Wereko-Brobby, VRA move on Chronicle
"A reference to Wereko-Brobby is not a reference to VRA. Under the Act there does not exist any intentra that a reference to the Chairman or CEO also refers to the Authority."
ABOUT two years after the former Chief Executive of the Volta River Authority (VRA) launched his billion-cedi legal offensive against The Chronicle, an Accra High Court, presided over by Ms. Justice Torkenoo began to hear motions to set the tone for the full trial to begin.
Lawyers for Dr. Wereko-Brobby, Messrs Kofi Aboagye told the court that they were ready to make legal arguments to oppose motions filed by Chronicle lawyers to allow them to enter amended defences.
The action began in April 2003, when the Chief Executive described a series of publications by The Chronicle as libelous, false and unjustifiable libels, set down particulars of malice within the publications, adding that Chronicle had alleged mismanagement in VRA under him. The former CEO said 'further, the publication alleged that there is a lot amiss in VRA and that the taxpayers money may be at risk in the execution of certain enterprises.'
Dr. Wereko-Brobby told the court that when he asked for a retraction of the story he was arrogantly rebuffed by defendants with a front page comment in The Chronicle of January 28, 2003 titled "Go to hell! Tarzan , please make our day, sue us today.'
His lawyers demanded exemplary damages in the sum of ¢1,000,000,000 for libel; perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants and each of them, whether by themselves, their servants, or agents or otherwise, from further publishing or causing to be published the said or similar words defamatory of the plaintiffs.
In paragraph 11, of his affidavit of 25th April 2003, Wereko-Brobby told pleaded t that another front page story titled 'Huhudious acts at VRA were also defamatory, with paragraph 12 'the defendants furthermore made very caustic and vitriolic defamatory statements about me on my birthday in The Chronicle very uncomplimentary and antagonistic to the occasion.'
In yet another addition to the action, the Chief Executive of the Chronicle Media Ltd Kofi Coomson was joined in the action and demanded damages.
Though Messrs Shadrack Arhin entered an appearance and began legal representation, a new set of lawyers took over last week to expedite action . Justking Associates stepped in to file motions at the critical final stage when Chronicle claimed they had not received any processes.
In court on Monday, lawyer Joe Mantey and Kofi Boakye from Kofi Aboagye and Co agreed to adjourn the case to July 8th but when Kofi Aboagye, the senior partner entered the court several minutes after the adjournment, he indicated that he was ready with legal arguments. But a few minutes later, he again changed his mind.
Joe Mantey indicated that he and his clients were ready as he had filed the relevant affidavits and motions. In court were Messrs Joseph, Kofi and Richard Coomson representing the Chronicle with Kofi Coomson expected to be the leading witness in the case.
In an amended statement of defence, the lawyers offered particulars of the defence stating that The Chronicle had justifiable defence of fair comment on a variety of issues Wereko Brobby was suing for.
On hints of a bigamous relationship, the sworn statements of The Chronicle pointed out it was common knowledge that Ms. Harriet Wilson enjoyed an unusually close relationship with Wereko-Brobby and that she had been leap-frogged over other equally and more experienced senior personnel into senior position. She was first the Acting Director, Human Resources, at a time when one Major Gyasi and Eric Yankah had both been interdicted and later appointed Director, Materials Management, a position which was not advertised as is the norm at VRA.
Additionally, the affidavit said there was an existing marriage between plaintiff and Mrs. Joyce Wereko-Brobby on his 50th birthday party at which both Harriet Wilson and her mother were present and Mrs. Joyce Wereko-Brobby.' While still married to Mrs. Wereko-Brobby, Harriet was found wearing what looked like an engagement ring on the wedding finger. When defendants asked, Ms. Wilson responded that second defendant will be invited to the wedding.'
Edited sections of the affidavits are reproduced below:
PROPOSED AMENDED STATEMENT OF DEFENCE
* Save that the said article "Conspiracy at TOR' was written by the 3rd Defendant, edited by the 2nd Defendant and published by the Defendant, the rest of the averment in paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim is denied and strict proof of the averment contained would be demanded at the trial.
* In answer to paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim the Defendants say that the said article is neither disparaging, offensive or libelous of the Plaintiffs hut is a fair comment on matters that are of public interest and is justifiable
(a) That 2nd Plaintiffs status as Chairman of VR.A was changed to Chief Executive of VRA within the 1st quarter of his appointment is a statement of fact.
(b) That on realizing from the Constitutive Act of VRA that the Chief Executive has more powers than the Board Chairman, he unusually became the Chief Executive of VRA within the 1st Quarter of his appointment as Board Chairman.
(c) 2nd Plaintiff requested from Mr Dotsi how he was going to run VRA (d) That after he had presented information on how his plans for the next two years he proposed to run VRA as Chief Executive, he was asked to resign from his post.
