The quote below is taken from Ralph Ramkarran’s Stabroek News column of Sunday April 21. I will ask readers to peruse it twice because that extract tells an old, tragic tale about this country long before I came out of short pants.
I am in my sixties and I don’t see this tale having an ending, anytime soon. My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of young people whose future will be shaped by this land.
This is what Ramkarran wrote; “When the PPP/C came to office in 1992, I advised that libel actions should not be utilized as weapons against the press and that offensive, even libelous criticism should be answered as vigorously as they were made.
“One of the reasons was the growing attitude of the courts to view criticisms of public officials with a greater degree of liberalism. However, the culture of attack by libel was difficult to eradicate. My waning influence in the PPP by the mid to late 2000s saw a number of libel actions being filed by leading Government officials.”
I urge readers and others in Guyana not to accept what Ralph Ramkarran wrote. It is palpably untrue. What occurred after 1992 in terms of PPP leaders suing for libel was in fact started by Mr. Ramkarran himself. Ironically, the first leader in the PPP hierarchy to sue for libel after the PPP came to power in 1992 was Ralph Ramkarran.
The story of this first post-1992 libel by Ramkarran is one that obviously will be found on the pages of the history of Kaieteur News when such a project is published in book form. Ramkarran sued me and this newspaper for critical comments on the PPP’s executive committee.
Here is another irony. In writing the column, I expressed positive words about Ramkarran and concluded that I found it strange he could have been part of such an “evil” meeting.
His affidavit argued that by being a part of the PPP Executive which was described as evil by me, I besmirched his character. I never thought one can be sued for libel by criticizing an organization without directly saying negatives things on specific members. But I learnt the hard way when Ramkarran sued.
I had a personal friend in the PPP at that time who was the head of the PPP’s youth arm, Khemraj Ramjattan. I asked him to intervene with Ramkarran. He did that and openly told Ramkarran that he cannot sue someone like me who fought for democracy.
Ramkarran agreed but asked for a million dollars and a front page apology. The paper agreed. Now read on keenly.
While the publisher Mr. Glenn Lall was away, Ramkarran wrote the apology himself. It was carried on the front page. The then editor, Nills Campbell, if he had any decent vein in his body would have consulted me. I didn’t see the apology before publication. The retraction was a libelous condemnation of my character.
How ironic. Ramkarran sued for libel and ended up libeling me. I was livid. When Mr. Lall returned I complained bitterly at what Campbell did.
From that time, twenty-five years ago, Ramkarran had episodically threatened me with libel, the latest being 2017. It didn’t turn out right for him on that occasion and he was severely embarrassed. He cited two items in one of my columns that defamed him.
First, I argued that as the lawyer for UG, he advised that UG ignore two nisi orders to restore Dr. Mark Kirton as acting Vice Chancellor. Then he claimed that I damaged his character by referring to him as a Leviathan.
When my column was carefully analyzed by the editors, the Leviathan reference did not refer to Ramkarran and I produced his two letters of instruction to the university to ignore the nisi orders.
The Kaieteur News then did a piece on the controversy and referred to Ramkarran’s threat of libel as “attempt at dishonesty.” In January 2018, Ramkarran sent an email to Kaieteur News. It was read by senior management, I quote a section of it; “If Kissoon so much as mentions my name again in anything he writes, for any purpose whatsoever, whether benignly or defamatorily, I will file a case for libel.”
I will now ask readers to juxtapose what was written above with the “valorous,” “wise, “humane” claim of Ramkarran that after 1992, he advised the PPP government leaders to be tolerant and not sue critics for libel.
I kindly request Ramkarran’s fans to ascertain from him if what is written above is the truth. I have left out the many other times, Ramkarran wanted to sue.
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