CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The decision by Saint Lucia government officials to serve local broadcaster Timothy Poleon with legal action is very puzzling, the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) said. In a separate statement, the United Workers Party (UWP) said it is not surprised by the legal actions initiated by the leadership of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP).
Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) leader Therold Prudent
“It really does not make much sense at all, at least for the moment, based on the evidence submitted as part of a potential libel lawsuit,” the LPM said in a press statement.
Moreover, since none of the complainants were mentioned by name in the story, it is very difficult to understand why anyone seem to take ownership of allegations which does not bear any inscription to, or of their names, and have never been given any legal relevance in a court of law, the statement continued.
“The story, as we understand it from the perspective of the LPM, should have been dealt with by the government of Saint Lucia, and not by individuals associated with the government. The primary questions which were raised in the article is whether the revocation of Richard Frederick's visa had anything to with the US action against Saint Lucia, and whether officials in the government ignored a request to meet with representatives of the US government by a specific date, to discuss the matter,” the LPM said.
“While we in the LPM fully support the right of all politicians and government officials to defend themselves against acts of defamation, including the right of the ordinary citizen who may have felt violated in the publication of their names (as presented in the town and village council report), the LPM cannot in good conscience accept the distraction that this has caused,” the party said.
The statement added that the inability of individual members of government to maintain their focus in carrying out their duties and responsibilities to the nation is troubling at best.
“There are just too many important issues affecting the people of Saint Lucia right now, namely unemployment and crime, to have public officials who can't function at 100 percent capacity,” the LPM said.
The party called on all those who have filed legal action against Poleon to recuse themselves temporarily from the service of the government and people of Saint Lucia.
“In fact, while we in the LPM seek to fully understand the basis for the legal actions against Mr Poleon, and will withhold all judgment as it pertains to motive, it's awfully difficult to support a public official’s right to legal recourse, in the absence of probable cause,” the statement concluded.
United Workers Party (UWP) leader Allen Chastanet
According to the UWP, the evidence points to a clear and continued pattern to oppress and intimidate the media, which includes several suits by the prime minister, the introduction of article 361 amendment to the Criminal Code and more recently the irresponsible and disrespectful comments made by the minister of foreign affairs targeting the local press.
“This trend was also bolstered by recent threatening remarks made by slp's political leader and prime minister towards a well known and respected businessman and the despicable behaviour of the district representative for Soufriere/Fond St Jacques, which has been covered up by the government by refusing to yield to numerous calls by the public, media and opposition to release the unedited tape of his verbal abuse and in appropriate behavior at the August opening of the Soufriere Bridge,” the UWP said.
“It is interesting that the government officials in question chose to target Mr Poleon and not Caribbean News Now, which is the source of the article that was distributed locally, regionally and internationally. Many view the latest law suits by these government officials as another calculated attempt to instill fear into the media and members of the public. This Labour Party government is openly demonstrating its disregard for the rights of freedom of expression guaranteed under the constitution. This includes the responsibility of the media to question and be critical of any government. Mr Poleon as he has done before simply read the story. This is clearly a ‘cop out’ and an act of cowardice,” the UWP statement concluded.
The UWP provided the following links to online material relevant to the issue of press freedom in Saint Lucia:
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