By Aaron Humes: Myrtle Palacio, the former Secretary General of the People’s United Party (PUP), is suingeditor of the UDP’s Guardian newspaper, Alfonso Noble, for libel. The trial was heard today by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.
When she appeared as a guest on party radio station Vibes Radio’s morning show in December of 2014, weeks before the Cayo North by-election, then-Secretary General Palacio, aimed some ire at Deputy Chief Forest Officer Marcelo Windsor.
Windsor was acting as the returning officer for the by-election, and Palacio questioned his alleged behavior on Nomination Day for that election, which pitted the PUP’s candidate Richard Harrison against now-elected United Democratic Party (UDP) candidate Dr. Omar Figueroa.
But it was what she said in response to a caller to the program – and a subsequent article by addressing it, along with a cartoon drawn below – that landed the latter in court today, accused of libel.
When the caller suggested that Windsor “be delivered to the Creator,” Palacio suggested that “candles be burned over his head,” instead, and offered to call him later with details, ending, “Dat da weh yu do wid dehn kine a pipple.”
Noble, who subsequently wrote an article accompanied by a cartoon in which he suggested that Palacio, a Garifuna, was encouraging “witchcraft” through her statements, today defended it as his fair, truthful view of her statement and not coloured by political or other malice.
Noble’s attorney, Senior Counsel Michael Young, said that they argued that his article was fair comment on a public figure, asking why Palacio in her capacity with the Party was allowed to make such statements.
Young said that the court, during cross-examination of his client, denied Palacio and her attorney Senior Counsel Said Musa permission to allow a tangent based on the recent allegations by Pastor Scott Stirm about the Garifuna Dugu ceremony, for which he has apologized.
Of course, Palacio and Musa see it differently: the former Chief Elections Officer said it clearly could not be referring to anyone else other than her, and thus brought great damage to her character and reputation and to the Garifuna as a people.
Musa stated that fair comment has a certain definition which he would expand on in his written submissions to the court. Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, who is hearing the case, will give a decision after submissions by both sides.
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