KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – NICE Radio was on Wednesday given 21 days to indicate whether it will pay the EC$250,000 (US$92,592) in damages awarded to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves by the Court of Appeal for slander.
It is the latest development in an eight-year legal battle also involving Eduardo “E.G.” Lynch, host of the opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) “New Times” programme on NICE Radio, and BDS Ltd, the station’s owners.
Lynch had accused Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance in the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration, of using public funds to finance a trip to Rome for members of his family.
The defendants have lost three appeals and the Court of Appeal in July ruled that the defendants pay Gonsalves damages of $140,000, $20,000 cost at the High Court, $20,000 cost in the Court of Appeal and 5 per cent interest from the 2008 date of assessment.
“The NDP did not take the case to the Privy Council. There was some filing problem and so judgement came down against Lynch and the Company — which was a quarter million dollar each — and I was served notice to pay the money,” Douglas De Freitas, manager of NICE Radio told I-Witness News last night.
De Freitas, who hosts the station’s early-morning show, said that BDS Ltd. could not afford to pay the money.
“We have some legal people who are dealing with it. … I am in no position to pay and the assets of my company are tied up in other financial institutions. … I don’t know what I will do yet,” he explained.
De Freitas said he would also have to wait on the NDP, sponsors of the programme in which the slanderous statements were made.
“… the party has a responsibility towards me. … The company is charged as a third party suits,” De Freitas further stated.
“… I have an indemnity with the NDP but if the NDP cannot afford to take care of that indemnity, what do I do? Whatever God wills, that is what is going to happen,” he explained.
Gonsalves is calling in the payment even as other judgements in cases involving him, NICE Radio and hosts of some of its programme are still pending.
“NICE Radio was never irresponsible with any statement. People may be irresponsible but other people [from other stations] have [also] been irresponsible,” De Freitas said.
“Other media house have found themselves where persons made statements on them and the Prime Minister asked the media houses to apologise but anytime there is a an issue with NICE Radio, there is always a prerequisite: an apology plus quarter million dollars,” he further stated.
NICE Radio had set up a fund, which in the past five years had raised $29,000 in donations, De Freitas said.
Gonsalves has said that the monies from the lawsuit would be donated to charity.