Oct 01, 2020 News
Former Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) Winston Brassington is facing intense cross-examination in yet another defamation trial over the contents of the Dem Boys Seh column published in the Kaieteur News.
Brassington has brought a total of 19 lawsuits against the popular Guyanese publication and its former Editor-in-Chief, Adam Harris, for the contents of the daily published satirical feature.
According to the claims, Brassington is accusing the Kaieteur News of making several offensive and libelous statements in relation to his role in several State projects.
As Head of NICIL, Brassington played an integral part in several transactions including the controversial Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
Brassington had taken the witness stand several times before in a bid to prove his case against Kaieteur News. He has asked the Court to award him millions worth of purported damages inflicted on his character and integrity by the publication.
During a virtual hearing of one of the matters before Justice Fidela Corbin-Lincoln at the High Court yesterday, Brassington was again questioned by Kaieteur News’ lawyer, Nigel Hughes, about his interpretation of the contents of a Dem Boys Seh column.
The lawyer took the witness to task over several sections of the column printed in February 2014 under the caption, “Jagdeo think he is Putin while Donald still in Sleep Inn.” As such, Hughes asked the witness to explain what he believes certain words and phrases meant. The questions were met with objections from lawyer for the witness, Timothy Jonas. Several of the objections were overruled but noted by the Judge.
“Jagdeo got serious problems if he think he gun bring de Put-In syndrome here, he lie. What do you think those words mean Mr. Brassington?” the lawyer asked.
“I think it was comparing the former President Jagdeo with the Russian President Putin, stated Brassington.
“And the line that followed, ‘the only place wheh he gun Put-In heself, is de jailhouse, de American jailhouse too…Does that relate to you?” he continued.
“No it doesn’t” the witness said.
“So, what do you understand it to mean?” the lawyer asked following up with “And does the word Put-In used in the same context in the second sentence as it is used in the first sentence?”
“In my mind no, it does not mean the same thing,” the witness replied after a few minutes of hesitation.
“Do you know what is meant by the Put-In Syndrome?” Hughes enquired.
“No, I don’t know what the Put-in Syndrome is exactly,” Brassington stated.
“The second sentence which talks about jailhouse…is that a statement of fact or do you agree it’s somewhat of a prediction?”
“Yes it is,” the witness said agreeing that the statement relates to the latter.
The lawyer continued, “So the next sentence, plenty of them got to follow he, especially Brazzy and Bobby, Irfaat and Rob de Earth refers to a future activity?”
“Yes,” replied Brassington.
“Now do any of these sentences refer to any criminal activity?” asked the attorney.
“It is not specific to any criminal activity but it is implied,” he said.
“Which criminal offence is implied?” the attorney followed up.
“To my mind,” the witness explained, “you are only going to jail; if you’ve done something wrong.”
And what kind of criminal activity do you think is implied? Because you would agree with me that a traffic offence is a criminal activity which could lead to spending time in jail, Hughes suggested.
“Yes ….but I can’t say it is that it is talking about,” he stated.
“And while dem spending dem time in jail, Donald gun continue to spend he time in Sleep-In, what do you understand to mean? Is that a statement of fact or a prediction of something yet to occur?”
“It is present continuous tense,” Brassington started to explained when the lawyer interjected “So, you interpret it to mean that some persons were in jail.”
“No,” the witness added, “amending his initial interpretation of the statement.”
The lawyer then turned his attention to the paragraph in the article which stated, “He does do everything right deh. He does sing karaoke, dance merengue, laugh in Chinee, and push out he belly. All this time Cliffy smiling and Ah Kneel, dat scamp, counting de money. But when de money laundering Act come into place, without all de power wha Ah Kneel want fuh protect demself and jail de ordinary man, dem boys would hope and pray dat de Heff Bee Eye deh fuh watch every dutty move dem mek and hinvestigate dem.”
“None of that refers to you?” he asked.
“Yes, it does,” Brassington replied.
“Which part?” asked the lawyer.
“To my mind, the part which says investigate dem, I interpret to mean me and others,” Brassington explained.
“So, you are familiar with the function of the Federal Bureau of Investigations? And you would say that the FBI investigates matters of activities of dirty money?” the lawyer continued. To this Brassington said, “Yes.”
“The next line…Dem Boys hear dem de watching Guyana fuh a long time. That is how dem buss de mighty Mafia ring that link Guyana to Uncle Sam and Italy. De small fish get buss in Brooklyn and some of dem get hold in Italy. Does this relate to you sir?” the lawyer said in continued reference to the article. “No, it doesn’t,” Brassington added.
“And, de real big ones still deh hey in Guyana. Does that refer to you sir?” Hughes queried.
“Possibly,” Brassington said after a long pause, adding, “it’s a matter of interpretation.”
“But were you in the country at that time?” the lawyer asked.
“I cannot recall whether I was in the country but I was residing in Guyana,’” the witness responded.
The article goes on to say none of dem gun be travelling in a hurry. “The dem there does that refer to you?” Hughes asked. In response Brassington said, “It’s possible.”
“And Jagdeo know all of dem. Some of dem is Brazzy family, but he don’t talk to dem. Does that refer to you,” asked Hughes. Brassington replied, “No.”
“And tell me, Mr. Brassington did you have family members who were restricted from travelling overseas at this time. Is Michael Brassington a relative of yours? Hughes queried.
The witness hesitated with his response at which time, his lawyer interjected with an objection on the issue of relevance.
However, the judge noted that the question was relevant given the fact that the defendants were pleading justification.
The witness eventually responded to the question telling the court that his relative was restricted from travelling but he chose to remain in Guyana.
“Where in the article does it refer to your office or conduct?” the attorney asked.
There is no specific reference but it is implied, the witness added, noting that there were other office holders mentioned in the piece.
“And which office did Bobby hold? Hughes asked.
“He did not have an office,” said Brassington as the lawyer enquired about the name “Donald?”
“President,” responded the witness.
“What about Cliffy and Jadgeo what offices did they hold?” Hughes questioned.
“Cliffy had no office but Jagdeo was a former President,” responded the witness.
Hughes then asked, “Was there any specific mention of your name and jail house?”
“No but it was implied,” Brassington said.
“You were a regular reader of the Dem Boys Seh article?” the lawyer continued and to this Brassington said “yes.”
“Did you consider it to be a news article or a satirical piece?”asked Hughes. “It was partially news item, part satirical,” said Brassington who explained further that he believes it was news because it was published in a newspaper.
Given his view of the column, the defence attorney questioned whether any request was made by Brassington for the alleged offensive pieces to be retracted. “Did you at any time request an apology or retraction? Hughes asked. “Not specifically for this article but many times I spoke to Adam Harris about it,” the witness said.
Further on the question of damages, Hughes queried whether the former NICIL Head had suffered any loss of office as result of the published article. “Did it affect your job in any way?” asked Hughes and to this the witness said, “No, it did not.”
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