Minister Lee files complaint against SMN-News owner | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Health Emil Lee filed a complaint with police detectives this week against Saint Martin News Network SMN NEWS owner and writer Bibi Hodge-Shaw for slander, and has informed the Prosecutor’s Office.

  Lee told The Daily Herald on Friday, “I can verify that criminal charges were filed against Ms. Bibi Shaw for deliberately damaging, attacking my honour and/or good name, by inciting certain facts with the apparent aim of publicising it, and I believe she is guilty of defamation in writing by publishing content on the website of Saint Martin News Network that is factually incorrect, slanderous and full of defamatory remarks, insinuations and false accusations, in an attempt to deliberately damage me, my good name and my honour.

  “These actions not only cause personal harm but also seek to undermine my ability to function properly as a minister in service of the country and her people.”

  The website incorrectly stated that Lee had travelled to Italy last week with representatives of Italian construction company Inso seeking assistance from the Italian government on behalf of Inso for it to continue with the new general hospital project.

  The article on the news site also stated, “It is more than obvious that the minister is seeking to protect his interest and/or investment in the new general hospital project, as it is clear that the minister and his supporters from the Democratic Party will get kickbacks from the new general hospital project.”

  The statement did not sit well with Lee and caused him to file a complaint against the website owner.

  Addressing reports of the project being in limbo, Minister of Health Emil Lee had told this newspaper on Wednesday, “We maintain a close and positive contact with the three extraordinary commissioners managing the financial restructuring of Inso and its parent company Condotte. 

  “Based on correspondence between the new hospital project team and the Commissioners of INSO, we have agreed that a delegation from St. Maarten will travel to meet in Italy early next year with the objective to discuss the future plans of Inso and how the financial restructuring efforts could impact the project. 

  “We have a good working relationship with Inso and remain focused on ensuring the hospital project continues with all due diligence, proper guarantees and assurances.  Reports that I have already been to Italy to meet with Inso are absolutely false.”

  The European Commission has recently approved, according to state aid rules, a state guarantee of 190 million euros to Condotte under its extraordinary administration.

  “We believe this is a clear indication that both the European Union and Italian government are committed to supporting Condotte while it goes through its financial restructuring process. In our meetings with INSO, they will explain how this and other financial measures may impact the project. The delegation from St. Maarten that will be meeting with Inso is very clear that all assurance and comfort must be in place before commencing the project,” Lee added.   

  In 2010, a Guadeloupe court dismissed a case brought against website SMN News by the Collectivité of St. Martin on October 26, 2009, pronouncing the case “invalid” in a judgement handed down April 27, 2010.

  The case related to an article published on the news site October 9, 2009, by its reporter Bibi Hodge-Shaw about misuse of Government vehicles and gasoline privileges. It was insinuated that the wives of elected officials used the cars for private purposes. The Collectivité accused SMN News of abusing freedom of expression.

  The Collectivité was ordered to pay 1,000 euros in damages, but Hodge-Shaw’s claim for damages to the tune of 15,000 euros for damage to her reputation and profession was dismissed.

  It was the second time within months that the court had ruled in favour of SMN News and Hodge-Shaw, the first being a case brought against SMN News by Head of the Collectivité’s Communications Department Colette Erivan on October 16, 2009, claiming defamation. This also was thrown out and Erivan was ordered to pay 1,500 euros plus the court expenses.

Source: The Daily Herald