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'Butch' Stewart slaps 'Motty' Perkins with second libel suit

Monday, July 19, 2010    

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RADIO talk show host Wilmot 'Motty' Perkins and his employer, Independent Radio Company Limited have been slapped with a lawsuit for libel by Sandals Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart.

Perkins, whose programme Perkins On Line is aired on Power 106FM, along with Independent Radio is being sued for damages arising from the reproduction of a speech, "and or part thereof" on his call-in show, and which was made in Gordon House by Member of Parliament Andrew Gallimore in June 28, 2005.

The suit has been brought by Stewart, political advisor and businessman Chris Zacca and the Air Jamaica Acquisition Group Limited, the entity used by Stewart to take control of the national airline in 1994.

The claimants are also seeking exemplary and aggravated damages, plus interest and an injunction barring any further publication of the "damaging" comments, as well as interest and costs, plus any other relief the court may deem fit.

Gallimore, now the state minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, was an Opposition Senator at the time he made the comment in relation to the claimants' management of Air Jamaica of which Stewart was chairman.

Gallimore escaped the lawsuit because he is covered by the defence of absolute privilege that shields parliamentarians from suits for statements made before the House (Upper or Lower) of which they are members.

But Perkins is being sued for broadcasting Gallimore's presentation without checking the accuracy of the allegations with the claimants.

Gallimore's presentation was laced with suggestions that Stewart used Air Jamaica to advance his other businesses, at the expense of the Jamaican taxpayer.

Stewart has maintained that throughout the 10-year period that he held Air Jamaica, he had transformed the airline into something all Jamaicans could be proud of, winning "Best Caribbean Airline" five years in a row from the prestigious London-based World Travel Awards.

"I take my reputation seriously. It is the thing I value most. Nobody is going to play fast and loose with that, without consequences," said Stewart in explaining the lawsuit.

In the suit filed in the Supreme Court on July 13, the claimants say that they have been disparaged by the publication and that the defendants acted maliciously and "out of improper motives" and a desire to cause embarrassment.

"The said words published by the defendants...were calculated to disparage Stewart and Zacca's well recognised, established and unblemished reputations in the field of business, as well as their reputations as outstanding Jamaicans," the suit said.

They are contending that their reputation and character have been "severely injured" as a result.

About the same time last year, Stewart sued Perkins and Independent Radio Company for what he said were defamatory statements made about him and his companies "over an extended period of time" between 2004 to 2008.

That suit which also named Zacca and AJAG as the other claimants, alleged that Power 106 and Perkins "published and caused to be published false accusations of unlawful, corrupt and wrongful conduct by the claimants in collaboration with the then Government in the operation of Air Jamaica by the Gordon Stewart-led AJAG, which was damaging to the airline and to Jamaica and its people".

The suit also alleged that Perkins and Power 106 "permitted and allowed callers to make allegations defamatory of the claimants".

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