Jagdeo says he can prove statements against Ferguson are true
- Court to rule on setting aside default judgment on June 17
High Court Judge, Sandra Kutzious, will rule on June 17, 2021, in an Application by Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, to set aside the default judgment issued against him in favour of former government minister, Annette Ferguson.
Oral Arguments were heard before Justice Kutzious on Monday with Jagdeo, through his counsel, Devindra Kissoon, strongly arguing why the judgment should be set aside.
Ferguson had filed defamation proceedings against Dr Jagdeo, alleging that various comments made by him during a press conference on December 5, 2019, concerning Ferguson’s allocation of a house lot, and on December 12, 2019, alleging misconduct at the Guyana Post Office, were defamatory.
It was Justice Kurtzious who handed down the default judgment, ordering Dr Jagdeo to pay the former Housing Minister more than $20 million in damages for libel.
During Monday’s hearing, Ferguson, through her attorney, Lyndon Amsterdam, argued that the excuse given by Dr Jagdeo to the effect that his counsel, through inadvertence failed to file a defence, was not a sufficient explanation to set aside the default and that his comments made were defamatory.
But Dr Jagdeo’s counsel strongly rebutted the argument put forward, stating that the issuance of the default judgment was irregular.
Kissoon told the court that the Chief Justice had indicated that this matter and a parallel matter filed against the Guyana Times were to be heard together. To this end, he believes that, accordingly, the provisions of the applicable rules and Defamation Act prevented the entry of a default judgment.
Kissoon also argued that the default judgment could not have proceeded without an assessment of damages, and in any event, could not have been dealt with separately from the Guyana Times matter.
The proceedings were filed by Ferguson in January 2020 against both Dr Jagdeo and the Guyana Times newspaper.
With respect to the conduct of Dr Jagdeo’s attorney at the time – Anil Nandlall – Kissoon stated that the explanation given for the failure to file the defence was reasonable and the inadvertence was excusable. He said Dr Jagdeo has a real prospect of success since he intended to prove that his comments were true and not defamatory.
“In relation to the allegations… I will prove at a trial that not only did my statement defame the respondent in the manner alleged but will also prove that those comments were justifiable and true,” Dr Jagdeo said in his written submission.
Kissoon went on to detail each allegation of misconduct, as well as, irregularities concerning the issuance of the house lot.
He closed his arguments stating that Ferguson waited for more than one year before taking any step in the proceeding, stating that the matter ought to have been noticed for dismissal by the Registry after six months.
Nandlall had said previously that the proceedings concluded in late February 2020, weeks before the country voted in the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.
He explained that a defence was then slated to be filed around the said time, however, ensuing events from the March elections and recount stymied this. Added to that, the Nandlall had said the COVID-19 pandemic played a role as he and his staffers were prevented from transacting business with the Court Registry.
All these factors contributed to a defence not being filed.