Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has been accused of deliberately undermining the chances of the Barbados Labour Party in the February 21 general election.
This damning charge, contained in an affidavit lodged in the High Court last Friday by St. James North MP Edmund Hinkson, alleged that at a meeting held at the BLP’s Roebuck Street, St. Michael headquarters on February 25, St. Andrew MP George Payne said Mottley assisted the Democratic Labour Party in the election.
The affidavit noted that Payne accused Mottley of “treacherous and disloyal” conduct by aiding defeated DLP candidate Irene Sandiford-Garner in her campaign against him.
“He specifically accused Ms Mottley of putting one of her vehicles at the disposal of Irene Sandiford-Garner for use during the campaign,” Hinkson’s affidavit read.
Hinkson’s affidavit is a response to a lawsuit for defamation brought by Payne against him on April 25. Hinkson, an attorney-at-law, also stated that Payne accused Mottley of assisting the DLP in their campaign against St. Joseph MP Dale Marshall. The document indicated Mottley vehemently denied Payne’s accusations.
Hinkson also charged that at the meeting Payne accused Mottley of stealing party funds.
“During the meeting personal insults were traded between many of those present. The claimant [Payne], himself, accused Ms. Mottley, who is herself a long standing member of Parliament, a Queen’s Counsel, former Leader of the Opposition and the main contender for re-election as Leader of the Opposition, of criminal conduct.
“Specifically, he alleged that she had embezzled funds from the BLP during her previous tenure as Leader of the Opposition during the period January, 2008, and October, 2010, and had used these monies for her own purposes and placed them in accounts for her own benefit,” Hinkson said.
Hinkson stated that it was following Payne’s “scurrilous accusations” against Mottley and in the heated setting of the meeting, that he “in a normal tone of voice” responded to Payne’s attack on Mottley.
Hinkson denied using the defamatory language of which he is accused by Payne but admitted that he did tell him that he “had no moral authority to accuse anyone of dishonorable conduct or to speak ill about the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party.”
Hinkson denied that he called Payne “a crook and a criminal” at the meeting, but admitted that he told him that he was not fit to be a Member of Parliament based on his conduct “and that in some countries he would be in prison therefor”.
He acknowledged he said that as a Queen’s Counsel and BLP chairman, Payne had been involved in “fraudulent conduct” during the campaign to select a candidate for the St. James North seat which was vacated by former MP Rawle Eastmond.
“The defendant contends that words spoken by him were relevant to the proceedings in that it was a legitimate reply to the attack on Ms. Mottley’s suitability and fitness for the office which she sought. It is contended, further, that it was a valid commentary on the claimant’s credibility since the members present may have relied on the claimant’s allegations in rejecting Ms. Mottley’s candidacy for the post of Leader of the Opposition.
“Alternatively, the defendant contends that in the circumstances of this discordant meeting during which rancor, insults and accusations were hurled by some members against each other, his words, in so far as they went beyond what was necessary to respond to the attack made on Ms. Mottley, constituted no more than mere vulgar abuse,” Hinkson stated.
Hinkson contended that though the words used by him were reasonably capable of being understood out of context and to bear a defamatory meaning, they were not in fact understood to convey any criminal imputation or bear any meaning defamatory of the claimant in the circumstances in which they were “spoken and published”.
In his claim for damages, costs and injunction against Hinkson repeating the alleged defamatory comments, Payne charged Hinkson said: “You are a crook and a criminal; you are a big Queen’s Counsel and you committed fraud; you are totally unfit to be a member of parliament; you ain’t got any right here; you should be in prison.”
Payne stated that he felt humiliated, depressed and embarrassed by Hinkson’s comments which he described as totally untruthful. He said he had never had such damaging accusations made against him nor was he privy to any conduct on his part which would warrant such a damaging assessment of his character.
In Hinkson’s affidavit he said Payne was a “hands on campaign manager” during the process to select a BLP candidate for St. James North and the St. Andrew MP “took an active part in meeting eligible voters and fraudulently attempting to convert them into card carrying members of the BLP by collecting names and falsifying and/or causing to be falsified at least 75 BLP membership application forms”.
“Those forms were filled out in the name of persons registered to vote in the St. James North constituency. The forms contained the forged signatures of the alleged applicants and were filled out, signed and submitted without their knowledge, approval and/or consent between the period October, 2008 and October, 2009 or thereabouts.”
Hinkson noted that some of the falsified forms were submitted to the BLP secretariat and as a consequence Payne himself or “working with others” caused BLP membership cards to be fraudulently issued in the names of at least 75 registered voters without their knowledge, approval and/or consent.
He added that contrary to usual BLP practice, many of the 75 cards were not presented to the individuals in whose names they were issued, but were held by Payne and/or by persons acting with his knowledge and permission.
Hinkson noted that these allegations were true in substance and in fact. He also noted that his actions were not as a result of malice and added he had good and reasonable bases on which to believe that what he had said were true. Hinkson said his comments were relevant to the business, purpose and issues of the meeting. Hinkson noted that through attorney Sir Richard Cheltenham Q.C., he had offered a satisfactory apology and suitable amends to Payne in a letter dated March 19, 2013.
In any event, Hinkson contended that “in the context of the purpose of the meeting, it was an occasion which attracted the protection of qualified privilege. As such the proceedings of the meeting and statements made in the course of it are protected by privilege”. (WG/RRM)