Describing former attorney general John Jeremie's threat of a defamation suit as frivolous and an attempt to silence him, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal says he will not be intimidated.
On February 15, Jeremie, through his firm Alexander, Jeremie & Company, sent Moonilal a pre-action protocol Letter, alerting the former housing and urban development minister of his intent to pursue relief for defamation in the High Court. The claim arose out of a February 11, 2021, United National Congress virtual public meeting, when Moonilal spoke on alleged corruption on an $84 million government contract for the procurement of Closed Caption Television (CCTV) cameras.
Moonilal said, then, that Johnson's Control, a Canadian company has two local partners for distribution. One of those companies is Energy Dynamics, in which John Jeremie sits as a director. He said there might be two Jeremies. However, he said if it was the same former government minister, he wants to know. He called on the Government to state the tendering process used and whether National Security Minister Stuart Young knew a former People's National Movement cabinet member was the director of the company linked to Johnston Control.
In the letter, Alexander, Jeremie and Company lawyer Laurissa Pena said the live feed of that UNC meeting streamed on YouTube and 4,367 viewed it. The video remained accessible on the web. Pena said on February 12 Radio i95.5 FM broadcast the defamatory statement on its 12 pm news.
“The defamatory statements were uttered maliciously and were designed to bring our client into odium and contempt when given their ordinary and plain meaning. The plain and ordinary meaning of the statements made by you communicate to the public that our client, as director of Energy Dynamics Ltd, acted improperly by unlawfully procuring a government contract for Energy Dynamics Ltd or a company associated with it in relation to the distribution of CCTV camera,” Pena said.
She added that Moonilal crafted his statements to insinuate that Jeremie used his influence to corruptly procure contracts on behalf of his company.
In a response, Moonilal's attorney, Oropouche West MP Jayanti Lutchmedial, made no admission of defamation and did not accept liability. Lutchmedial added that Moonilal does not own the rights to the YouTube video referenced in the latter.
“This is an attempt to silence me. Clearly, it is an attempt to intimidate and harass me, but I will have none of it. I want to alert Jeremie and others that they cannot use the court to duck and hide from burning questions in the public domain. As an MP, I took an oath to ask those questions. My lawyers have looked at it, and they are clearly saying it is frivolous and a waste of time and efforts.
Pena gave Moonial seven days to respond to the letter, but Lutchmedial cited the Pre-Action Protocol Practice Directions according to the Civil Proceedings Rules 1998, which stipulates 14 days for a reply. She said she would give a full response in that time-frame. Yesterday, Moonilal said he repeatedly raised the CCTV cameras problem, especially as 40 per cent of those installed around the country are not working.
“We have confirmed that the cameras that were in the vicinity of the car that so regrettably and tragically kidnapped Andrea Bharatt were not working and could not help the police immediately to go on the trail of those kidnappers and murderers.”
He said that in September 2019, there was an open competitive bid, which the Ministry of National Security cancelled after opening the offers.
He said the Government informed the bidders that the Ministry of National Security would be in touch. However, the ministry did not contact any of the bidders. He said that in January 2020, the ministry gave half of the contract to Johnston Control.
“The minister made this disclosure in Parliament. Only when he was asked, he made this disclosure. We were concerned that Johnson Control, a Canadian company, was able to get a tender and win a bid when there was no competitive bidding when no local distributor or importer of CCTV cameras knew of this incident. We discovered on the internet that it has two local link companies, Peakes and Energy Dynamics.
“All we are asking is whether these companies were involved. Was this their local counterpart for this purpose? How could they get $84 million in a contract that was never advertised or there was never a bid? There was never an open competitive tendering. All of this is diametrically opposed to the principles and the law of the procurement legislation.”
Young: It's a disrupted of some people's enjoyment of taxpayers' dollars
In a response to Moonilal's claims, Young questioned whether the former UNC deputy political leader had a special interest in who got the contract to provide CCTV cameras. He told the Sunday Guardian that the competitive tender process was conducted in a manner that disrupted some people's enjoyment of taxpayers' dollars.
“Ask Roodal Moonilal if he is advocating for someone affected by a competitive tender designed to protect the taxpayers. It is alleged that a certain sub-contractor who is involved in the former overpriced arrangement is happy for a mouthpiece to make false and misleading allegations against a process that broke up a very overpriced arrangement. Roodal Moonilal is not someone that anyone sensible takes seriously. I assure the civic-minded and right-thinking citizens that the competitive tender process for a new national CCTV programme has been conducted in a manner that disrupted the former arrangements that some were enjoying at law-abiding and tax-paying citizens’ expense.”