CEO of the North Central Regional Health Authority Davlin Thomas has received an injunction from the High Court to prevent a Facebook user from making defamatory statements against him on a personal page as well as two Facebook groups.
Justice Margaret Mohammed on Wednesday granted the injunction restraining Naresh Siewah from posting defamatory statements about Thomas on his (Siewah’s) personal page and in the groups: TrinbagoLivesMatter and the Voice of TnT 99%.
Thomas had complained of several defamatory articles which were void of facts or credibility with the intention of inciting mistrust in his office and against him personally. The alleged comments centred on the rental of tents by the NCRHA. There were also posts of Thomas’ salary.
In her ruling, Mohammed said granting the injunction would maintain the status quo, preserving the state of affairs until the trial for Thomas’ defamation claim took place.
She also said if it was not granted, there would be further damage to his reputation.
While noting that the prejudice to Siewah was that it would restrict his freedom of expression on the issues which were set out in the Facebook posts, she pointed to an e-mail he sent to Thomas’ attorneys in response to a pre-action protocol letter in which he said the posts had been removed from his page.
“…That he had already removed the posts on his Facebook page shows a willingness on his part to restrain himself with respect to the Facebook posts which is a good indicator to guide me in balancing the issue of prejudice.
“In my opinion, in granting the injunction it would limit any further damages to the claimant’s reputation and restrain or limit on the defendant with respect to the matters set out in the Facebook posts.
“The injunction certainly does not restrict the defendant from commenting on the claimant’s actions with respect to other matters,” she said.
According to Thomas’ evidence, five days after he sent the e-mail apologising for the posts, Siewah claimed in another e-mail that the posts were as a result of his profile being hijacked and compromised by someone called Johnny Walker, also called John Narine.
In the e-mail, Siewah said they were posted for a period of two months by Johnny Walker at a time when he was not in use of his profile.
He did admit to posting the information on Thomas’ salary but said he was ready to apologise for only the posts he made and not the ones by Johnny Walker.
Mohammed said Siewah’s failure to respond to his admission made in the e-mail meant it remained unanswered and still stood, as she held there were serious issues to be tried.
She also said Siewah’s defences raised in his affidavit were bare. He raised four defences: authorship of the Facebook posts; the words complained of were neither referable to nor defamatory of the defendant; qualified privilege; and fair comment on a matter of public interest.
She said he failed to demonstrate how his defence were neither referable to nor defamatory of Thomas, and failed to set out what aspects of the Facebook posts were fair comment.
“With respect to the defence of qualified privilege on the basis of public interest, I accept that the defendant has set out a sufficient basis which is that the expenditure of the regional health authority is a matter of public concern.
“However, this is also a general defence which is lacking in any detail with respect to each of the Facebook posts in issue,” the judge said.
Thomas is represented by attorneys Farai Hove Masaisai and Jennifer Farah-Tull while Leon Kallicharan represents Siewah.