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Chuck dismisses PM's defamation claim against Holness

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2016 | 2:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Chuck

Opposition Spokesman on Justice Delroy Chuck yesterday ridiculed claims by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller that Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness defamed her on nomination day.

Chuck told The Gleaner that he heard what Holness, the opposition leader, said of Simpson Miller and his remarks were not defamatory.

He said the prime minister's claim was without merit and noted that Holness was responding to a claim made by Simpson Miller that he was trying to trick the Jamaican people.

"With due respect, the prime minister is looking a headline in alleging you (Simpson Miller) have been defamed when you did promise the people of Jamaica that you would remove GCT (general consumption tax) from electricity, and that the people would be having ox tail and curry goat instead of chicken back and fish back ...," Chuck said.

Asked if he believed Holness should apologise for his comment, Chuck said: "Apologise for what? Apologise for saying that you tricked the people when you promised them to remove GCT?"

He added: "In fact, the leader of the opposition should repeat the allegation."

He said Simpson Miller has not fulfilled her promise to remove GCT on electricity or put Jamaicans in a position where they can eat ox tail and curry goat instead of chicken back.

Yesterday, the prime minister issued a deadline of Saturday, February 13, for Holness to tender an apology for his remarks about her.

Simpson Miller has instructed her attorney, Bert Samuels, to write to Holness demanding an apology before the stipulated deadline.

Samuels in his letter to Holness, which was said to have been delivered at 12:41 p.m. yesterday at JLP headquarters on Belmont Road in New Kingston, said if Holness failed to apologise, the prime minister would institute legal proceedings against him.

However, Samuels said such apology would not automatically absolve Holness from an obligation to pay damages to his client.

The opposition leader told Television Jamaica (TVJ) yesterday that he had asked his attorneys to respond to the prime minister.

Holness has also indicated that he was considering legal action against Simpson Miller for remarks she made about him, recalling that she had referred to him as an enemy of the state.

The prime minister contends that the comments have lowered her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society.

Holness claimed he had reason to believe the demand for an apology was part of a plan to avoid participating in the national debates originally slated for next week.

The Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) this week indicated it was still working to confirm proposed debate dates of February 16, 18 and 20.

The JDC said on Monday that discussions were ongoing, but the parties had so far agreed in principle to three debates, focusing on social, economic and leadership issues.

But on Tuesday, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang said that party has been ready to sign off on the debates and accused the PNP of "hiding".

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com