Chairman of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) Jack Warner, was yesterday ordered to pay councillor Faaiq Mohammed $220,000 in damages for defamation.
Warner had accepted liability earlier this year after accusing the young councillor of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation of corruption following last year’s local government elections.
In addition to the payment of compensatory damages, Warner was also ordered to pay $42,000 in legal cost incurred by Mohammed throughout the civil suit that was filed in November last year.
In an immediate response following the ruling, Mohammed told reporters he still did not feel fully vindicated by the ruling and would have preferred a public apology by Warner.
In the ruling that was delivered by Justice Vashiest Kokaram at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, the judge said given Warner’s acceptance of liability, it can only mean that Mohammed was falsely accused of being corrupt and that there was no factual basis on which Warner could have proved the allegations as being true.
“...The defamatory statements and their imputations of corruption were out of place, irresponsible and unsubstantiated. In making this pronouncement of sorts in some measure I hope this will be some recompense to the young man who is a new entrant in public service for the insult and harm on his character or solatium which is really the object of the of the law of remedies in defamation claims,” said Kokaram.
“For the victims of the defamatory remark... money in hand, though useful, may mean little to restore value to his name and remedy his reputation. It may well have the unfortunate consequence of further demeaning the value of one’s reputation and name by affixing a paltry dollar value to it.
“On the other hand, it would mean everything if the victim obtains restoration, a public pronouncement to the world that one can explicitly refer to, which in clear terms provides the antidote to the sting of the defamation and truly vindicates the claimant’s reputation,” Kokaram said.
Asked by reporters if as a young politician the experience will deter him from going forward in his political career, Mohammed said: “It will not deter me. It probably should not have been but it has not deterred me. I will continue to work hard and work towards helping the people and serve the people. So far I am doing a pretty good job at it and I am hoping to continue, and before my term is up I will be one of the best councillors within Trinidad and Tobago.”
Mohammed was represented by attorneys Avory Sinanan SC and Kelvin Ramkissoon, while Warner was represented by William Cormick QC, Om Lalla and Dereck Balliram.
The allegations were made on November 6 and 7, last year, after Mohammed, who was elected councillor under an ILP ticket cast his vote for the candidate for the United National Congress (UNC) for the position of presiding officer for the corporation.
In May, Warner accepted liability for making the statements and as such, the court entered judgment in Mohammed’s favour.
Warner’s attorneys had informed the judge back then that attorneys for both parties would hold discussions and attempt to arrive at a settlement out of court resulting in the judge allowing time for this to be done.
However, the parties were unable to agree on a settlement resulting in yesterday’s judgment.