Dayton in hot water
COMMENTS made by People’s National Party (PNP) General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell at a political meeting in Clarendon last month have resulted in him being slapped with a defamation lawsuit by Government Minister Daryl Vaz.
The legal action, filed in the Supreme Court by Vaz’s attorney Catherine Minto on Friday afternoon, is seeking damages for defamation; exemplary and/or aggravated damages; interest pursuant to Section 3 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act; an injunction restraining Campbell from “further publishing or causing to be published in spoken word or written form the said or similar words defamatory of the claimant”; costs; and such further and/or other relief as the court deems just.
In his statement of claim, Vaz — who is the minister of science, energy, telecommunications, and transport, as well as Member of Parliament (MP) for Portland Western — states that Campbell made the defamatory comments on July 27, 2023 during an address at the PNP’s Clarendon North Western constituency conference in Spaulding.
The comments, Vaz said, were “meant to convey or imply” that he “had engaged in criminal conduct”, had “committed an offence which warrants imprisonment”, and that he was “lacking in probity, moral integrity and decency”.
Vaz’s Jamaica Labour Party colleagues James Robertson, the MP for St Thomas Western, and Othneil Lawrence were also named by Campbell in his address.
The lawsuit also claimed that Campbell’s request, during his address, for “a moment of silence for Dianne Smith”, was “by way of innuendo… a reference to the reckless allegation” that Vaz was involved in Smith’s murder four decades ago.
Smith, a 14-year-old Immaculate Conception High School student, was on her way to school on May 4, 1983 when she was raped, stabbed, strangled, and her body dumped in a gully.
In his statement of claim Vaz pointed out that after two men were accused of the crime, stood trial in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston, but were acquitted; “what is believed to be a politically orchestrated rumour emerged” that he had raped and murdered Smith.
“The rumour,” Vaz said, “was based on a graffiti in a PNP stronghold”.
He pointed out that retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Isadore “Dick” Hibbert, who led the investigations into Smith’s murder, had publicly stated in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, published on March 31, 2013 that: “There is absolutely no evidence to connect him [Vaz] to the case. In fact, his name was never called at any time during the intense investigations started in 1983, and I am very puzzled as to why he was subsequently associated with this murder…”
The statement of claim also stated that on the date of Smith’s murder Vaz was not in Jamaica, as he was living in Florida and attending Miami Dade Community College. Additionally, the claim said, Vaz will, at the appropriate time, disclose his passport entries as proof.
In his claim, Vaz said that Campbell is aware, or ought to be aware of the police statements concerning the investigations. However, Campbell, he said, made the comments “knowing that the meanings of the words contained therein were false and defamatory of the claimant”.
Vaz also said that Campbell’s statements were made at a conference which was being live-streamed to approximately 11,000 viewers; and that the recording of the conference has been uploaded to YouTube and is being circulated on various social media platforms.
“The recording with the defamatory remarks is therefore available for general access to any user of the World Wide Web, [and] it can be inferred that a large and unquantifiable number of users have now become aware of the…defamatory remarks.”
He said he has been “subjected to ridicule, derision, and contempt on social media since the publication of the defendant’s defamatory words”.
After the filing of the lawsuit Vaz, in a comment playing on the PNP’s current campaign slogan of “Time come”, said: “The stars have aligned for me as they say nothing before it’s time, so time come almost 40 years from 1986 when I first entered representational politics and became plagued with a politically orchestrated and sustained smear campaign against me by PNP operatives.
“This action which I’m confident will succeed in the courts, comes on my last few years in representational politics. I will leave politics one day and when I leave I will do so with this wrong corrected and where better to seeks justice than the courts.
“The justice system will vindicate me through evidence that I will introduce in the courts.
“Mr Dayton Campbell has had to take legal action in recent times to protect his reputation so I’m sure he can appreciate and respect my desire to do the same.
“This action, is to bring back dignity to political rivalry as no lesser person than former Prime Minister PJ Patterson has publicly and rightly called for.”
On Thursday Patterson, Jamaica’s sixth and longest-serving prime minister, scolded Jamaicans in positions of political leadership and authority for engaging in “distasteful” and “disgraceful” public discourse that “belittle us as a nation” and sets a poor example for our children.
Pointing to the second stanza of Jamaica’s National Anthem that implores: “Teach us true respect for all”, Patterson said recently he has become increasingly disturbed by a severe decline in that exhortation.
“Public respect is rapidly descending to an all-time low. The language used routinely is distasteful, disgraceful, and comments are derogatory. The tone of their delivery is devoid of respect,” Patterson said in a heartfelt message to the nation as it marks this year’s ‘Emancipendence Week’, a combination of the August 1 Emancipation Day and August 6 Independence Day celebrations.