Monday, October 14, 2013

Two more St Lucia officials threaten local media

By Caribbean News Now contributor CASTRIES, St Lucia -- If the cap fits, wear it, is an
expression used to tell someone that, if they think a
re mark or criticism of them is true, they should
accept it - advice that a Saint Lucian attorney has
apparently given two of his clients, both of whom
are well known public officials in the island. Duane Jean Baptiste of Amicus Law Chambers,
representing Lorne Theophilus, Saint Lucia's
minister of tourism, heritage and creative industries,
and Claudius Francis, the president of the Saint
Lucia senate, has written to local broadcaster
Timothy Poleon regarding an article originally published by Caribbean News Now on September
25, 2013 (the article). According to Baptiste, Poleon read the article in its
entirety on his radio programme (Newspin) and,
further that the article as read contained the
following words, which, he asserts, were
defamatory of Theophilus and Francis: "No reason has been given by the US government
for the apparent disparity in the treatment of
Frederick, which was based entirely on hearsay
and innuendo and apparently fabricated allegation,
contrasted to the continued ability of two
prominent Saint Lucian government officials to enter the US and effectively travel freely and with
immunity/impunity on diplomatic passports when
they have a known history of violent sexual
assault." Baptiste claims that, although Theophilus and/or
Francis were not specifically mentioned, it is clear
that the words complained of would reasonably
lead people acquainted with them to the conclusion
that they were the individuals referred to. This,
Baptiste states, is buttressed by the specific references to Theophilus and/or Francis by callers
to Poleon's programme, which were in no way
discouraged by him (Poleon). Baptiste asserts that these allegations are
completely untrue and constitute a grave libel of
Theophilus and Francis. The natural and ordinary
meaning of these words, which are claimed to be
highly defamatory of his clients, Baptiste says, is
that they (Theophilus and Francis) are violent sexual offenders, which in fact constitutes criminal
conduct and, as a result, their reputation has been
substantially harmed and they have been
embarrassed by Poleon's allegedly defamatory
words. Consequently, Theophilus and Francis require
Poleon to take a number of steps, including a public
retraction and apology; a written undertaking not
to repeat the publication of these or similar
allegations concerning Theophilus and Francis;
payment of legal costs; and payment of compensatory damages. Our original article referred only to unnamed
"prominent Saint Lucian government officials" with
"a known history of violent sexual assault" but
now Baptiste himself has associated this with (in his
words) "criminal conduct" by Theophilus and/or
Francis, each as a "violent sexual offender" (again, Baptiste's own words). In other words, Baptiste himself has specifically
characterised his own clients in ways in which an
article that never mentioned them by name could
never do. Our original article never claimed that Theophilus or
Francis (or anyone else for that matter) was an
offender convicted of "criminal conduct" (Baptiste's
words). However, Baptiste's premise that Theophilus and
Francis are the unnamed "prominent Saint Lucian
government officials" may be based on the
existence of online public material in relation to his
clients that Baptiste and/or his clients might regard
as relevant pointers, namely: Two St Lucian Gov ministers are violent sexual
The St Lucia Labour Party's Dark Star (caution: graphic and explicit contents) Richard Frederick Strikes Back!
St. Lucia sexual predators allow entry into US by
State Department
A government of criminals! Amnesia and political obsession
Appeal Court judgment (page 3, para 6)
It is not clear how much more harm and/or
embarrassment Theophilus and/or Francis could
have suffered as a result of not being named in the original article compared to the online material
easily accessible to the entire world that actually
names them. It is also not known what steps, if any, Theophilus
and/or Francis have taken, in a similar manner to
Baptiste's letters to Poleon, to deal with such
explicit reports published online, if indeed they
regard such reports as defamatory. In characterising Theophilus and Francis each as an
"offender", which is a term presumably used in a
criminal sense rather than merely hurting
someone's feelings, it seems that Baptiste has made
a leap from unspecified "known history" of an
unnamed individual to public reports actually identifying his clients. According to an expert in defamation law, in
attempting to identify his clients as the unnamed
persons referred to, Baptiste appears mistakenly to
conflate the terms "known history" with some kind
of actual criminal record and "violent sexual
assault" with a criminal offence. It turns out that, history, in the sense of past events,
or an interesting or colourful past, is in fact well
known in this case, in that it is a matter of public
