements not in compliance with statutory requirements so as to disguise his “ubiquitous role and interlocking relationships.”
Lawyers will also raise the issue of the infamous Amaila Falls road for US$15M which Brassington went ahead with, despite misgivings over the contractor, Synergy Holdings Inc.
Synergy was fired from the contract but Guyana lost hundreds of millions of dollars. The road was critical for the financing of the hydro-power project in Region Eight.
With regard to the controversial US$50M-plus Marriott Hotel, Brassington’s hands in committing public funds in a private-public partnership with securing the private investment, exposing taxpayers’ dollars will also have to be answered.
Brassington will also have to explain why he allowed a private investor in the Marriott Hotel to take two-thirds of the equity without a proper evaluation being done.
His role in disposing of the 20 percent share in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company and diverting the proceeds to a project will also be questioned during the libel trials.
Brassington’s approval for NICIL’s resources to be used to finance exclusive housing developments at Pradoville 1 and 2, an area in which top Government officials live, is also to be scrutinized during the trial.
Among other things, the lawyers said that “the defendants will contend that the column contained words that were fair comments on a matter of public interest, namely the conduct of Mr. Brassington… and wholly justified in expressing outrage that poor planning resulted in the squandering, criminal waste and loss of taxpayers’ money.”
In recent years, Kaieteur News has been slapped with numerous lawsuits by especially Government officials, after questions were asked about a number of transactions and state projects.
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