Prominent engineer Charles Ceres has failed in his bid to secure an injunction against Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo and the daily newspapers Kaieteur News and Guyana Times for what he is alleging was misinformation published about him.
Ceres, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ground Structures Engineering Consultants (GSEC), is seeking $200M in damages for statements made by Jagdeo at a press conference about him obtaining acres of lands by suspicious means.
Furthermore, Ceres is seeking damages in excess of $200M each from Guyana Times and Kaieteur News for publishing Jagdeo’s statements. Following an in-chamber hearing this afternoon at the High Court in Demerara, Jagdeo’s lawyer Anil Nandlall explained that Justice Fidela Corbin-Lincoln indicated that she is constrained from granting the injunction sought by Ceres at this stage.
The purpose of the injunction requested by Ceres was to bar Jagdeo and the newspapers from making or publishing further statements in that regard. Ceres’s lawyer is Darren Wade. According to Nandlall, Justice Corbin-Lincoln, having considered the defences filed by the three defendants and the affidavit in support, held that justification has been shown. Nandlall said, too, that the judge acknowledged that the case involves freedom of speech, which is a constitutional right.
Nandlall explained, “The law says that once a defendant in a libel matter pleads that he will justify the statements made in the interest of freedom of speech and in the interest of a democratic society which encourages free expression, then an injunction must not be granted and a person must be allowed to speak freely. If they [the defendants] fail to establish the defence of justification at their trial then of course, the plaintiff [in this case Ceres and his wife] will get his damages.”
This matter will be fixed for case management conference before a date is set for trial.
In court documents seen by this publication, Ceres and his wife Ndidi Schwiers are claiming for damages as a result of statements made by the Opposition Leader of them obtaining state lands at Liliendaal and Canje Creek illegally. These statements were made by Jagdeo and were published in the PPP’s Facebook page and YouTube. In relation to the newspapers, Ceres and his wife are claiming damages on the basis that the media outlets published articles based on Jagdeo’s statements.
For his part, Jagdeo maintains that the lawsuit is “frivolous, vexatious and without merit.”
In fact, Jagdeo in court documents said that he can prove that the couple obtained most, if not all the lands, after the passage of the No-Confidence Motion last December. Jagdeo held that state lands belong to the people of this country and he has the right to inform them to whom they are allocated and at what cost. According to Jagdeo if he fails to do so, he will be failing in his constitutional, political, and public office as Leader of the Opposition, General Secretary of the PPP, and Member of Parliament.
He insists, “Whenever I speak at a press conference, in the National Assembly of Guyana, at political meetings and indeed at all public fora, it is my national, constitutional and political responsibility to discharge the aforementioned functions and duties. I deny that my publications have caused any harm or damage to the Applicant/Claimant [Ceres] as alleged or at all.”