record that Theophilus and Francis have both been
arrested and charged with rape. It would seem that
in each case the matter was settled "out of court". It goes without saying that charges and allegations
contained in complaints or indictments are merely
accusations, and every defendant is presumed
innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of
law. Furthermore, violence in a sexual context does not
necessarily connote criminal conduct. Indeed, some
couples relish it as part of their sexual proclivities. Thus, Baptiste, representing Theophilus and
Francis, has effectively taken responsibility on
behalf of his clients for criminal offences that were
never mentioned or alleged in the original article. In
the words of one veteran law enforcement official,
"Theophilus and Francis have snitched on themselves." While Theophilus and Francis appear to think that
the paragraph in question in our original article is
all about them, in fact, it concerned official action
taken against former housing minister Richard
Frederick based upon pure hearsay without a
shred of evidence to support it. The actions by Theophilus and Francis now also serve to highlight
what some local observers are characterising as the
hypocritical nature of their complaints about a self-
imputed inference to known events and facts
compared to the unfounded and baseless assault
on Frederick's character. Meanwhile, the letter to Poleon and earlier threats
of similar action by another minister, Phillip La
Corbiniere, are widely perceived locally and
internationally to be an attempt to restrict the right
to freedom of expression guaranteed by the
constitution of Saint Lucia. Since Saint Lucia is already under a cloud, as
demonstrated by the recent suspension of security-
related aid by the US based upon human rights
abuses, such attempts to muzzle the press are
doubtless not going to be viewed favourably as
and when the government tries to convince the US State Department that it is doing its best to correct
such abuses. One US government source, speaking on condition
of anonymity, characterised this as conduct typical
of communist-trained socialist governments
throughout the region and beyond. "In 25 years of observing such governments
around the world, intimidation and manipulation of
the press is standard practice," he said. He also referred specifically to the words of
President Barack Obama: "I do have an unyielding
belief that all people yearn for certain things: the
ability to speak your mind and have a say in how
you are governed. These are not just American
ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere." A local attorney in Saint Lucia put it thus: "Whilst the
St Lucia Labour Party is well known for issuing
reckless and totally fabricated statements in the
local press against its opponents, its members
show a total lack of tolerance for free speech. In the
heat of the 2011 General Elections, Dr Kenny Anthony informed the nation via electronic media
that Richard Frederick's visas had been revoked
because he was found carrying a briefcase of
money in the United States! This is the same Doctor
Anthony who sued Dr Vaughan Lewis when Dr
Lewis had accused him of being responsible for the disappearance of a brief case of money! It seems to
me that Saint Lucia is gradually becoming engulfed
by the protoplasm of communism. We are a people
under subjection, we are afraid to speak for fear of
litigation, whilst those who threaten our freedom of
speech are the same ones who insult our intelligence with the proliferation of senseless
propaganda. May God help Saint Lucia!" The United Workers Party (UWP) said it is not
surprised by the recent legal actions initiated by the
leadership of the Labour Party and that the
evidence points to a clear and continued pattern to
oppress and intimidate the media. "This Labour Party government is openly
demonstrating its disregard for the rights of
freedom of expression guaranteed under the
Constitution. This is clearly a 'cop out' and an act of
cowardice," the UWP said. The UWP had issued an earlier statement expressing its full support for Poleon. The Lucian People's Movement (LPM) said it was
very difficult to understand why anyone would
take ownership of allegations that do not mention
them by name, since none of the complainants
were identified in the story. "The story, as we understand it from the
perspective of the LPM, should have been dealt with
by the government of Saint Lucia, and not by
individuals associated with the government. The
primary questions which were raised in the article is
whether the revocation of Richard Frederick's visa had anything to with the US action against Saint
Lucia, and whether officials in the government
ignored a request to meet with representatives of
the US government by a specific date, to discuss the
matter," the LPM added. Since the UWP and the LPM issued extensive
statements on the matter, these are covered in a
separate story. The prime minister's press secretary did not
respond substantively to a request for comment.

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