May 17, 2010 – Antigua Labour Party MP Asot Michael has taken legal action against Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & the Environment Hilson ‘Brother B’ Baptiste seeking damages for defamation.
According to the statement of claim filed in the High Court, Baptiste deliberately uttered the defamatory words on 22nd April 2010 at a public Town Hall meeting in Piggott’s, and subsequently in an interview reported on the news website Caribarena.com
The Baptiste allegations of illegal behaviour surfaced in light of the judgment of Hon. Justice Blenman on 31st March 2010, in which she declared that the election to the House of Representatives of the Prime Minister, the Hon Baldwin Spencer, and that of two other members of the United Progressive Party (UPP), namely Jacqui Quinn-Leandro and John Maginley, was invalid.
Michael expressly denies ever having spoken the words attributed to him by Baptiste, on the alleged occasion or on any occasion at all.
Attorneys for the St Peter MP believe that in their natural and ordinary meaning the words meant and were understood and intended to mean that the judgment was delivered as the result of a criminal offense and that the claimant was a person responsible for and with knowledge of this.
As outlined in the Statement of Claim, the UPP Government Minister’s “words therefore imputed a criminal offence committed by the Claimant (and) were further calculated to disparage the reputation of the Claimant in his calling as a politician and elected Member of Parliament.
“By reason of the publication of the said words, the Claimant has been seriously injured in his personal reputation and in his calling as politician and elected Member of Parliament, and has suffered embarrassment and distress.
“Unless restrained by this Honourable Court, the Defendant will further publish or cause to be published the words complained of or similar words defamatory of the Claimant”.
Michael is confident that the Court will uphold his claim against Baptiste. He wants:
· Damages for Slander in respect of the statement made on 22 April 2010;
· Damages for Slander in respect of the repetition of the statement to the representative of the news internet website Caribena.com on or about 27 or 28 April 2010;
· Damages for libel in respect of the publication on the website Caribena.com from 29 April 2010 and ongoing;
An injunction to restrain the Defendant whether by himself, his servants or agents or otherwise howsoever from further publishing and/or causing to be published the said words or any similar words defamatory of the Claimant.