A defamation lawsuit filed last week against Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush made a secondary accusation of libel, based on a text message Mr. Bush sent to a local news organization.
The suit, filed by Premier Alden McLaughlin, focused mainly on a parliamentary motion filed by Mr. Bush on April 14 that alleged a conspiracy “toppled” Mr. Bush’s former United Democratic Party government. Mr. McLaughlin states in the writ that the motion, which names the premier as part of that conspiracy, was an attempt to “destroy” Mr. McLaughlin’s political and legal career.
Mr. Bush commented on the writ Friday: “In due course, my lawyers will respond to Alden. However, I’m confident in the matter and, if he wants a trial, that, I intend to see, with God’s help, he gets!”
The secondary claim made in the lawsuit involves a letter sent to Mr. Bush on April 24 by Mr. McLaughlin’s attorneys that asked the opposition leader to apologize or face legal action for the “libels and falsehoods” contained in the motion and in statements to the press on April 14.
A local news blog, Cayman News Service, published Mr. Bush’s response to the attorneys letter on May 1. The response was sent via a text message.
The writ states the text message read as follows: “There was once a certain minister of government in an overseas territory who was accused of getting a business for granting an oil license to a certain oil company. The minister demanded an apology. When the member of the House refused, the minister took him to court. The member of the House produced the document in court showing that, indeed, the minister had made a deal with the oil company to get a gas station.”
This comment was published on May 1 and republished in another online entity, Caribbean News Now, on May 4, the writ states.
“By way of innuendo, the words complained of meant and were reasonably understood to mean that [Mr. McLaughlin] had, in fact, been guilty of the conduct alleged against him by [Mr. Bush] and that [Mr. Bush] had a document which showed him to be guilty,” the writ states. “The text message so published by [Mr. Bush] was seriously defamatory [to Mr. McLaughlin] and was false and malicious.”
Mr. McLaughlin’s writ alleges that the publication of the text message caused him “considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment.”
Mr. Bush faced various criminal investigations during his time as premier between 2010-2012 and was removed from government following a “no confidence” vote of the Legislative Assembly in December 2012. He faced a criminal trial last year on corruption and misconduct charges related to the use of a government-issued credit card to withdraw nearly US$50,000 at casinos in the U.S. and the Bahamas; cash that was used, in at least some instances, to gamble at slot machines.
He was acquitted by unanimous jury verdict in October 2014. During the trial, a series of emails were read out by Mr. Bush’s defense team, which lawyers suggested showed a conspiracy to “bring down” the former premier.
Premier McLaughlin stated in his writ that both the private members’ motion filed by Mr. Bush and subsequent statements published by the local and international media essentially accused Mr. McLaughlin of committing a number of criminal offenses.
Mr. McLaughlin claimed at least six local news media outlets and a number of other international online publications and “blogs” repeated the defamatory allegations made by Mr. Bush between April 14 and April 24, 2015. No media outlets were listed as defendants in the writ filed Thursday.