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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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[UPDATED] LAWSUIT OVER BANDIT CLAIM

Ministry worker acts against FB user

TO SUE: Vibert Small, a perifocal opertor (one who sprays for mosquitoes). -
TO SUE: Vibert Small, a perifocal opertor (one who sprays for mosquitoes). -

MINISTRY of Health staff member Vibert Small has initiated legal action for defamation against the woman who accused him on social media of being a “bandit pretending to spray for mosquitoes.” His attorneys are now demanding that Sharon Meighoo-Gildharry of Roystonia, Couva, provide them with the details which led her to suspect he was a bandit.

“Was it something said by him directly and/or indirectly? Was it something he did and/or something he failed to do? Was it his appearance and/or gender and/or physiognomy? Was it his ethnicity,” asked a pre-action protocol letter sent to her by Small’s attorneys.

Small is also asking for an “unqualified public retraction,” of prominence, from Meighoo-Gildharry and a substantial sum in damages “to demonstrate the baselessness of the allegations” and to compensate him for the injury to his reputation, financial loss and considerable distress he says he suffered. He is represented by attorneys Keith Scotland, Asha Watkins-Montserin, Keisha Kydd-Hannibal and Sarah Ramsingh. Small, 39, has worked with the ministry for 15 years. He is also a part-time driver for Drop Taxi Service and owns a mobile car wash.

Attorney Keith Scotland -

On October 2, he was assigned to work in the Westmoorings area, dressed in his official uniform and wearing his employee’s badge. He was accompanied by other employees of the Insect Vector Control Division. As a perifocal operator he visits homes to educate residents what they can do to reduce mosquito breeding sites around their home, as well as checking for such sites. He also sprays areas deemed infested. He went to the Palms housing complex in Westmoorings and did his job without incident, until he received numerous calls related to Meighoo-Gildharry’s post on her Facebook page. In her post, she said: “Ministry has confirmed this is a bandit pretending to spray for mosquitoes. Please be aware and cautious.” The post also showed Small’s employee identification card.

Small said when he saw it he felt “deeply insulted.” The attorneys’ letter said the post was understood to be a warning of danger to the public and Meighoo-Gildharry was told her false “danger alert” was reposted some 4,900 times.

“It is clear that your post and the words complained of created a percolation phenomenon,” the letter said, adding that numerous other Facebook pages reposted her original post and screenshots of it. Some of them have over 100,000 followers.

Small’s attorneys said since the débâcle, Small has been shunned, exposed to hatred and ridiculed. He was also suspended as a part-time driver by Drop Taxi Service because of the allegations. This has since been lifted, but he has suffered embarrassment, distress and loss of income. His young son is said to have been bullied at school.

Meighoo-Gildharry was given seven days to respond. After Meighoo-Gildharry’s post went viral, the Health Ministry issued a statement confirming Small was a legitimate member of staff.

It said: “The public is advised that Vibert Small is a bona fide member of staff of the Insect Vector Control Division (IVCD) of the Ministry of Health. Mr Small was authorised to perform insect vector control work in the Westmoorings area on the day in question.

“Additionally, a senior official of the IVCD received a call from a member of the public who sought confirmation that Mr Small was in fact a member of staff. The IVCD official confirmed that Mr Small was a member of staff and was carrying out the work of the Ministry of Health as scheduled.”

This story was originally published with the title "Legal action against Facebook user" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

MINISTRY of Health staff member Vibert Small has started legal action for defamation against the woman who accused him on social media of being a “bandit pretending to spray for mosquitoes.”

His attorneys are now demanding that Sharon Meighoo-Gildharry, of Roystonia, Couva, provide them with the details which led her to suspect he was a bandit.

“Was it something said by him directlyand/or indirectly? Was it something he did and/or something he failed to do? Was it his appearance and/or gender and/or physiognomy? Was it his ethnicity?” asked a pre-action protocol letter sent to her by Small’s attorneys.

Small is also asking for an “unqualified public retraction,” of prominence, from Meighoo-Gildharry and a substantial sum in damages “to demonstrate the baselessness of the allegations” and to compensate him for the injury to his reputation, financial loss and considerable distress he says he suffered.

He is represented by attorneys Keith Scotland, Asha Watkins-Montserin, Keisha Kydd-Hannibal and Sarah Ramsingh.

Meighoo-Gildharry was given seven days to respond.

After Meighoo-Gildharry’s post went viral, the Health Ministry issued a statement confirming that Small was a legitimate member of staff. He is a perifocal operator with the ministry.

It said: “The public is advised that Vibert Small is a bona fide member of staff of the Insect Vector Control Division (IVCD) of the Ministry of Health.

“Mr Small was authorised to perform insect vector control work in the Westmoorings area on the day in question.

“Additionally, a senior official of the IVCD received a call from a member of the public who sought confirmation that Mr Small was in fact a member of staff. The IVCD official confirmed that Mr Small was a member of staff and was carrying out the work of the Ministry of Health as scheduled.”

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