The following is a series of exchanges between Wired868 CEO Lasana Liburd and attorney Lionel Luckhoo, on behalf of former Caribbean Airlines chairman George Nicholas III, with regards to a satirical news piece published on Wired868:
15 May 2013
To: Wired868 Ltd
(By Hand, Registered Post and by email)
Re: In the Matter of an intended Action Between George Nicholas III v Lasana Liburd Wired868 Ltd
I have been consulted by my client George Nicholas III, Executive Chairman of Mora Ven Holdings Limited and former Chairman of Caribbean Airlines Limited [“CAL”] with regard to material published by you.
I am instructed that on 14 May 2013, you published on your website at the following link: http://www.wired868.com/2013/05/14/by-george-ex-cal-chairman-has-a-flap-about-guardian-criticisms/ an article entitled “By George: Ex-CAL chairman has a flap about Guardian criticisms” [“the article”].
The article was purportedly written by “Mr. Live Wire” is at the time of writing available on the World Wide Web system of the Internet. A copy of the article as it appeared on-line is enclosed herewith.
The entire article read as a whole is defamatory of my client… [Entire article was reproduced with parts in bold]
The impression conveyed by the article amounts to a very serious libel on my client and has caused him considerable distress and embarrassment both personally and professionally.
The article would lead any reasonable reader to conclude that my client:
- Is an amateur businessman with little or no experience;
- Is partly or wholly responsible for CAL’s current problems;
- Was unfit to Chair the board of CAL partly of wholly due to his background experience in assisting businesses in which his family had an interest;
- Failed in the position of Chairman of the Board of CAL;
- Mismanaged CAL and/ or misbehaved in the role of Chairman of CAL;
- Is responsible for the CAL airline crash in Guyana and/ or mismanaged he aftermath of same;
- Misrepresented in a lawsuit the financial condition of Mora Ven Holdings Limited.
At no time prior to the publication of the article was any attempt made to communicate with my client with regard to the contents of same.
For the avoidance of any possible doubt I am to make clear that my client takes the utmost exception to the imputation that his background experience in assisting businesses in which his family has an interest somehow disqualifies him from service as Chairman of CAL. Inquiry would have revealed that my client has not been an employee of any of the family businesses for some thirteen (13) years, nor does he currently sit on the boards of same.
The slightest inqury would have confirmed the fact that it was published in the press last month that the audited accounts of Mora Ven Holdings Limited showed profit before taxation of $5,854,615 as at December 31, 2012. Gross profit increased by 50% over 2011, 12% of which came from its renewable energy subsidiary Solaris (which is the largest regional energy company).
The publication of the article is all the more astounding to my client following as it does so soon after the publication in the Trinidad Guardian on 9 April 2013 of an article entitled, “Nicholas withdraws lawsuit against Rowley” wherein, among other things, it was stated:
“Former Caribbean Airlines (CAL) chairman George Nicholas yesterday withdrew a defamation lawsuit against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley. During a hearing before Justice Judith Jones in the Port-of-Spain High Court, Nicholas’ attorneys agreed to drop the lawsuit after Rowley apologised to their client.
“In the apology, which was read in court, Rowley said: ‘In no way was I alleging that the claimant (Nicholas) is or was corrupt, unfit to manage, wasting and/or mismanaging public resources, that his actions warranted disdain of the people of T&T.’ Both Rowley and Nicholas were in court. The lawsuit was filed last year after a report of Rowley’s speech at the Febeau Open Bible Church on January 17 was published in a newspaper (not the T&T Guardian).
“Rowley’s speech dealt primarily with unsatisfactory governance of State enterprises and directly referred to Nicholas. Nicholas was appointed CAL chairman in November 2010 and resigned on 4 April 2012.”
My client similarly does not appreciate the article making flippant references to his family name, religious beliefs, or his preparedness to protect his good name by the institution of legal proceedings.
In the circumstances, and without prejudice to my client’s rights, my client requires from you as a matter of utmost urgency:
- That the said article be removed from the website forthwith.
