I am pleased to announce that today I was victorious in my defamation case against PNM Government Senator, Dr. Lester Henry. Justice Devindra Rampersad presiding in the High Court granted judgment in my favour and ordered Dr. Henry to pay aggravated damages in the sum of Five Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($550,000.00) plus legal costs for my legal team led by former Attorney General Mr. Anand Ramlogan SC, Mr. Douglas Bayley, instructed by Trishana Ramnath from Freedom Law Chambers.
I brought this defamation claim against Dr. Henry because he falsely and maliciously uttered defamatory words about me on Monday 9th June 2014 during the popular Afternoon Drive radio talk show program, which is aired at prime time on I95.5 FM. Dr. Henry went out of his way to falsely and maliciously accuse me of using public funds from the Central Bank, of which I was the Governor at the material time, to pay for repairs to my private home. He pretended to have details of the expenditure and said it was similar to the amount spent to retrieve the infamous fire truck that had fallen down a precipice in Blanchisseuse. Dr. Henry maliciously stated that construction to my private residence was undertaken by SIS Limited, a local contracting firm which at the time was widely alleged to be supporting the ruling People’s Partnership administration.
The Court held that the words spoken by Dr. Henry about me were defamatory and said: “…the ordinary person would be left with the inescapable impression that the claimant had misused his position to gain an unfair advantage for himself in his private property using public funds i.e. Central Bank funds, at an over-the-top and exorbitant price. The tenor of the statements, therefore, would have led the listener, the ordinary person, to come to the conclusion that the claimant was not an honest person and was not fit and or qualified to occupy the important office Governor of the Central Bank – the latter being a sentiment which the defendant unabashedly confessed to in cross-examination. Further, that fitness or qualification for office carried with it political undertones as the words sought to link the claimant with the current party through his alleged employment of SIS Ltd and following the example of the Prime Minister.”
Dr. Henry’s legal team, which comprised Mr. Gilbert Peterson SC and Mr. Ken Wright, raised several points which were rejected by the Court. In rejecting these defences, the Court said that Dr. Henry ….“was reckless in making the statements which he did, statements which had no factual basis and which he did not even take the time to investigate or to speak the claimant about prior to him making them on the radio.”
The Court slammed Dr. Henry over his attempt to suppress and conceal evidence that was relevant to the case. Dr. Henry failed to disclose to the Court an official recording of the radio program which he had received from Radio I95.5 FM. The fact that he was in possession of this recording all along only emerged during a period of aggressive cross examination from Mr. Anand Ramlogan SC.
The Court said “Having regard to the defence referred above in which the defendant did not admit nor deny whether the words complained of were words spoken by him, he must have known that a recording of the program obtained from the radio station was directly relevant to the case since it would have identified his voice on it thereby dealing definitively with this issue. His explanation as to why he failed to disclose it was, to my mind, wholly unacceptable as evidence in court. Respectfully, that was not a decision for him to make but, really, it was one for the court. When one considers the scholarliness and academic background of the defendant, who amongst other things, teaches at the University of the West Indies and was a Senator of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, this court does not accept that when the disclosure document was signed by the defendant, whether personally or upon his instructions, that he was justified in excluding and or failing to disclose the “official” recording. In fact, the court finds that he has not complied with the provisions of the rules in that the list of documents failed to disclose this recording and this impacts negatively upon his credibility. Further his failure to do so gives the Court the impression that he willfully and deliberately chose to exclude vital evidence by omission and that he chose to suppress evidence which may have been helpful to the claimant’s case or detrimental to his own. The Court deprecates this type of conduct and behavior and confirms that it would have had a negative impact upon his credibility in this matter.”
Having considered my unblemished character and reputation, the Court considered the ridicule, embarrassment and contempt to which I was subjected on social medial platforms and on local talk shows arising from these defamatory statements. It deemed the case fit for an award of aggravated damages and awarded the sum of $550,000.00 with full legal costs to my legal team to be taxed by a Registrar in default of an agreement.
I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my legal team and in particular Mr. Anand Ramlogan for standing beside me during these trying times.
(former Governor, Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago)
September 28, 2017