Parliament meets today for what is described as a mere formality, to confirm Justice Paula Mae-Weekes as this country’s sixth President.
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Jack ‘under court’s radar’
A High Court judge warned Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner, telling him he will face penalties from the court if he fails to adhere to strict deadlines in his defamation lawsuit involving Works and Infrastructure Minister Suruj Rambachan. Justice James Aboud gave the warning, after granting Warner more time to file his defence of the lawsuit, which Rambachan brought in October last year. Aboud said Warner “is now under the court’s radar. I would expect every direction that involves a timeline to be scrupulously complied with.” While he agreed to grant Warner an extension to January 24, Aboud warned if the new deadline was not met, Rambachan would be automatically awarded a default judgment.
As part of his decision, Aboud ordered the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) interim chairman to pay Rambachan’s $14,000 legal fees for the application. The case centres on comments by Warner at a political meeting in New Settlement, Caroni, on July 23, last year, in which Warner made certain allegations against the minister. Warner was due to file his defence in the case last December 5 but filed for the extension after he and his lawyers failed to meet the deadline. During the hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, Warner’s lawyer, Om Lalla, said his client needed the additional time to gather transcripts and documents which he would be relying on to prove his alleged defamatory comments against Rambachan were justified. Lalla said his client had compiled the documents and was now ready to file the defence.
In response, Rambachan’s lawyer Gerald Ramdeen suggested the application was not justifiable as the lawsuit had been filed almost six months ago. “If you are going to make such statements you must be prepared to come and defend them in court... here is the time and place. This is not a political platform,” Ramdeen said. Ramdeen also said Rambachan, who was in court for the hearing, had been “severely prejudiced” by Warner’s statements. Warner was not at the hearing. Aboud described the lawsuit as a “long drawn-out process,” while suggesting the parties should consider settling it through mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution. “We sometimes say things in the heat of the moment that are not true and we apologise and move on. Why is it that these gentlemen cannot talk and come to terms?” Aboud asked. Through his lawsuit, Rambachan is seeking aggravated and exemplary damages, an injunction stopping Warner from further broadcasting the statement or similar comments and his legal costs for bringing the lawsuit. Rambachan is also being represented by attorneys Kelvin Ramkissoon and Wayne Sturge.