(e) That throughout the period that 2nd Plaintiff 'as in charge of VRA he never paid the entitlements of Mr. Dotsi who was removed as the Chief Executive of VRA until the Board, under Mr. Jabesh Amissah-Arthur recommended that he be paid.
(1') That 2nd Plaintiff asked Mr. Dotsi for his two-year plan for VRA when he knew very well that he was going to occupy that position, soonest.
*. In further answer to paragraph 6 (c ) of the Statement of Claim, the Defendants aver that the reference to Section 3 (1) of Act 46 (The Volta River Department Act) is untenable as there does not exist in the said section any intention that a reference to the Chairman of CEO or the Board of VRA also refers to the Authority.
* 11 In further answer, the Defendants say that even though the headline of the said article was purportedly about Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), the purpose of the article itself was to draw the public's attention to certain matters pertaining under the Ministry of Energy under which the Plaintiffs operate, and was in no way disparaging of the Plaintiffs.
* 10(k) are justified and are fair comments.
(a) There exists a recording of 2nd Plaintiff opposing and vilifying the current Government in his capacity as Presidential candidate of UGM.
(b) 2nd Plaintiff did this, only to find himself back in a place of power within the same Government which he vilified.
19. The Defendants deny paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim and will at the trial seek strict proof of the averment contained therein.
20 In further answer to paragraph 13 of the Statement of Claim, the Defendants say that the particulars listed by the Plaintiffs are not representative of the publication complained about.
21. The Defendants vehemently deny paragraph 14 of the Statement of Claim and further aver that the words published do not have the meaning ascribed to them by the Plaintiffs.
22. Save that the Defendants published the article complained of, the rest of the averment in paragraph 15 of the Statement of Claim is denied and strict proof of the averment would be demanded at the trial.
23. In further denial of paragraph 15 of the Statement of Claim, Defendants say that they will rely on the defence of justification and fair comment.
(a) The Plaintiffs entered into an agreement with a company known as General Electric Energy Rental to provide emergency power to Ghana around 2002.
(b) This agreement was valued at Thirty Million dollars ($30.000 000.00).
(c) After it was brought and installed, negotiations to reschedule the payment of rentals for the unit were entered into
(d) Due to the acts of omission of Plaintiffs, the unit which was meant to produce emergency energy never functioned or even produced a kilo watt of power.
(e) However, Ghanaian tax-payers have paid in excess of $3 million and are still expected to pay more for the said unit 'which is still not producing energy.
(a) 2nd Plaintiff was the founder, leader and Presidential candidate of the United Ghana Movement (UGM) in the 2000 elections.
(b) 2nd Plaintiff was a columnist for the Chronicle for several years
(c) The Electoral Commission also donated Niva vehicles to all registered political parties which included the UGM.
d) By virtue of his leadership of the UGM, the 2nd Plaintiff was in charge of the Niva car which he kept in a house he was living in at North Ridge belonging to his step-father.
(e) The 2nd Plaintiff has indeed commenced a one billion-cedi suit against 2nd Defendant.
(f) That 2nd Plaintiff would have loved to use the now repealed Criminal Libel.
Law against the Chronicle is fair comment which any honest person, assessing the circumstances between the Chronicle and 2nd Plaintiff will arrive at.
PROPOSED AMENDED DEFENCE ON SECOND SUIT
* In further answer to paragraph 2 of the Statement of Claim, the 1st Defendant says that he prides himself on the article he authors and for each said article, puts his name as the author and at no time has he been faceless in his publications.
*. In further answer to paragraph 5 of the Statement of Claim, the 2nd and 3rd Defendants say that they will rely on the defence of justification and will at the trial prove the truth of the publication complained of
Paragraph 6 is a statement of fact
Anokyemma Ventures, a company owned by Plaintiff and his brother were awarded contract by the Plaintiff-led VRA.
Plaintiffs personal relationship with Ms Harriet Wilson influenced and informed his official dealings with her
Ms Harriet Wilson was leap-frogged over other equally and more experienced senior personnel into the position of Acting Director, Human Resources, and later as Director of Materials Management, during the tenure of Plaintiff without advertising the said position, as is the norm in Volta River Authority (VRA).
It is a statement of fact that the official residence was renovated at great cost to VRA. For instance, luxury lights of about six thousand pounds (over hundred million cedis) were bought by Volta River Authority (VRA) for the Chief Executive's residence, all of which he gets to take away upon leaving office.
12. In further answer to paragraph 7 of the Statement of Claim, the 2nd and 3rd Defendants say that they will rely on the defence of justification to prove the truth of the publication contained therein.
DATED AT JUSTKING & ASSOCIATES, AIRPORT. ACCRA PP JUSTINA TETE-DONKOR, SOLICITOR FOR DEFENDANTS THE REGISTRAR, FAST TRACK HIGH COURT, ACCRA