- A retraction and apology in terms to be approved by myself, published on the website with similar or greater prominence in correction of the quoted statement and,
I have also advised my client that he is entitled to substantial compensation for the injury to his reputation and feelings, in which regard he invites you to make a proposals (sic) in this regard. I look forward to your confirmation by no later than the close of business today that you will comply with the above-mentioned requests.
If you do not comply with these reasonable requests or my client is not satisfied with your response to the said requests, I have been instructed to advise as to the way forward regarding initiating legal proceedings against the company, the editor and the author of the article (in which regard should you not comply with the above requests, I would request the correct full name and address for “Mr. Live Wire” or clarification as to whether same is the nom de plume of the editor and CEO Lasana Liburd).
Lionel Michael Luckhoo
Attorney at Law
22 May 2013
Good Day from Wired868
Dear Mr Luckhoo,
I refer to your letter regarding an article entitled “By George: Ex-CAL chairman has a flap about Guardian criticisms” and published on 14 May 2013 on Wired868.com.
You re-published the entire article in your letter save for the photo and bio of the author. The accompanying photo for “Mr Live Wire” depicts a pussycat with a rubix cube; and the bio states that the author “translates media reports.”
I believe that is the only thing that was not psycho-analysed in the offending article.
All the same, allow me to explain the relevance. This article is “satire” and does not invite readers to view it in the way they would a typical news article.
Your claims (on page two) with respect to the words used in the said article and what they would mean to “reasonable readers” are all wholly denied.
The article is clearly a commentary based on a Trinidad Express report published on 14 May 2013, which revealed an on-going libel suit between Trinidad Guardian columnist Maxie Cuffie and your client.
The satirical piece names its source and provides a link to the article commented on so as to allow readers—“reasonable” ones or otherwise—the option to read the straight news piece.
You claimed that my article depicts your client as: an amateur businessman with little or no experience.
The article says nothing of the sort. George Nicholas III apparently highlighted his tenure as Mora Ven Holdings chairman and the company’s success in 2012 and 2013 to suggest his suitability for the CAL post. You should know that your client was appointed CAL chairman in 2010. My comment on your client’s assertion is that it does not do his case any good; and, “if” that is his strongest case, then he was indeed unequal to the task and had no significant track record.
You claimed that my article depicts your client as: partly or wholly responsible for CAL’s current problems.
If George Nicholas III feels that way, he will not find that I validated such a gloomy outlook in this article.
You claimed that my article depicts your client as: unfit to chair the board of CAL partly or wholly due to his background experience in assisting businesses in which his family had an interest.
Again, there is no insinuation of such. What Wired868 did say is that Maxie Cuffie suggested, in the Trinidad Guardian, that your client’s most notable work was done with family-owned business. I neither endorsed nor disproved his statement.
You claimed that my article depicts your client as: a failure in the position of Chairman of CAL.
Not in my article, Sir. And do lighten up.
You claimed that my article depicts your client as: someone who mismanaged CAL and/or misbehaved in the role of CAL Chairman.
Sir, are you really referring to my story? Again, please re-read and lighten up.
You claimed that my article would lead readers to conclude that your client: is responsible for the CAL airline crash in Guyana and/or mismanaged the aftermath of same.
Hahahahahaha! Need I say more on that point? Sir, I would really love to meet your idea of a “reasonable reader.” Not for too long, mind you. Just to observe those persons using cutlery and stringing sentences together for a few minutes.
To be clear, no, Sir, I said that George Nicholas III did not justify why his crisis management was special enough to be used on his CV. I did not say that he flew the plane to Guyana and I did not say he sabotaged the flight either.
You claimed that my article led readers to conclude that your client: misrepresented in a lawsuit the financial condition of Mora Ven Holdings Limited.
Sir, I quoted the source of my information. I never claimed to have done an investigative study on Mora Ven Holdings and I qualified my reference to the company with the word “supposedly.” If possible, please relay to the board and staff at Mora Ven Holdings that I wish them only continuing success under their Executive Chairman.
And, again Sir, please lighten up.
I do not understand the relevance of a settlement between George Nicholas III and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to our matter. Was that a warning shot across my bow? It sent chills up my spine; but then I adjusted the speed of my fan.
