ST. VINCENT:- Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has threatened to sue broadcaster Douglas “Dougie” De Freitas for comments he made in relations to a case involving three Vincentian men extradited to the British Virgin Island on drug charges.
“The only thing which would restrain me from not suing him is [that] my father and his father are relatives and they were very close. That is the only thing. … But I may have to go in prayerful consideration, because they are now overdoing it. He has defamed me here,” Gonsalves said on Monday, Nov. 29.
Gonsalves said that De Freitas, of NICE Radio “broadcast a false statement which is likely to cause fear or alarm in and among the public” when he commented on the issue last Friday, Nov. 26.
He described the broadcaster as “an unrepentant supporter” of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and “a Ralph hater”.
“I want to read this paragraph, bearing in mind the head of the Super Dan block [in Chateaubelair], a gentleman who goes by the surname Chance, is also a relative of someone who was extradited to this country for a drug trafficking offence, namely Dexter Chance,.” Gonsalves said in reference to a transcript of De Freitas’ comments.
“Super Dan block” refers to an area in the North Leeward town of Chateaubelair where three Unity Labour Party (ULP) supporters were reportedly assaulted by NDP supporters.
Chateaubelair residents Ian Chance and Godfrey Neverson have pleaded not guilty to assaulting fellow townsmen Yulan Thompson and Rebecca Michael on Nov. 20. The case has been adjourned to Feb. 9, 2011 at the Chateaubelair court.
“And I want to illustrate again the falsehoods and the way that people will go –refrain from denouncing acts of violence and propagandize and lie and even in the process commit a criminal offence because, inside of this, apart from committing a criminal offence, he has defamed me,” Gonsalves said.
He said that having taken “reasonable steps to ascertain the statement which you made and somehow you were misled after you took the reasonable steps” is a defence against the criminal charge De Freitas might face.
“The criminal offence he has committed is that he has broadcast a false statement which is likely to cause fear or alarm in and among the public, which carries a penalty of a term of imprisonment.
“…And you will see whether anybody took any reasonable steps here within the context of what I said about the Super Dan block and the relationship — the family relationship there — between persons there and the gentleman who was extradited,” Gonsalves said.
According to the transcript Gonsalves read to journalists on Monday, De Freitas said that the Prime Minister got “into something” in Chateaubelair.
Gonsalves this was not true.
According to Gonsalves, De Freitas said on radio that he had learnt that men extradited to the Virgin Islands won their case but
Gonsalves did not want them to return to St. Vincent before Dec. 15, two days after the general elections.
“You hear people of North Leeward what I am telling you is what I heard. I was looking for it so [as to] have confirmed it. I’m just telling you what I heard,” Gonsalves quoted De Freitas as saying.
“I am just telling you what I heard. If they won the case in the Virgin Islands there was not enough evidence to convict Dexter and the other guys. But I heard that the government here don’t want them to come home for the 13th. And that’s why he come with the basa basa down Leeward and all kind of thing. So, pay attention to the development in the country where people want to dictate your life, waste money and turn around and treat us anyhow,” De Freitas reportedly said.
“He is accepting that he has not made any reasonable inquiry for confirmation but he is saying it and he is telling the people of North Leeward, because presumably, Dexter Chance has influence there,” Gonsalves said of De Freitas’ comments.
“Now, the falsehood and gibberish here is simply astounding,” Gonsalves said, adding that the case was in the British Virgin Islands and not the US Virgin Islands, as De Freitas had said.
“Secondly, the extradition of Dexter Chance and two other gentlemen, that was an extradition done by the courts. The magistrate court ordered it, the High court ordered it and they did not appeal, as I recall it, in time to prevent the extradition order to be carried out,” he added.
Gonsalves further said that he has had “absolutely no communication with the people in the BVI concerning any case which is now being held with Dexter Chance”.
He however said that he understood that a magistrate has recused herself from the case and the matter has been adjourned to Jan.
“…apart from the facts being wrong, the sting in this is that here are some citizens who won their case elsewhere but I am using the Office of Prime Minister to prevent those citizens being returned to their country.
“If I were to do that, I would have misbehaved in public office, which is a common law offence carrying a penalty of one year imprisonment. I had nothing to do with these things,” Gonsalves said.
“…I may well take action, certainly, civil action. Criminal action is a matter for the prosecuting authorities, and I may consider it because it is a serious defamation of me,” Gonsalves said.
“I could come to you with several of these almost every day. But I chose this one because I link this perspective with the failure and or refusal of [Opposition Leader and NDP president Arnhim] Eustace to condemn these three thugs from the Super Dan block who beat up these three innocent girls because they all know that there is a camaraderie among a number of different elements in this scenario,” Gonsalves said.