Junior Minister of Communities with the responsibility for Housing, Annette Ferguson, has failed in her bid to secure an interim gag order against opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, and the Guyana Times in the case filed against the two entities for libel.
Ferguson had taken Jagdeo to Court over statements regarding her alleged acquisition of lands.
In the civil action, she has asked for in excess of $10 M in damages from Jagdeo and the publication entity for the statements which she said are slanderous and untrue and have caused irreparable damage to her character and reputation.
In her application, Ferguson had asked the court to bar Jagdeo and Guyana Times from further publishing the same or similar content about her until the hearing and determination of the libel case.
The Minister further asked the court to consider granting her an injunction to restrain the defendants, from further publishing, disseminating and circulating to the public and electronically publishing on the World Wide Web words similar to those listed in an article written under the caption of the Guyana Times dated Wednesday, December 11, 2019, titled ‘Opposition Calls Out Minister For Lying About House Lots Allocation’.
The preliminary ruling on issue of the interim injunction was delivered yesterday.
During the hearing attended by Jagdeo‘s Attorney, Manoj Narayan , Guyana Times lawyer, Devindra Kissoon, and Minister Ferguson’s legal representative Latoya Roberts, Justice Persaud stressed the importance of free speech.
The Judge noted that interim injunctions are only granted in the rarest of cases before a trial.
Persaud said that the Minister failed to prove that her case is rare and more so an exceptional one which favours the granting of the reliefs sought.
Further, he held that the Minister’s application by her lawyers failed to produce case laws to support their contention of interim injunctions.
Additionally, the Judge noted that at the time of an election when both the claimant and the defendant are running for office, freedom of speech must be upheld in the public’s interest.
“I am conscious of the need to ensure the free expression of opinion by those who put themselves to the democratic process of election to the population at large,” Justice Persaud said.
The Junior Minister of Communities had filed a lawsuit against Jagdeo, and the Guyana Times claiming in excess of $10 M in damages for libel.
The lawsuit stems from the publication of an article by Guyana Times that Ferguson used her office as Minister to acquire more than one parcel of land at Eccles.
The article is based on statements made by Jagdeo during a press conference.
Meanwhile statement of claim drafted by Ferguson’s attorney, Lyndon Amsterdam, states that on December 11, 2019, an article of the newspaper reported that Jagdeo made allegations against Minister Ferguson, claiming that she has had a swift rise in wealth within two years of becoming a Minister.
He insinuated that she used her office to acquire three plots of land in Eccles on which she is building a sprawling house.
The applicant (Ferguson) is asking Jagdeo and Guyana Times to prove to the court, with evidence, that claims made about misappropriation, rise in wealth, and the Minister’s ownership of three house lots at Eccles, East Bank Demerara (EBD) are true.
She is contending that the tenor and contents of the article suggest that as a Minister in Government, she acquired unexplained wealth by dishonest means.
She is also contending that the contents of the article were deliberately written and circulated by the newspaper to tarnish her reputation as a Minister of Government and cause right thinking persons to think that she is a corrupt and dishonest person.
Ferguson noted that the newspaper also used an aerial picture in support of the article to create the impression to the public that the claims were true that she has more than one parcel of land whilst that is not true.
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