Premier sues for defamation

Premier McKeeva Bush issued lawsuits claiming defamation against two journalists, a radio station owner and a radio talk show caller earlier this month.

Those sued included Nicky Watson, trading as Cayman News Service; journalist Wendy Ledger; Hurley’s Entertainment Corporation and its owner Randy Merren; and West Bay resident and former legislator Daphne Orrett. All were sued as a result of comments made in May 2011 on the radio or published on the World Wide Web.

Ms Watson and Ms Ledger were sued with regard to comments made by readers on 19 May, 2011, about an article Cayman News Service had published. Of the four examples given in the Statement of Claim of defamatory words published by Cayman News Service, only one actually mentioned Mr. Bush’s name. That example read: “People like Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and McKeeva Bush don’t like it when people speak their minds or exercise their basic rights because it puts the same fear in to them like they are putting into you.”

The lawsuit states those published comments and the others cited in the Statement of Claim were defamatory.

“[I]n their natural and ordinary meaning, the said words meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff is guilty of numerous serious offenses, namely that: i) the Plantiff’s behaviour is comparable to terrorists; ii) he victimises or will victimise civil servants; iii) he is opposed to people’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech.”

The Statement of Claim suggests “the Defendant acted out of spite and with reckless disregard for the truth and in failing to ascertain from the Plaintiff the truth regarding the aforementioned” and that comments were “known by the Defendants to be false” and were “willingly calculated by the Defendants to damage the Plaintiff…”

The lawsuit suggests that since millions of users have access to the World Wide Web and the words complained of, it can be inferred that a large and unquantifiable number of people read the publication.

“In particular, the Defendants transmitted and published, or caused to be transmitted and published, the publication to the citizens of the Cayman Islands.”

The lawsuits against Hurley’s Entertainment, Mr. Merren and Ms Orrett stem from Ms Orrett’s on-air remarks made during the course of the Cross Talk radio talk programme on Rooster 101.9 on 17 May, 2011, and 24 May, 2011, and then posted for replay on the Hurley’s Entertainment website.

“The publications were defamatory and in their natural, normal and ordinary meaning, the said words were meant and were understood to mean, inter alia: a) The Plaintiff raised funds to assist the Pilgrim Holiness Church from gambling and illicit sources; b) The Plaintiff is hypocritical and unworthy to speak in the Church; c) The Plaintiff brought pews in the Church in a questionable or irregular manner; d) The Plaintiff is to be likened to biblical characters Ananias and Saphirah.”

The action against Ms Orrett stems from the same comments, which the Statement of Claims suggest “severely injured the Plaintiff in his credit, character and reputation and in a way of his profession, business and office, and has brought into public scandal, odium and contempt, not only in the Cayman Islands, but also internationally.”

All three lawsuits, which seek unspecified damages, state that the Defendants refused to publish an apology despite being requested by the Plaintiff to do so.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. May we know who has paid the lawyers for launching this suit? Not, I hope, public funds; and if the case goes against the plaintiff, costs must certainly not be paid from public funds.

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  2. If the Plaintiff does not oppose freedom of speech, I would like to know why he’s suing newspapers for comments that were made by the public utilizing their right to freedom of speech. And oh yea, I nearly forgot. The Plaintiff is under investigation himself!! Maybe THAT is what has affected his character and brought him under public scrutiny in the first place!

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  3. If this man is going to sue people for what they say against what he says and does, lets start the line up now and at the same time start building a new court house to hear the cases.

    Grow up Bush. Youre in over your head but youll soon be out on your butt. Youll have lots of time to sue the world.

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  4. Thank you for noting this issue in today’s editorial. One of the other responsibilities of the press is not to have their editorial policy influenced or determined by perceived threats to remove government advertising revenue from publications that do not support particular politicians.

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  5. This man must be kidding.. Look who and what he is laying suit against; The new and improved voice of the people.

    I expect when a politician get up in age, their big mouth is replaced by a mouth piece, and their thick skin softens and is covered in law-suit.

    If leaders dictate policy and omit or over-ride proven checks and balances they should expect to be likened to a dictator.

    Get over it and let’s get on with the people’s work. We are paying to add to Caymans’s assets not romp and rave about name calling.. When we start hearing things like the wild wild west being tagged on a district in Cayman, now that is defamation
    of character..

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  6. Is the plaintiff’s lawyer really serious?. Does the lawyer not realize that his client is destroying himself without outside help and that the plaintiff had done a very good n excellent job of painting a negative picture of himself through his own actions and in his response to the Caymanian people?.
    It is in the best interest of the premier for these matters to be settled outside of court; since all the dirty laundry will be aired in the court of law. If the journalists, media, and talk show hosts are so bold as to not fear the Premier in his standard form, then is he and his attorney prepared to hear the worst of the worst in the court room? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
    What goes on in that courtroom will hit the international news whether cameras are allowed or not. In a last attempt to save his squeaky clean reputation which the plaintiff thinks he has, doesn’t it make more sense to drop the charges rather than be sorely embarrassed when people begin to testify against him in support of the defendants?

    We’re going to learn stuff we never heard before and I think the premier would be better off DROPPING ALL CHARGESIt’s going to be an embarrassing moment.Just imagine.

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  7. An allegedly defamatory statement is not actually capable of being defamatory if that statement does not harm someone’s reputation!!!!
    So, if someone’s reputation and character have already been weighed and found wanting (disreputable/untrustworthy), by the general populace, and there was no intentional malice intended by the speaker, then there are no grounds for suit.
    If someone has damaged their own reputation and others have recognized such, then those who speak or write about it are, either, stating their own OPINIONS and or the FACTS, and cannot legally be charged with libelous or defamatory intent.
    It all boils down to this; you’ve made your bed, now sleep in it. Sweet dreams.

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