KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The assertion by opposition Member of Parliament Daniel Cummings that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has no judgement against him in the defamation case Gonsalves has offered to discontinue, seems to be based on Cummings’ claim that no court has ruled that the words Gonsalves complained of are in fact discriminatory.
However, Cummings said in a Dec. 5, 2011 affidavit that if judgement is executed against him, he stands to be declared bankrupt and hence barred from being a parliamentarian, in keeping with the Constitution.
Gonsalves initially asked the court to command Cummings to pay him EC$200,000 in damages for statement’s Cummings allegedly made about the financing of overseas trips for the Prime Minister’s wife and children.
However, Gonsalves told Parliament in January that he would not proceed with the case, along with another in which he had received a defamation judgement against Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
While Cummings, through his lawyer, has said he has no objections to having the case withdrawn, Eustace has rejected the offer, saying he could not accept while his friends and allies were still subject to litigation by Gonsalves.
According to the affidavit, obtained by I-Witness News earlier this week, Cummings points to what appear to be inconsistencies in his original statement and what Gonsalves complained of to the court.
He further said that he has not been allowed to present to the court evidence that Gonsalves did use state monies as accused.
Master Cheryl Mathurin ruled on June 15, 2007, that the words Gonsalves complained of were capable of being defamatory in certain respects.
Gonsalves had not relied on innuendo but the ordinary and natural meaning of the words and would not be allowed to tender extrinsic facts in support of a defamatory meaning nor would be able to ask others what they understood the words to mean, the judge further said in her ruling, according to Cummings’ affidavit.
The affidavit further states that at 2:30 p.m. on April 16, 2008, Gonsalves’ lawyer filed a “Request for Entry of Judgement in Default”.
The Registrar entered a “judgement in default of defence” and filed this at 3 p.m. on the same day.
“The said ‘default judgement’ states that ‘No defence having been filed by the Defendant herein, it is this day adjudged that the Defendant do pay an amount to be decided by the Court on assessment pursuant of Part 12.10 (1)’,” Cummings wrote in his affidavit.
“I am advised by Counsel and I verily believe the same to be true, the order of Justice [Gertel] Thom refusing relief from sanctions was perfected at 4:30 p.m. that same day,” he further said in the affidavit.
Cummings further states, in the affidavit, that his lawyer advised him that “at no point in time was there a declaration by the Court that the words complained of are in fact defamatory”.
The West Kingstown representative, however, is making a fourth appeal to the Court of Appeal to have the judgment set aside, having already lost all three previous appeals.
Cummings, in the affidavit, said that he has sought to defend the matter and to have his defence recognised by the Court but to no avail.
“I have been severely prejudiced by being shut out from having my defence which contains evidence that one of the Prime Minister’s children travelled at the State’s expense, considered in this matter,” he further said in the court document.
Cummings, noting his position as a parliamentary representative, said “If judgement is executed against me, I stand to be declared bankrupt which would render me ineligible to hold office in Parliament under sections 26 and 29 of the Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. I therefore stand to be severely prejudiced in this regard.”
He said that since “the default judgement of the Registrar has been allowed to stand and several orders have been made in pursuance of that said judgement, “I have and continue to be prejudiced in this matter and I consider this to be a denial of the protection of the law under the Constitution”.
“The Claimant is my political adversary and I have been put out of employment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the Government led by him,” Cummings further stated in an apparent reference to the non-renewal of his contract as manager of the Central Water and Sewerage Authority several years ago.
“If judgement is executed against me and my appeals do not succeed and my defence is ignored and I am not allowed to produce evidence to the Court that the Claimant’s son travelled at the State’s expense, it would put me to great expense and hardship to try to reverse the effects of the judgement executed against me,” Cummings said in the affidavit.
Cummings’ lawyer has said in a letter that Gonsalves does not need Cummings’ permission or that of the court to discontinue the case.
Gonsalves’ lawyer, in response, has asked if Cummings would publicly state that Gonsalves has a judgement against him in the defamation case.
Gonsalves’ lawyer also asked if Cummings would “state unequivocally whether or not he accepts” Gonsalves’ offer not to act any further on the judgement.
“When I receive answers on these questions from you, I would further advise my client,” the lawyer said.
Gonsalves said yesterday that he was not aware of Cummings’ lawyer having responded to his lawyer’s questions.
“I’m very interested in making sure that the offer which I made is not washed away by lack of thoughtfulness by persons to whom it is offered,” Gonsalves said at a media briefing.
A lawyer who advices I-Witness News on legal matters said that while Gonsalves does not need Cummings’ or the court’s permission to withdraw the case, the out party might seek cost if there is no agreement before hand.