Former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud has won damages to the tune of $4 million in a defamation lawsuit against the Guyana Chronicle, its former Editor-in-Chief Nigel Williams and Opposition-nominated elections commissioner, Vincent Alexander, according to a judgment handed down yesterday by Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry.

In court documents seen by Guyana Standard, Persaud took issue with the contents of an article published by the daily newspaper in which Alexander made certain defamatory and untrue statements about him. The articles had to do with the appointment of Roxanne Myers as Deputy CEO, even though Persaud was more qualified for the post.

Persaud submitted that the Guyana Chronicle and Williams published a photo of him along with a headline entitled: “Poor past…Alexander says Vishnu Persaud’s past performance sank him -Myers emerged the more qualified for the top GECOM post”.

He further submitted that the newspaper further published a photo of him along with the following words: “Former Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Vishnu Persaud, was rejected from rehiring on the grounds of his past performance, his alleged history of faking his qualifications to the commission…’ He (Justice Patterson) objected to Vishnu based on past performance, based on the other candidate having better qualifications and based on the history of misrepresentation of qualifications to the commission’, longstanding commissioner Vincent Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle.”

Persaud argued, among other things, that the articles were defamatory as they suggested he faked his qualification to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and that he was elevated to deputy CEO on the pretense of being the holder of a first degree. Having considered the evidence, the Judge found that Alexander, Williams and the Guyana Chronicle were liable for defamation.

Justice Sewnarine-Beharry held, “The extent of the damage was compounded by the fact that the publications were made by [Alexander] who was a long standing GECOM Commissioner and a significant figure in civil society and who the average Guyanese would tend to trust and believe, moreso because he was well placed to know the facts.”

The publication of the defamatory statements tarnished [Persaud’s] professional and personal reputation which he garnered over the years through educational pursuits and work experience at GECOM and would have affected his ability to secure future employment opportunities,” the Judge noted.
According to the High Court judge, Alexander “went out of his way” to publish the statements on platforms which reached readers locally and worldwide, and ignored the demand letter sent by Persaud’s lawyer.

Rather than publish a retraction of the article and an apology, [Alexander] defended the statements as true in spite of plain evidence to the contrary, Justice Sewnarine-Beharry noted in her judgment.

Having considered the aggravating and mitigating factors, Alexander was ordered to pay damages in the sum of $2,500,000 to Persaud. Guyana Chronicle and its former Editor-in-Chief were ordered to pay damages in the sum of $1,500,000) jointly and severally. Further, Alexander was ordered to pay $150,000 in court costs to Persaud, while the Guyana Chronicle and its former Editor-in-Chief were each ordered to pay the same sum jointly and severally. The monies have to be paid on or before September 30, 2020.

Persaud was represented by lawyers Nicholas Caryll and Devindra Kissoon for the Claimant. Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde appeared for Alexander, while lawyer Asa Shepherd Stewart represented Guyana Chronicle and Williams.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here