If Government Senator Lester Henry had heeded his Prime Minister’s advice to “shut up”, he would not be in the position today to have to pay more than $700,000 in damages and costs for defamation.
Henry, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, has been ordered to pay former Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran $550,000 in damages for defamation, plus legal costs which would amount to another $150,000.
In a 29-page judgment, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that Henry defamed Rambarran while he was a guest on a talk show programme on i95.5 FM on July 9, 2014.
The statements made by Henry described repair works done on Rambarran’s private residence in Valsayn during his tenure, which Henry claimed were done using Central Bank funds.
Rampersad ruled that because Henry had no evidence to substantiate his claims, he was not entitled to claim the defence of fair comment and that the issue was a matter of public importance.
The judge added, “The defendant’s conduct has been less than would have been expected from someone of his stature and position.”
Rampersad also criticized Henry for willfully failing to disclose the official recording of the programme, which was provided by the station and was vital to the case. He also noted that Henry, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, failed to properly investigate the allegations before stating them on the programme.
During the trial, Henry admitted that he had issues with Rambarran’s appointment as he felt that he was the least qualified for the job.
He admitted that he received information about the repair works but did not have the resources to investigate its authenticity and that he merely called for an investigation into the issue.
Rambarran denied any wrongdoing as admitted that repair works were done to his house while he lived in the bank’s official residence for six months, but noted that those repairs were done at his personal expense. He stated that he decided to move back to his private home as living in Port-of-Spain was inconvenient to his children, who attend school in east Trinidad.
He stated that the only work done at the bank’s expense was the construction of a security booth and installation of security cameras at the cost of $250,000, which was approved by the bank’s board.
In a news release issued yesterday afternoon, Rambarran said he was pleased by the outcome.
“Dr Henry went out of his way to falsely and maliciously accuse me of using public funds from the Central Bank, of which I was the Governor at the material time, to pay for repairs to my private home,” Rambarran said.
Rambarran was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Richard Jagai and Douglas Bayley.