Vincent Alexander loses another bid to appeal $2.5M defamation judgement

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Vincent Alexander

After his original appeal was struck out, Opposition-nominated Commissioner at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Vincent Alexander, had filed a Notice of Motion for an extension of time to file another appeal against the $2.5 million judgment against him in the Vishnu Persaud defamation case but this application was also dismissed last week.

The Motion was refused on January 17 by a panel of judges at the Guyana Court of Appeal led by Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Justice Dawn Gregory and Justice Rishi Persaud.

This publication was told that the court threw out the Motion on the basis that the application was filed almost two years late and that the appeal had no merit.

In August 2020, High Court Judge, Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry had ordered Alexander, the Guyana National Newspapers Limited – the publishers of the State-owned Guyana Chronicle, and its former Editor-in-Chief Nigel Williams to pay a total of $4.3 million to Vishnu Persaud.

Persaud, who at the time was a former Public Relations Officer at GECOM but now serves as the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the electoral body, had filed the lawsuit against the three defendants over articles published by the newspaper within which Alexander made certain remarks which he argued were untrue and defamatory. Both articles were in relation to the controversial appointment of Roxanne Myers as the Deputy Chief Elections Officer (DCEO), even though Persaud, who had also applied for the position, was more qualified – a position which was confirmed by an investigation conducted by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) following a complaint filed.

Justice Beharry had ruled, among other things, that the defamatory statements made and published tarnished Persaud’s professional and personal reputation.

She had said, “the extent of the damage was compounded by the fact that the publications were made by the first-named Defendant [Alexander] who was a long-standing GECOM Commissioner and a significant figure in civil society and whom the average Guyanese would tend to trust and believe, more so because he was well placed to know the facts.”

“He ignored the demand letter sent by the Claimant’s attorney. Rather than publishing a retraction of the article and an apology he defended the statements as true in spite of plain evidence to the contrary,” she further outlined.

Moreover, the High Court Judge had found that the repeated publication on the part of Alexander after Persaud was not selected for the position of DCEO in 2018 is “indicative of malice” as it served no other purpose than to damage the Claimant’s reputation.

Consequently, Alexander was ordered to pay Persaud the sum of $2,500,000 in damages as well as another $150,000 as costs on or before September 30, 2020.

However, the GECOM Commissioner had appealed Justice Beharry’s decision but Appellate Judge, Justice Rishi Persaud, in June 2022, found that his challenge was not filed within the six-week timeframe required – a point argued by Persaud’s lawyer, Attorney Devindra Kissoon – and as such, the appeal was dismissed. This meant that Alexander had to pay the $2.5 million damage to Persaud.

But instead of doing this, the GECOM Commissioner went ahead and filed a Notice of Motion in June last year seeking an Order extending the time within which to file the Notice of Appeal against the Judgment delivered by Justice Beharry as well as an Order extending the time within which to serve the Intended Notice of Appeal against that said ruling.

Alexander was also requesting an Order staying the execution and enforcement of Justice Beharry’s judgment until the hearing and determination of his application. In addition, he also sought an Order that he be permitted to lodge the judgment sum with the Registrar of the Supreme Court pending the hearing and determination of the Notice of Appeal.

However, the three-member Appeal Court panel indicated that after hearing from both Alexander’s lawyer, Roysdale Forde S.C, and Persaud’s lawyer, Attorney Kissoon, “IT IS ORDERED that this Motion be and is hereby refused.”

Additionally, the Appeal Court also ordered that each party bear their own costs.Guyana Times understands that Alexander is yet to pay the $2.5 million judgment sum, which according to Attorney Kissoon, is subject to enforcement proceedings.