KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on Tuesday rejected an offer by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to discontinue legal proceedings in a libel case against him and fellow opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) lawmaker Daniel Cummings.
Eustace said he could no accept the offer while Gonsalves continues with litigation against his supporters.
The High Court has awarded default judgement against Eustace and Cummings in slander cases Gonsalves brought against them.
“Mr. Speaker, I personally have two judgements against the Honourable Opposition Leader and the Honourable Member for West Kingstown — two High Court judgements — in relation to defamation action that I had brought — claims that I had been defamed. I want tonight to indicate to this Honourable House and to the nation, that as part of the process of reconciliation, I shall tomorrow instruct my lawyers to indicate to the High Court that I shall not proceed in any action in relation to those judgements,” Gonsalves told Parliament on Jan. 11. He was at the time apologising on behalf of Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel, who said had commented about Cummings’ injured back.
The Speaker has asked Daniel to give way to Cummings, who wanted to debate the budget and go home to rest. Cummings says his back was injured when police forcefully threw opposition legislators out of the House at the Speaker’s request.
At the beginning of his budget presentation, Daniel, the representative for North Windward, noted that the last general election was held in 2010 and the next one is constitutionally due by 2015.
“And so, Mr. Speaker, if I, as an individual, is being affected terribly by back pains and there are four years to come to run for another election. I am not growing younger, I am growing older and so, my conditions would deteriorate … in the next four years. Mr. Speaker, is it that I want to make history to be the next wheelchair candidate for the next general elections coming?” Daniel said.
Eustace on Tuesday described Daniel’s comments as “ludicrous and unconscionable”.
The High Court is expected to award damages in the matters against Eustace and Cummings next month and Gonsalves’ lawyer last week wrote to the two lawmakers formalising their client’s offer.
“While I am appreciative of the offer made, it strikes me that if the Prime Minister’s gesture is aimed at fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation between both sides of Parliament, then he should withdraw all of his several political matters he has instituted since he came to office,” Eustace said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“I personally cannot accept an offer that saves me from litigation while my colleagues, supporters, and allies continue to be subjected to the cost and rigours of litigation. I speak in particular about the enforcement of judgement against Mr. Douglas De Freitas of NICE Radio and Mr. E.G. Lynch, NDP talk show host. That is the position I wish to outline here this morning,” Eustace said.
NICE Radio, the broadcasters of the NDP’s programmes, hangs in the balance as Gonsalves moves to collect EC$250,000 in damages awarded to him by the court.
The station was implicated in a law suit because of statement’s that Eduardo “E.G.” Lynch, host of the NDP’s “New Times”, made about Gonsalves on NICE Radio eight years ago.
The defendants have lost three appeals and were in November served notice to pay the monies.
De Freitas told I-Witness News then that his company did not have the money to settle the case but listeners had contributed EC$29,000 to a fund.
Cummings, on the night of Gonsalves’ statement, told I-Witness New that he would not comment on Gonsalves’ offer until he had consulted with his lawyer.