Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Local Government and Works Minister Suruj Rambachan are initiating legal action against Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for alleged defamatory statements he made about them over the e-mail issue at a May 23 public meeting.The pre-action protocol letter finalised yesterday was issued by attorney Donna Prowell against Rowley. The action bars Rowley from repeating the statements or making “any similar defamatory statements,” failing which the parties will “immediately seek injunctive relief before the High Court” without notice to him.
The letters noted Rowley’s statements when he spoke about the purported e-mails that he read aloud during a no-confidence motion against the PM in Parliament on May 20, accusing the Government of a plot over the Section 34 issue. The letters stated that at a public political meeting at the Croisee, San Juan, on May 23, Rowley continued to use the purported e-mails as the basis for his assertion. “Against the background of events during the 20th to the 22nd May, 2013, the public was particularly sensitive to his allegations grounded on the purported e-mails,” the letter said. The statements allegedly made at the public meeting were reported in the Newsday and T&T Guardian on May 25, according to the letter.
Apart from citing several paragraphs of Rowley’s statements at the meeting, the letter noted that Rowley had said if government officials decided to take action against him and to send him to jail, he preferred “to be in the jail in Golden Grove or in Frederick Street with the criminals than to be with the criminals in Parliament.” The government officials said Rowley’s statements claimed they conspired with other government members with the aims of “killing a journalist, bribing the DPP, attempting to bug the DPP’s office, performing acts in breach of the Integrity Act, committing illegal acts, acting dishonestly, being guilty of misbehaviour in public office and being involved in corruption and a scandal of proportions analogous to Watergate.” The letter stated that Rowley knew the public meeting would be broadcast on a large scale and he “impliedly authorised and intended his defamatory words be published locally, regionally and internationally.” The trio’s attorney said the Prime Minister had been held up to “contempt, ridicule and shame” and the situation caused her to suffer “great pain and anguish.”
It also “caused citizens to think unfavourably of the Prime Minister and damaged her integrity with them,” the letter added. It added that the defamatory words “have affected and will affect the esteem and prestige with which she is held by members of the public.” The letter claimed Rowley’s statements were caused by “malice, spite and/or ill-will.”
The letter stated Rowley:
• Kept the purported e-mails in his possession for a prolonged period before disclosing treating with them in a responsible manner. It was clear he possessed either shortly before or at the same time when the PNM brought a motion of censure against the Attorney General but failed and/or refused to disclose it in the Parliament and or public domain.
• Had no evidence to prove the veracity of the e-mails. He knew there were substantial doubts as to whether they were genuine and the Prime Minister had referred the purported e-mails to the Police Service for investigation on May 20.
• Knew the Prime Minister and Attorney General had denied sending and/or receiving the purported e-mails as well as refuting any involvement whatsoever as stated in the purported e-mails. These denials were categorically made in the Parliament and in the public domain over May 20-23.
The letter also said the AG held a May 21 press briefing when he pointed out numerous factual inconsistencies and technological impossibilities inherent in the purported e-mails. It further noted Rowley’s closing speech in the no-confidence debate, when he himself accepted there were factual and technological inconsistencies in the purported e-mails and demanded a forensic investigation to unearth the truth. The letter added: “Subsequent to the defeat of the no-confidence motion on May 23 and these events stated herein, he still composed and announced without the benefit of a thorough investigation, the defamatory words wilfully, maliciously, wantonly, recklessly, and in utter disregard of the truth, knowing the purported e-mails were fabricated and/or the contents therein were false and/or with reckless disregard as to whether or not they were false.
“There were sufficient warning signs alerting (him) to the probable falsity of the purported e-mails and placing him on inquiry notice. He, however, made no effort to ascertain the truth of the matter prior to making the subsequent defamatory statements.” The letter stated that Rowley ought to have known his defamatory words would have serious effects on the government officials’ reputations and would be repeated and republished by people who heard or read it; and that “gossip, reports, and rumours” affecting their reputation would result. The claimants stated that. Rowley was motivated by spite and/or ill-will as a result of the Attorney General’s initiating bankruptcy proceedings against him before the May 20 no-confidence debate. Rowley has 14 days to respond.