(Trinidad Express) Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has threatened legal action against the Express over the publication of a front-page story entitled “Neighbours Flee”, which she is claiming was libellous and damaging to her character.
The article, which was published on March 27, stated the Prime Minister’s neighbour, Leon Achilleous, had put up his house for sale because of noise disturbances and the construction of a chain-link fence at the Prime Minister’s residence.
Persad-Bissessar, who is currently in Colombia attending the Sixth Summit of the Americas, has retained the services of Kelvin Ramkissoon and Associates, as well as Christlyn Moore and Alan Newman QC.
The Prime Minister, who has filed a pre-action protocol letter through her attorneys, has denied there was ever any noise emanating from her private residence, and the construction of the chain-link fence was to protect and to prevent any possible harm to the Achilleous children.
In their 12-page pre-action protocol letter to the Express, the lawyers claim the content of the article was “falsely and maliciously published and calculated to damage and defame the Honourable Mrs Persad-Bissessar in her personal and prime ministerial reputation and as Leader of the People’s Partnership Government”.
The letter extensively spelled out the Prime Minister’s academic and political accomplishments and stated the publication of the article brought the Prime Minister’s “good name and reputation into odium and disrepute, have sullied her personal and political reputation and have disparaged her in the eyes of the public”.
The lawyers further stated the article in question represented “a continuum of a spate of publications” by the Express “which has castigated the personal and professional conduct of the Honourable Prime Minister”.
They further claimed the words of the article could have led to a number of inferences, including that the Prime Minister was engaged in improper activity by the commission of acts of public and private nuisance at her residence.
The lawyers added that the article could also be understood to mean that the Prime Minister frequently hosted late-night parties and social events at her private residence, repugnant to her office and stature.
The pre-action protocol letter also emphasised there was no noise coming from the Prime Minister’s residence.
“If there exists in the community an intolerable level of noise emanating from musical and phonographic equipment, such is not generated from the residence of or by the users and occupiers of the private residence of or by the users of the private residence of the Prime Minister,” stated the letter.
The lawyers further explained why the Prime Minister sought to erect a chain-link fence at her residence.
The letter stated the construction of a fence between the Prime Minister’s residence and the Achilleous’s property was necessary for the protection of both properties and would have served to enhance the value and aesthetics of their respective premises.
The construction of the fence, stated the lawyers, also served to protect the Achilleous family children from harm.
“There were occurrences where the children of the Achilleous family were seen playing in an area inside the boundary line of the Honourable Prime Minister’s private residence. The construction of the fence was necessary to protect the very same children since the private residence of the Honourable Prime Minister is protected by State security officials who may be armed. This construction of the fence was calculated to stave off any potential mishap which could have occurred and was so done in the best interests of the Achilleous family. This cannot be inimical to their property and/ or security,” stated the letter.
The letter stated that Persad-Bissessar intends to make a claim against the Express for “substantial damages” for libel as the “unfounded allegations” have hurt the Prime Minister’s personal, national and international reputation.
Persad-Bissessar, through her attorneys, is demanding as a matter of “extreme urgency” a full and unequivocal retraction and apology.