Sir, I must contend that the words used in the aforementioned article simply do not carry the connotations that you suggest. It is nothing more than fair comment on a subject matter that is of public interest and cannot be divorced from the tone of the column it appears in, which is satire.
Again, Sir, the photograph attached to the author is a pussycat with a rubix cube. Whatever did your “reasonable readers” make of that?
I ask that you note the learning out of Skuse v Granada Television Ltd.  EMLR 278, 285-287 where Sir Thomas Bingham MR held that the court should give an article the natural and ordinary meaning it would have conveyed to the ordinary reasonable reader of the “Sunday Gleaner” reading the article once.
The ordinary reasonable reader is not naïve; he can read between the lines but he is not unduly suspicious. He is not avid for scandal. He would not select one bad meaning where other, non-defamatory meanings are available. The court must read the article as a whole, and eschew over-elaborate analysis and, also too literal an approach. (emphasis mine)
I do regret that the words used in the article have caused your client distress, embarrassment and hurt feelings. I, as the author, was merely expressing an opinion on a matter of public interest, which is George Nicholas III’s justification of his prior post as CAL Chairman and the fact that he felt it necessary to do so.
So, I do not accept your offer to “make a proposals (sic)” to your client let alone to offer “substantial compensation for the injury to his reputation and feelings.”
I do have a proposition of my own, though.
If George Nicholas III promises to point out where my article “would lead any reasonable reader to conclude that (he) is responsible for the CAL airline crash in Guyana”, then I will happily order him two scoops of ice cream in an effort to assuage his hurt feelings.
22 May 2013
Dear Sirs (sic)
I acknowledge receipt of the (above) email and referenced attachment, which I take it was sent on behalf of both Wired868 Ltd and Lasana Liburd, as the editor/CEO of Wired868 Ltd and author of the article.
I note your views on “satire” and the understanding of an ordinary reasonable reader, but am unable to share same.
I am likewise unable to accept the following of your propositions:
1. That the “article is clearly a commentary based on a Trinidad Express report published on 14 May 2013, which revealed an on-going libel suit between Trinidad Guardian columnist Maxie Cuffie and your client”, and
2. That you have “quoted the source of my information”.
Your article references (disparagingly) the work my client did at a French orphanage in 1986, information that was not contained in the Trinidad Express article, but which said information was contained in the curriculum vitae of my client as disclosed by him to the Defendants in a defamation action he initiated against Maxie Cuffie, Debra Wanser, and Guardian Media Limited.
In that no permission was given for this document to be used for any other purpose than the said litigation, I would be grateful if you could clarify your source of information so that appropriate steps may be taken in that action.
In any event, if your article is not removed from the website by 9:00 am on 23 May 2013, I have instructions to proceed to apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for an Order accordingly.
Lionel Michael Luckhoo
Attorney at Law
22 May 2013
Dear Mr Luckhoo,
I did not expect to hear from you so quickly. I am flattered to think that I am a high priority for yourself and your client.
The fact that the story quoted an item which you now confirm was contained in George Nicholas III’s curriculum vitae does not mean the satirical piece was not based on the Trinidad Express newspaper article.
The story stated: “Nicholas also tried to prove his suitability for his prior post by revealing that he taught English to children at a French orphanage in 1986 and once worked with evangelists like Benny Hinn and TD Jakes.”
I fail to see anything disparaging about that reference. I am only filled with pride in George Nicholas III’s eclectic and humanitarian interests, as I am sure you are.
Whether or not those things make George Nicholas III the best candidate to run an airline might be another matter entirely. I accept that we might disagree on that point.
Now is that really something that should be adjudicated by a judge?
Are you suggesting that the reproduction of something you say is in your client’s curriculum vitae constitutes libel against him? Did you client libel himself in writing his own curriculum vitae?
You want me to reveal my source of information so “appropriate steps may be taken?” I respectfully decline your polite request. Would there be anything else?
And, no Mr Luckhoo, I will not remove a story from my website because you and/or your client do not like it. And I will not remove it because of the wild interpretations that you attached to the story.
I do appreciate the interest from yourself and George Nicholas III in Wired868. I try never to be rude to my readers when they offer feedback. So, thank you for your editorial advice. But, on this occasion, we disagree.
Perhaps you two would love my next piece.