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Juliet Holness sues Peter Phillips

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

Juliet Holness, wife of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, has filed a defamation suit against Minister of Finance Dr Peter Phillips accusing him of breaching the rights of Jamaican citizens to a free and fair election by allegedly making false statements to mislead voters.

The suit was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday, and Mrs Holness is seeking damages, as well as declarations from the court.

Mrs Holness, who is a Jamaica Labour Party candidate in the general election tomorrow, claims that the alleged defamatory comments were made between February 13 and 16. She has accused Phillips of making the comments with an intent to secure a victory at the polls for the People's National Party (PNP).

Stephen Landell, a critical-care nurse living and working in the USA and the only brother of Mrs Holness, is also a claimant.

Four other persons have been named as defendants in the action, which stems from comments made against Mr Holness' "Beverly Hills mansion".

Phillips is accused of defaming the claimants when he said Holness had a moral responsibility to demonstrate to the public about the source of funds for the construction of his "Beverly Hills mansion".

The claimants contend that following questions raised this month by Phillips at a press conference in Kingston and at a People's National Party mass rally in Manchester, the four other defendants made comments on social media allegedly labelling Landell as a drug dealer. The claimants contend that some of the defendants named convicted drug dealer Andrew Wayne Landells, who is serving a 15-year prison term in the USA as Mrs Holness' brother.

"This lawsuit goes much further than merely seeking damages for defamation," Mrs Holness said yesterday in response to the suit filed on her behalf by attorney-at-law Chukwuemeka Cameron.

"More importantly, it seeks to preserve and defend our cherished democratic process. It is imperative we protect the dignity of free and fair elections that our forefathers fought and sacrificed for throughout our history," she added.

She contends in court documents that the alleged comments meant that she and her brother were involved in fraudulent activities and were breaching the Proceeds of Crime Act and were allegedly involved in money laundering.

Mrs Holness contends further that the comments meant that she was using ill-gotten gains from illicit activities in campaigning in her bid to win a seat in the general election on Thursday.

Phillips has 14 days to file an acknowledgment of service and 42 days to file a response.