Dominica: Calypsonian loses appeal

ROSEAU, Dominica, Feb 14–  The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal Tuesday dismissed an appeal by calypsonian Abel Jno Baptiste, who had been ordered to pay EC$130,000 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) in damages in a defamation suit brought by a Dominican diplomat.

Dr. Phillip Aaron, who is the island’s ambassador to Venezuela, had claimed that the calypso titled “Bug Her” and performed by Jno Baptiste using the stage name “Checko” during the 2012, Carnival activities was defamatory.

“The claimant fears that unless restrained by this Honourable Court, the Defendant shall continue to publish the slanderous and libellous statement complained of,” his attorneys claimed in the lawsuit.

They sought damages for libel and slander; aggravated damages; exemplary damages and an injunction restraining the defendant from further publishing the offending words or other words that are defamatory to the claimant.

The suit claimed that the song referred to the Claimant by his designation and initial “Ambassador A.”

When the matter came up in court in 2013, the calypsonian, who is also a police officer, failed to enter a defence within the stipulated time period.

The High Court also denied a request to set aside the judgment.

On Tuesday, Jno Baptiste’s attorney, Singolloa Blomquist-Williams, argued that her the award was too high making reference to other cases in the Caribbean.

But In dismissing the appeal, the three-member Court of Appeal ruled that the charges in the song were serious since the diplomat was married and holds a prominent position in the society.

The Court ruled that the claims against the diplomat cannot stand and his reputation was at stake as a result of the song and could not see any error made by the High Court judge, Justice Errol Thomas.

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