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Defamed or not? Legal battle between One Seychelles’ Alain St Ange and Alexander Pierre to continue | 09 October 2020

The legal battle between One Seychelles’ figurehead Alain St Ange and Alexander Pierre is set to continue early in January 2021, after Justice Gustave Dodin yesterday ruled that the affidavits filed by defendant Pierre are invalid and in contravention with court rules and procedures.

Mr Pierre, represented by legal Counsel Anthony Derjacques as part of his defence filed two affidavits, one by Vincent Padayachy, former party treasurer and former executive member Ian Delorie in which they detailed the contents of the One Seychelles meeting in which it was impugned that Mr St Ange, as party leader, was misusing party funds.

According to Mr Derjacques, both parties, who resigned from their positions within the party shortly after, sought his assistance for the affidavits at least three months prior to the case being filed by Mr St Ange.

During yesterdays’ proceedings, Justice Dodin highlighted the illegality of having the notary who signed and authenticated the affidavits act as the attorney in the same matter, as this would constitute a conflict.

Despite yesterday’ ruling however, Mr Derjacques remains confident that his client has a strong case, as the two witnesses are due to provide evidence to court on January 15.

“I knew I could not rely on the affidavits, but I had to show that I had documentation, probably in the hope of a settlement, but then I would still have called both of them as witnesses as court and I would not have relied on the affidavits in any case.”

“They had to give the affidavits because the minutes (of a meeting) within which the character of Mr St Ange was impugned, where there was all the stories about what happened to the finances of the party, they had to give the affidavit because the minutes were not signed by Mr Peter Sinon who took down the minutes and shared it via email, and he did not sign it,” Mr Derjacques explained, noting that the affidavits served to add credibility to his client’s case.

Mr Derjacques continued to explain that Mr Pierre exercised cautiousness before publishing the information deemed to be in the public interest on social media platform Facebook, elaborating further to note that upon receiving the information from the defence witnesses, Mr Pierre ensured that he verified the information with the two members and that they provided him affidavits detailing the ongoings of the meeting.

“So, Mr Pierre was very cautious and he only has to show fair comment or truth on a matter of public interest, and it is a matter of public interest as Mr St Ange had already stated that he would possibly be running as a presidential candidate, which he is today,” he added.

Considering the importance of the meeting minutes in the matter, it is expected that Mr Peter Sinon, St Ange’s running mate for the upcoming election, may be called to provide evidence before the court. To date, he is yet to publicly pronounce himself on the matter, Mr Derjacques added.

On the other hand, plaintiff St Ange represented by Counsel Frank Elizabeth in the matter for which Mr St Ange is seeking R850,000 in damages for defamation of character, is just as confident that they have a strong case especially considering yesterday’s decision.

“We had objected to that (the affidavits) on the basis that because he is a lawyer who appears for the defendant, he cannot notarise an affidavit, which he himself intends to use at the hearing. Moving forward, they can call witnesses to testify and introduce new evidence. With the two affidavits it corroborated what he was going to say and make the evidence stronger, and without the two affidavits, he can call those two witnesses to state what they had stated in the affidavits and if those two witnesses don’t turn up, then his case is going to be extremely weak,” Counsel Elizabeth explained.

Mr Elizabeth, who just under a month ago won a defamation case on behalf of another client Patrick Herminie, is of the view that Parliament should draft legislation relating to the misuse and abuse of social media which is becoming increasingly prevalent in Seychelles.

“Yes I am definitely confident as they were a pack of lies. There is a pattern of behaviour in Seychelles now, where people are using social media as a political tool to tarnish the image, the reputation of other people, and this is what we are trying to stop. This is why we are in court today to stop that negative use of social media platforms to attack people,” he said.

“The current has been there throughout but I notice it intensifies at the time of election, people get more motivated to put their political views forward, and even going to the extent of defaming people. And when you defame people, the only thing that person can do is seek recourse through the court, because when you write something against somebody, he cannot defend himself on social media, and people will believe that what they are saying is true. So in order to clear your name, you have to come to court to prove that this is not true.”

 

Laura Pillay

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