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Figuiera files 900 million suit against Ministers, newspapers and DPI

Opposition Member of Parliament Jermaine Figuiera has filed lawsuit against Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, Kaieteur News, Guyana Times, as well as editors for the two daily newspapers and the Department of Public Information (DPI), in which he is seeking in excess of $900 million in damages for libel.

In a Statement of Claim filed on his behalf by Roysdale Forde, S.C, Figuiera submitted that on January 24, 2021, Minister Hamilton published a defamatory statement about him in which it was stated that he received millions of Guyana dollars under the Sustainable, Livelihood and Entrepreneurial (SLED) programme.

The Opposition MP said that the statement was later reposted by the PPP/C on its Facebook page.  Kaieteur News, Guyana Times and DPI subsequently published articles in effect to what Minister Hamilton said, Figuiera has complained.

He has denied being the recipient of any monies under the SLED programme to among other things, conduct the extension of pig pens via the Green Jaguar Environment Community Development Society.

The Parliamentarian in responding stated that the Minister’s utterances were aimed to “besmirch, tarnish, sully, insult and damage my good name and reputation, to gain cheap political points and gain favour with his political bosses.”

According to him, since the publication of the defamatory statements, he has received several phone calls relating to the veracity of the articles.

Further, he said that he and his family have suffered and continue to suffer financial injury, constant grave distress, humiliation, embarrassment, indignity as a result of the publications.

“The statements have no basis in fact… are malicious, grossly inaccurate and intended to deceive the public,” Figuiera noted in the lawsuit filed at the Demerara High Court.

Moreover, he argues that his professional and personal reputation have been irreparably and severely damaged, and his reputation has been lowered in the estimation of right-thinking persons.

He added that a reading of the statement would cause people to think that he is involved in illegal activities, dishonest and unfit to be a politician.

Ihe succeeds with the lawsuit, Figuiera wants the court awards him the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and to order the persons/media houses who have libeled him to issue an apology and retract the statements.

He has also asked the court to award exemplary and aggravated damages, interests at a rate of 6% per annum from the date of filing to the date of judgment and after that at a rate of 4% per annum from the date of the decision until fully paid.

He also wants any other or further order the Court deems just along with costs.

In the meantime, Figuiera is hoping that the court grants an injunction restraining Minister Hamilton and the others from posting, printing, publishing, sharing, recording, or otherwise recreating and disseminating the libelous publications.

Since assuming office, Minister Hamilton revealed that several co-op societies were shrouded in corruption.

To increase employment opportunities at the community level, the former APNU/AFC Government set up the SLED programme in 2015 and invested millions of dollars.

This investment covers community-based projects across nine regions in areas such as agriculture, livestock and apiculture, added value products thereof, ICT and tourism.

SLED works by distributing interest-free cash grants to registered groups and associations, needing the economic boost to improve their economic enterprises.

It also works to provide training and capacity building to beneficiaries of the grants.