Nov 24, 2020 News
Ramotar vs Kaieteur News Libel case…
Kaieteur News – Kaieteur News Publisher, Glenn Lall, told the High Court yesterday that he is of the firm belief that the Kaieteur and Canje oil block deals signed under the Donald Ramotar administration was corrupt.Lall was at the time responding to questions in the libel action brought against the newspaper and its principals by former President Ramotar. The case which is ongoing before Justice Navindra Singh at the Georgetown Court is expected to conclude by March 12, 2021.
Ramotar has sued Kaieteur News for its expose on the questionable circumstances under which the oil deals were signed.
The newspaper had published several advertisements showing the stark similarities between how the Ramotar administration and Senegal, an oil-rich West African country dealt with oil deals. Both countries allocated oil blocks to companies with no known experience in the oil industry.In Senegal, the oil blocks were signed away to a convicted drug lord; in Guyana, the owners of the oil blocks were unknown until the newspaper tracked down the contracts.
However in the lawsuit, Ramotar claimed that the advertisement portrayed false, slanderous information which resulted in immeasurable damage to his character. He is suing Kaieteur News; its publisher, Lall; and former Editor-in-Chief Adam Harris for in excess of $10 M for libel.
Lall who had previously provided the Court with a witness statement, took the stand yesterday, where he essentially stood by his position on the oil deals when he faced a series of questions from attorney for Ramotar, Chandrapratesh Satram. Satram appeared in association with lawyer Rajendra Jaigobin. During the proceedings, Satram raised several questions about the contents of the advertisement, which was published under a bold caption, “WAKE UP GUYANA!”
“According to this, you are basically saying or telling the Guyanese people that the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks were signed away and that they were signed away by President Ramotar?” the lawyer asked holding up an exhibit of the newspaper ad.
“Yes, sir,” Lall said firmly.
“You are also saying that the same way the two blocks was signed away in Guyana, it was done by President Aliou Sall in Senegal? The ad is basically saying the oil deals were bad?” Satram followed up.
“Yes, I believe that,” Lall replied, “Yes it was given away.”
“And it is your view that it was given to people who were not qualified own them?” the attorney enquired.
“Yes, perfectly,” Lall responded.
“The ad also said that the person who received the oil block sold it for US$100M?” the lawyer asked.
“I believe it is much more than that,” Lall responded passionately.
“This ad says that the blocks were sold away to make profits for the people who received them and the people who gave them away as well as their beneficiaries. Is that correct?” posited the lawyer.
“Yes, obviously,” replied the publisher.
“This ad said someone else stood to benefit; that the blocks were given away secretly and in a corrupt manner; is that so?” asked the attorney.
“I think so, I believe so,” replied the publisher.
Satram followed up “So, you are saying that the deals were bad?”
“Of course, they were dirty,” Mr. Lall told the Court
“And you are saying that the President Ramotar failed to follow the correct process?” Satram added.
“Of course,” Lall responded.
“And as a result, the country loses billions?” the lawyer queried.
“Yes, perfectly,” Mr. Lall said.
In reference to similar ad titled “WAKE UP GUYANESE BROTHERS AND SISTERS” the lawyer asked whether Lall was again speaking about the sale of the two blocks for US $100M.
The witness responded in the affirmative.
“This ad refers to the transfer of properties by big brother Donald and contains two images of what appears to be bandits or a thief,” the lawyer suggested.
“Yes, sir,” Lall agreed.
“It was saying essentially that he took part of the US$100M?” questioned the attorney.
“I believe that he did, yes,” the newspaper publisher replied.
“It is saying essentially that President Ramotar is a corrupt man that he collected part or some of the US $100 M for signing away those two blocks?” the lawyer added.
“I believe so, I don’t know much he collected but I believe so!” Lall declared.
“So, you are making a comparison with Guyana and Senegal that the politician in Senegal collected money and what happened in Senegal is happening in Guyana?” the lawyer said.
“Yes, sir” Lall responded.
“And, you called for President Granger to launch investigations into the deals?” Satram continued with the line of questioning.
“Yes!” Lall stated, adding that he is now calling for an international investigation into the deals.
“This is because you believe a crime was committed?” Satram asked.
“Yes sir, a crime against the people of this nation,” Mr. Lall said firmly.
“Have you ever written to President Ramotar to explain himself?” the lawyer asked.
“I had written to Ramotar and all the players to explain their rationale behind this. I received no explanation,” the witness explained.
“So, you didn’t receive the explanation, he sent you?” asked Satram.
“No, sir,” the witness said in reply.
“Or, you didn’t accept his explanation or care for what he had to say?” the lawyer continued.
“He never said anything,” Lall added.
Next, the attorney turned his attention to the series of articles carried by Kaieteur News on the oil blocks in 2020.
“Since the start of this trial, you published a number of articles about the Kaieteur and Canje blocks …” the lawyer began to ask but he was interrupted by Lall‘s attorney, Nigel Hughes.
Hughes objected to the line of questioning on the point of relevance. He noted that Ramotar’s legal team could not insert the new information as part of the evidence unless they were dealing with the issue of contempt. However, Satram argued that he was referencing the new articles as a matter of showing the general conduct of the newspaper publisher.
Justice Singh agreed with the contention that the new information will have to be entered via a different means. The Judge suggested that the new information could be part of another litigation for libel.
As such, Lall was briefly questioned about the newspaper articles titled the “Fleecing of Guyana Series.” Alluding to the series, Satram asked Lall if he referred to the deals as suspicious or as “daylight robbery.” However in this case, the publisher said that it was oil experts that said so, and not the newspaper.
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