Judge reserves ruling in Finance Minister’s lawsuit against ex-CBTT governor

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Kevin Ramcharan. –

A HIGH COURT judge has reserved his ruling in the defamation lawsuit brought by Finance Minister Colm Imbert against former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran.

On Monday, Justice Kevin Ramcharan said his decision would be e-mailed to the parties on or before three months from the date he receives final submissions from attorneys.

Submissions will be filed once attorneys receive a transcript of the proceedings.

In his lawsuit, Imbert claimed an article on Rambarran’s blog – www.jwalarambarran.com – on June 9, 2019, was defamatory. The post related to a judge’s ruling on Rambarran’s freedom of information challenge in an attempt to get information on the minister’s alleged communication with the director of the G-24 Secretariat on International Monetary Affairs and Development in Washington DC.

Rambarran was seeking a position as a senior advisor at the G-24 Secretariat.

Imbert’s claim alleges that the words contained in Rambarran’s blog meant or inferred he abused his power as a minister, wanted to destroy the former governor by ensuring he remained unemployed and intervened and blocked his appointment to the G-24 Secretariat.

Imbert’s claim also says the publication brought him into public scandal, odium and contempt and his character and reputation were severely injured.

He is seeking compensation for the general tone of the article and the inflammatory and denigratory language used especially since, he said, Rambarran did not verify any of the information he wrote about.

Last month, the minister was cross-examined by Rambarran’s attorney, Anand Ramlogan, SC, at the trial at the Waterfront Judicial Centre, Port of Spain, before Justice Kevin Ramcharan.

On Monday, Rambarran was cross-examined by Imbert’s attorney, Russell Martineau, SC, at a virtual sitting of the court.

Rambarran said the contents of the blog article were “less my view but the view of Justice Seepersad in his ruling.”

Asked by Martineau if the judge said Minister Imbert was a bully, Rambarran said, “To that effect, yes.”

He disagreed with the attorney’s contention that the judge said none of what Rambarran posted on his blog, including that the minister conducted himself irrationally, had a vendetta against him, was politically motivated or that the former governor was a victim.

Rambarran maintained the blog was not for “publicity” but to let the public know what “role Minister Imbert played” in his G-24 appointment.

“I think this was a critical view that the public should know, of so people would have a sense of what had transpired.”

Rambarran also said a media release issued by the minister when his appointment as governor was revoked in December 2015, gave the impression he was guilty of something although he was “never found guilty by a court.”

He said that impression would have been a contributory factor behind him not getting the G-24 job. He also accused the minister of “causing the delay” cited by the G-24 when he (Rambarran) was notified that he would not get the appointment.

“Yes, and that delay was caused by Mr Imbert. It is clear the delay was caused by Mr Imbert. He took four months to respond…”

In his previous testimony, Imbert denied having a “politically” contentious relationship with the former governor and said Rambarran called him an OJT minister which he, Imbert, found “disrespectful.”

“It was unfair criticism.”

He also said his comments about Rambarran were not disrespectful as there was context.

Imbert said his refusal to disclose the documents Rambarran sought was based on legal advice and Rambarran’s blog was more than a synopsis of the court’s ruling.

He denied making prejudicial statements about Rambarran to the G-24 Secretariat’s director and said after the blog’s publication, he was accused of being a racist.

Rambarran was appointed Central Bank Governor in July 2012, and his contract was terminated in December 2015.

The decision came shortly after Rambarran announced that TT was in a recession and after he revealed the biggest foreign exchange users in the country.

Last year, a High Court judge ruled he was wrongfully dismissed.

That decision was appealed and the Appeal Court last week reserved its ruling.

Also representing the minister are Senior Counsel Jason Mootoo and Romney Thomas while Dr Che Dindial appear with Ramlogan for Rambarran.