Any columnist would tell you that you must consult a lawyer when a commentary will contain explosive or sensitive material. In my journalistic career, I have approached countless lawyers. In every instance, I have accepted their advice and have taken out the paragraphs they suggested. A majority of those deletions would not be necessary in other Caricom states and many other countries in the western world.
Last Saturday, I asked three lawyers if I could quote from the former wife of attorney Ashton Chase on her claim that she is owed maintenance money, the court case that took 35 years to conclude and that her writ to seek division of property was never heard.
Two lawyers advised not to mention that it was the former wife of Mr. Ashton Chase and substitute “prominent attorney” for the name Ashton Chase. The third lawyer said he saw nothing libelous with the Sunday column. I still followed the advice of the other two attorneys.
There were three uncertain parts of that column for me – 1) she said she was owed maintenance money – 2) the case took 35 years in the court – 3) her writ for division of property was never heard for 40 years now. All three lawyers said there was nothing in those three statements that libeled Mr. Chase.
First, if a divorce litigant said her alimony settlement dragged on in the courts for 35 years, in what ways is that an indictment of Mr. Chase? On the contrary it is an indictment of the legal system, the judges and Guyana. If for forty years now, a writ for division of property involving Mr. Chase has not been heard, is that a statement against the character of Mr. Chase? The answer is no; it is a chastisement of the legal system.
The maintenance issue is of equal weakness in the laws of libel. The former wife submitted a bank statement with her letter. It was for these reasons, the three lawyers told me to go ahead and publish. Since then this newspaper has interviewed the former wife and my column on Mr. Chase and his divorced wife has been overrun by that news item.
In the case of Gerry Gouveia, libel is virtually impossible here when I state the facts below. You cannot lose libel when you write the facts. The fact is Mr. Jagdeo, when President, did not legally marry Ms. Varshnie Singh. There is no certificate of marriage issued by the marriage office. Mr. Jagdeo cannot sue for libel. Former Minister Jennifer Westford has been charged for fraud totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a fact. Carvil Duncan has been charged with a criminal offence. That is a fact.
Here we go now with the facts on Gerry Gouveia. In 2012, an employee (security officer of Roraima Airways) of Gouveia’s company was charged with cocaine found among food items to be used on the plane.
As a result of that, Mr. Gouveia set up a private committee to investigate the flaws in the system that allowed the Roraima employee to stash the drugs in the food. It was headed by then APNU Parliamentarian, James Bond and included Haji Roshan Khan. They presented their findings to Mr. Gouveia on October 8, 2012 (see my column, “Cocaine, money laundering and politics, “KN, May 31, 2013).
Now in February 2016, the police are looking for another Roraima security staff, Diana Johnson, who is on the run. This was after American drug officials found cocaine on a Dynamic Airways flight at JFK Airport. Three customs officers have been charged.
From what is reported, the customs officials admitted they were bribed. Someone is giving Gerry Gouveia’s employees cocaine to ship out. And it would seem that the recommendations handed in to Gouveia by the Guyanese 007 have not worked.
Let’s return to libel. I have covered the facts. Gerry Gouveia’s employee in 2012 was charged with cocaine trafficking and jailed. In February 2016, the police are looking for another employee on a charge of cocaine trafficking. So there cannot be any libel there. I have said absolutely nothing about Mr. Gouveia.
But this I will now say about Mr. Gouveia; it appears that he cannot stem the tide of trafficking by his security personnel, because a 2012 report he paid for to implement measures to stop the trafficking has failed.
My suggestions are – 1) the Roraima airport security should be banned from duties at the airport – 2) the DEA should investigate Roraima to find out who is giving Gerry’s people cocaine to put on the planes.
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Kaieteur News – Bharrat Jagdeo needs no reminder about Article 13 of the Constitution. The amendment of the 1980 Constitution,... more
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