If no apology or retraction comes from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley by the end of today, Opposition LeaderKamla Persad-Bissessar will be escalating her defamation lawsuit to the High Court.
Persad-Bissessar took issue with a statement made by Rowley on April 30 at the PNM’s Sports and Family Day in Toco. In a pre-action protocol letter sent to the Prime Minister on May 4, Persad-Bissessar’s attorneys accused him of saying: “When the Opposition Leader and two or any other number of pundits want to get up in this country and say that the crime that we are all facing, that we are all exposed to, that we are all victims of, when they want to get up and say that it is black people who are attacking Indian people, I say today you all stop that! Don’t go down that road! That’s a road of no return.”
San Juan/Barataria MP Saddam Hosein, one of the lawyers representing Persad-Bissessar, said Rowley was given seven days to apologize or retract his statement and if no response comes by the end of Friday, he has been given authority to proceed with further action.
“We have instructions to file High Court proceedings against the Prime Minister for the defamatory statements he made, even if he responds we will have to review the response he gives but we have instructions to proceed to the High Court,” he said.
Hosein said the Prime Minister’s legal team led by Michael Quamina, SC, requested an extension on May 10.
“They asked for an extension because they required time in order to take full instruction from their client to respond to our pre-action letter.”
In the correspondence sent to Hosein by attorney Adana Bain who is instructing Quamina, it was noted that no recording or video of the statement was attached to the pre-action letter. Hosein responded on May 12 saying that as Prime Minister, Rowley should have no problem in accessing his own speech on April 30. He added that this is being perceived as a delay tactic.
Bain wqas asked whether any response will be coming from the Prime Minister’s legal team before today’s deadline, however she said she was too busy to respond at the time and calls to her mobile phone later went unanswered.
At a post-Cabinet media briefing on May 4, the Prime Minister was asked about the legal action.
“Well, Opposition and pre-action protocol is not new to us. In so far as innocence is raised or accusations are made, the way to deal with that is through the lawyers. I don’t advise myself in law and if I’m accused of breaking the law then more than ever my lawyers will be involved,” Rowley responded.
In addition to an apology, Persad-Bissessar’s lawyers are asking for payment of a substantial sum in damages and payment of all legal costs incurred.