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Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, in the High Court on May 12, 2013 ruled Minister of Labour, Mr. Joseph Hamilton, pays former minister, Ms. Annette Ferguson, $6,000,000.00 (six million dollars) for libel committed by him in a live programme broadcasted on the National Communication Network (NCN) on the March 12, 2021. Hamilton is also asked to pay cost of $350,000.00.
The former minister had alleged that on a programme host by Edward Layne and broadcasted on NCN, the Minister had uttered the following words:
“… the other people who were following and chanting they are misled and misdirected and in some instances many of them also they have vested interest because am my good friend Ferguson, Annette would feel that. You know if they start with Trevor, they gone reach me one day because I gat, I took four house lots as Minister, you understand.”
In a statement issued by Ferguson’s attorney-at-law, Mr. Lyndon Amsterdam, she contended, in the trial, Hamilton had falsely, deliberately and maliciously uttered those words suggesting that she had used her ministerial position as the Minister of Housing to take four house lots and this was not true.
She further stated the falsehood was started by the then Leader of the Opposition and now Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo who had made similar statements about her in a press conference on the December 5, 2019. Similar statements were also published by the Guyana Times Newspaper on the December 11, 2019 along with pictures of a house that was being constructed by the former minister at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
Hamilton, who was represented by Attorneys-at-law Sanjeev Datadin and Donavon Rangiah, had relied on the Defences of justification, fair comment, qualified privilege as well as the Reynolds Defence. However, during the trial, he did not give evidence in his defence as his counsel had failed to file a Witness Statement on his behalf within the time stipulated by the Court during the Case Management Conference.
Ferguson gave evidence on her own behalf as her other witness Yonette Obermuller died before the trial.
Hamilton’s attorney made No Case Submissions and contended Ferguson had not proven the libel against their client. Justice Ramlall in her ruling disagreed with their contention and found that the words were indeed uttered by the labour minister on the March 12, 2021 and that they were false and thus caused injury to the reputation of the former minister.
Justice Morris-Ramlall also observed that Hamilton did not withdraw the words or offer an apology to Ferguson even though she showed evidence she only had one house lot at Eccles, East Bank Demerara.
In 2014 Ferguson applied for a house lot and after her interview with Central Housing and Planning Authority she was advised she was eligible for a middle-income house lot. In 2016 she was allocated a parcel of land in Eccles.
In an invited comment on the ruling Ferguson told Village Voice News she has been vindicated. According to the Member of Parliament, from the inception when Jagdeo publicly uttered false statements, regarding her acquisition of three house lots in December 2019, she had made publicly known she was a holder of one house lot.