“If they then now come and convene themselves into a committee where they have the majority and decide to take action against me and to send me to jail I prefer to be in the jail in Golden Grove or in Frederick Street with the criminals than to be with the criminals in the Parliament.” Dr. Keith Rowley.
This statement, made by the opposition leader at a public meeting, about him being referred to the Privileges Committee of parliament, is the ground being taken by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, to sue Dr. Rowley for statements made on the “public platform” with respect to emailgate and published in the local media.
The two senior members of the Cabinet yesterday filed pre-action protocol letters citing statements Dr. Rowley made at a public meeting on Thursday, May 23.
The meeting came one day after the debate on the motion of no confidence was defeated in the House of Representatives.
During that debate Dr. Rowley disclosed what was purported to be controversial e-mail exchanges among high office holders. But once he stepped out of the Parliament, the legal immunity which he enjoys is removed with respect to any words uttered.
The pre-action protocol letters, filed by attorney Donna Prowell on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, contend that the natural and ordinary meaning of the words, “I prefer to be in jail…with the criminals than to be with the criminals in the Parliament” were intended to refer to the Attorney General and the Prime Minister; and that both office holders were guilty of conspiring with other members of the Government with the predominant intention of:
1) killing a journalist, contrary to the Offences against the Persons Act
2) bribing the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) contrary to the Prevention of Corruption Act
3) performing acts which were in breach of the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The two letters state that Dr. Rowley’s words were meant and were understood to mean that the Prime Minister and the Attorney General were involved in corruption and scandal of proportions analogous to the Watergate scandal.
The lawyer letters stated that Dr. Rowley’s words meant and were interpreted to mean that the Prime Minister and Attorney General were “attempting to hide bugs to secretly eavesdrop on conversations in offices of independent office holders and was part of widespread spying and sabotage designed to keep her Government in office as had happened in the Watergate scandal”.
The two letters, which are identical (save from the name and office of the intended claimants), state that Dr. Rowley’s words “meant and were understood to mean” that the intended claimants (the Prime Minister and Attorney General) are guilty of misbehaviour in public office; are guilty of graft, corruption, abuse of power and/or misconduct in public office and are unfit to hold public office and lack integrity in the discharge of the duties of such office and/or calling.
Each of the intended claimants is seeking an “unqualified apology” in terms to be approved by Senior Counsel; a written assurance and undertaking from Dr. Rowley not to repeat the defamatory words and statements or any similar words and statements; payment of a sum of damages for the injury to their reputation and for the embarrassment and distress caused to them and cost incurred to date.
Dr. Rowley has 14 days to respond to the letter. But should he repeat the statements in the meantime, “immediate injunctive relief” would be sought.