KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — “Stay Awake”, the talk show previously broadcast on NICE Radio, went to bed on Jan. 30. However, the programmes has left the radio station and Matthew Thomas, one of its former hosts, a bill of EC$166,625.
Thomas had said last November that if Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves collects any money from NICE Radio for previous defamation judgements, a “guerrilla war” would break out in this country.
Thomas, a pharmacist might as well start gathering his soldier as the High Court, in a Feb. 10 judgement, ordered him and BDS Ltd., owners of NICE Radio, to pay Gonsalves EC$155,000 in aggravated damages, EC$11,625 cost, and interest of 5 per cent until the monies are paid.
The ruling stems from a defamation case Gonsalves brought against the defendants.
According to the ruling, Thomas, on Jan. 29, 2007, made certain statements about Gonsalves having untoward intentions toward Junior Bacchus, co-host of Stay Awake. He also accused Gonsalves of using the Office of the Prime Minister to facilitate illegal activities.
Thomas, in his defence, denied that the words Gonsalves complained of could bear the meaning ascribed to them. He further said that they constituted fair comments and expressions of opinion in good faith with out malice, upon matters of public interest.
NICE Radio, in its defence said that the words Gonsalves complained of were not understood to bear or were capable of bearing any of the defamatory meaning Gonsalves alleged and were published on an occasion of qualified privilege.
On Nov. 16, 2009, the court struck out both defences, ruling that they had no reasonable chance of success, were incurably bad, wholly unsustainable, without merit and were an abuse of the process of the court.
Gonsalves, in his claim for damages, said he had been “gravely injured in his reputation and as a barrister at law and solicitor of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court as well as Prime Minister … and has been brought into public scandal, contempt and ridicule and has suffered loss and damage.”
In assessing the gravity of the slander, Master V. Georgis Taylor-Alexander said he was “satisfied that where the defamatory words touches the claimant’s integrity, professional reputation, honour, loyalty, and the core attributes of his personality the more serious it is likely to be.”
The judge also noted that Gonsalves had complained that BDS Ltd. has irresponsibly permitted its radio station to be used by the opposition New Democratic Party and other political opponents “to systematically attack his reputation with slanderous slurs and falsehoods and to paint him with the broad brush of criminality notwithstanding letters of warning and/or judgement”.
The judge also ruled that the statements were false and gravely injurious and “go to the core of the claimant’s credibility and reputation as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and were calculated to smear and undermine him in the eyes of the ordinary members of society”.
Thomas’ “guerrilla war” comment came as be spoke on a case in which the court ordered Eduardo “E.G.” Lynch, former host of the New Democratic Party’s “New Times” on NICE Radio to pay damages to Gonsalves.
Lynch had made defamatory statements about Gonsalves and financing for members of his family on a trip to Rome.
“Well, I am using this forum tonight to send a message to Ralph Gonsalves. Ralph, I am quite emotional about this; understand me. As a matter of fact, I have told my wife this. I told her ‘Make up your mind that Matthew Thomas would be imprisoned or assassinated’,” Thomas said in November during “Stay Awake”.
“You know, it comes a time when you have to do things, whether you are willing or not. … But, let me tell you this, any day you get a cent from Dougie or anybody on your behalf from the court, a guerrilla war would be started in this country,” Thomas said.
“You charge me tonight; have me arrested for exciting the public. You put me in jail I will lead the guerrilla war from jail. You assassinate me, the seed would have already been sown. Take warning,” Thomas further stated.
The Director of Public Prosecution was said to have been examining Thomas’ statement but no charges have been brought against him to date.