Three Government officials were sued in the courts for defamation of character after certain statements were made against the Chief Pharmacist, Sharon Anderson. Today, Justice Shona Griffith issued her judgement on the matter which was in favour of Anderson who was represented by Attorney Herbert Panton.
“Essentially three officers of government namely the CEO and two other members of the tender committee in the Ministry of Health our allegation is that they made some defamatory statements against Ms.Anderson and this morning the court found that they were defamatory and the court awarded damages. The most recent cases in Belize hover around the $30,000 mark. Our contention was that defamatory statements were published to the tender committee and two those statements were again repeated a few weeks later when there was a press conference held. The Justice refused to look at the circumstances with regard to the press conference but what she did say certainly by the time of the press conference the fact that Ms.Anderson was on sick leave was in the public domain so that the CEO and other defendants came out with far worse than Ms.Anderson did.”
Anderson was seeking twenty thousand dollars but was only awarded five thousand dollars. In early 2014, the Government had come under much pressure when it was brought to light that despite not being qualified, the daughter of Minister Erwin Contreras was hired to fill the post of Director of Drug Inspectorate. It was a posting that the Government would not bend on despite pressures coming directly upon the then Chief Executive Officer for Health, Dr Peter Allen. During that period some animosity was uncovered between CEO Allen and Anderson and things got nasty when it was formally announced within the ministry that Anderson had gone on strike when really she was on sick leave. Internally, the Procurement manager had written on April 11, 2014 that, quote, “It is to my understanding that Mrs. Sharon Anderson is on strike and refusing to sign supplies – this could seriously endanger the health of our patients.” End of quote. That was followed by a comment by CEO Allen that Anderson was “holding the system to ransom”. This resulted in the lawsuit being filed and the outcome announced today which Attorney Panton says he is unsure whether an appeal for the amount will be made.
“I have had an initial discussion with my client. We will look at it more closely when the written judgment comes out but I don’t think that we will be going further at this point. It’s prescribed cost on $50,000 and there is a formula in the rules when you work it out it comes to around $12,000.”
The onus is now on the Government of Belize to pay the judgement in this case.