Nov 19, 2015 News
By Jarryl Bryan
Former Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, has sued Gail Teixeira, a senior member of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), over her alleged statements contained in leaked US Embassy cables and published in the state-owned Guyana
Teixiera, the current Parliamentary Chief Whip for the Opposition, was also a former Home Affairs Minister.
On Tuesday, the Guyana Chronicle published excerpts of the Wikileaks US Embassy cables, one of which quoted Teixeira as saying that Gajraj is corrupt.
Gajraj, who was until recently Guyana’s High Commissioner to India, has moved to the court suing both Teixeira and the newspaper for libel.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday by Gajraj’s Attorney-at-Law, Arun Gajraj, is claiming more than $30M in damages. Teixeira and the Guyana Chronicle were also reportedly served with the writ yesterday.
Damages in excess of $10M are being claimed by Gajraj for “defamation of character as a result of certain callous slanders spoken by Teixeira and published by the Chronicle.”
Gajraj is also claiming in excess of $10M for “libel” which was allegedly published by the Guyana Chronicle on November 17, last.
In excess of $10M is also being claimed for “aggravated and punitive damages”. In addition, Gajraj is seeking an injunction restraining the Guyana Chronicle or “their servants, agents or whosoever otherwise from repeating or republishing said or similar libel of plaintiff.”
The cost of the proceedings and any further sums the court may award is also being sought by Gajraj.
According to the writ, both defendants are commanded to appear before the court to answer the suit
within ten days of being served. Failure to do so, the writ also noted, may result in the proceedings moving forward and judgment being pronounced.
The lawsuit stems from the Chronicle publication on Tuesday headlined “Wikileaks cable… Teixeira accused Gajraj of visa racketeering.”
The cables quoted in the article had reportedly been sent from then Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy, Michael Thomas, to his Headquarters in the US.
In the cable, the conversation between Thomas and Teixeira was reportedly dated December 28, 2005. According to the Chronicle’s article, she had requested a consular briefing on trends in fake civil documents detected by the Embassy’s consular section.
In the article, Teixeira reportedly acknowledged that there “is quite a lot of corruption in the immigration division.”
She was also quoted as saying that former Home Affairs Ministry Security Policy Coordinator, Sultan Kassim, is “very closely linked to a number of networks, particularly the Chinese.”
The Chronicle article also detailed certain statements she reportedly made about a slush fund financed by Brazilian fees for work permits that “Gajraj and Kassim had run.”
She was also quoted as criticizing Gajraj for the direct control held over the Home Affairs Ministry.
Gajraj vacated his portfolio as Minister of Home Affairs in 2005, following his implication in the activities of a phantom death squad, which hunted and killed criminals and suspects during the crime wave of the early 2000s.
After Gajraj was sent on his diplomatic posting by then President Bharrat Jagdeo, Teixeira was then appointed Home Affairs Minister. When the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) came to office in May, Gajraj returned to Guyana soon after.
A number of ex-phantom death squad members had alleged that Gajraj had knowledge of the squad’s activities, while telephone records had reportedly linked him to some members. Gajraj has consistently denied the allegations.
Response to Chronicle’s article
Meanwhile, the PPP held a press conference yesterday to deal with parliamentary and sectoral matters.
Teixeira, when questioned, acknowledged that there was a conversation between her and embassy officials at the time and that she had requested evidence of civil document racketeering, but noted that many statements attributed to her were actually Thomas’s personal interpretation.
“In relation to what is stated in the Chronicle, I have not had a look at the Wikileaks (referred
to in article) but as is (the case of) all of these cables any foreign missions send briefings of every single meeting they have with Government officials, NGO, anybody. That’s a responsibility.”
“In those cables, they put their own personal assessments,” she stated. “(However) the way in which the Chronicle’s article was written, as if certain things in the Charge d’ Affaires’ opinion is being put over as if I said that…I did not.”
She recalled that her Government received numerous reports from the US embassy about fraudulent passports and birth certificates. She said that immigration, under the law, came under the police force.
“(General Registry Office) GRO (and) the issuing of birth certificates came under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The US embassy was asked by me to provide evidence of these fake documents. Now, the GRO ones were particularly disturbing because they were actually authentic.”
She related that the birth certificates came with the water mark of the GRO. There were also signatures of persons working at the GRO, but the information was false.
“Those persons (to whom birth certificates were issued didn’t exist. And from that false document, they then created other fake documents (fake passports). The passports were genuine, but the persons on them were not real.”
She said that it was this evidence that she requested, as well as fictitious marriage certificates. She stated that in the case of the marriage certificates, these were being issued to persons who were nowhere around when issued.
“As a result of this, action was taken to have investigations opened. Police investigations were held and a number of people in the GRO were recommended to be charged. However, the police under Felix’s stewardship did nothing.”
Accuracy of Wikileaks
Teixeira also called into question the overall accuracy of the Wikileaks cables, noting that there had been cables detailing conversations she had between December 2005 and July 2006. These cables, she noted, became public knowledge in 2011 but contained some inaccuracies.
For instance, she recalled one conversation attributed to her. In the conversation, she had allegedly called into question former Police Commissioner Henry Greene’s suitability for the post. She made it pellucid that this conversation in fact never took place.
“In December 2005, Felix was the Commissioner of Police and at no point was there any discussion as his retirement did not come up until June/July 2006,” Teixeira said.
“The Commissioner of Police is a prerogative of the President (at the time Bharrat Jagdeo) and therefore there would be no inclination on my part to enter into such discussions.”
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