KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — Lawyers representing Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves are seeking half a million dollars in damages from the former speaker of the Parliament, Jomo Thomas, after claiming that he had libelled their client in his weekly newspaper column.
The lawyers wrote to Thomas, who is also an attorney, claiming that in his “Plain Talk” column on Aug. 13, and appearing in the Vincentian newspaper, Thomas “falsely and maliciously published” an article that contained “defamatory words”.
The column in question dealt with the protest outside the Parliament on Aug. 5, when Gonsalves was hit on the head with a missile and had to be flown to Barbados for further medical treatment.
The lawyers claimed that by using the alleged defamatory words, the author was suggesting that their client had committed “misbehaviour in public office, an offence punishable by imprisonment and /or civil sanction and damages.
“Further, and additionally you meant and were taken to mean that he had abused his office to persecute people and deny them their legal rights”.
The lawyers claim that as a result, the reputation of their client, “who has had an impeccable record of service as a barrister at law for 40 years, an elected representative for over 27 years and as Prime Minister for over 20 years, the longest serving Prime Minister, ever, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. You have caused my client severe damage and loss”.
The lawyers said they were seeking EC$200,000 in damages and EC$50,000 in legal fees from Thomas and the publishers within a four week period, adding that failure to do so would result in legal proceedings being instituted.
In addition, the lawyers are also seeking EC$200,000 from Thomas after his column appeared in the online publication, iWitness News, on Aug. 13.
They said that online publication later removed the article after their client had telephoned the publisher and brought “to his attention the defamatory publication.
“Nevertheless it had been viewed by…over 65,000 readers,” the pre action protocol letter noted.
The lawyers said they are seeking the same level of financial compensation and has given the former speaker, who once contested a general election on behalf of the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP), under Gonsalves’ leadership, the same four-week period to make the payment.
The lawyers said that their client “has considered, not to pursue any claim, at this time, against” the publisher and the online publication “in all circumstances of this matter”.