AG warns reporter over family visits
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has threatened to take the Express newspaper to court to prevent publication of a story and to sue for defamation should the paper publish “falsities”.
The AG’s attorney, Pamela Elder SC, in a letter to Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder dated September 5, 2013, stated she has advised her client that he is “entitled to bring a claim for inter alia defamation and there is a realistic prospect of success of such action before the courts”.
The Express, in keeping with sound journalistic principles, had embarked on an investigation following certain reports.
Investigative reporter Anika Gumbs therefore journeyed to the AG’s Palmiste home last Tuesday to interview his wife Nalini and also went to his in-laws’ Barrackpore home last Wednesday where certain questions were asked.
In the interest of balanced and fair journalism given a statement made by the AG’s mother-in-law Shantee Nanan, Gumbs telephoned Ramlogan for a comment on Wednesday evening. Ramlogan said he was in an important meeting and would call back. He took Gumbs’ number but did not return the call.
That same evening, Ramlogan telephoned Lyder claiming that Gumbs had pretended to be looking for a place to rent when she approached his in-laws.
Gumbs has denied this.
Later on Wednesday night, a list of questions was e-mailed to Ramlogan by Gumbs.
Questions related to the investigative story were also sent to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The AG acknowledged receipt of the e-mail but did not answer the questions.
Gumbs followed up by attempting to meet face to face with the AG following the weekly Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Ramlogan was not present at Cabinet.
Gumbs then telephoned him and put the allegations to him.
His response was, “I have nothing to say to you ma’am.”
On Thursday evening Elder wrote a three-page letter to Lyder accusing Gumbs of pretending to be a family member to get information from his wife and impersonating a police officer to enter the compound of his in-laws’ home in the company of a male companion of African descent.
Elder advised that pretending to be a police officer in order to gain access to her client’s in-laws’ home Gumbs had contravened section 62 of the Police Service Act Chap 15:01 which provides that any person who “in any way pretends to be a police officer for any purpose which he would not by law be entitled to do of his own authority, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of thirty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for three years”.
The Express record shows that Gumbs did not impersonate a police officer to gain access to the compound as on meeting the AG’s father-in-law Samlal Nanan, Gumbs said, “Uncle how are you going, we (identifying photographer Innis Francis) are from the Trinidad Express,” and later, on meeting the AG’s mother-in-law, Gumbs said, “We are from the Trinidad Express.”
Gumbs has denied not identifying herself to the AG’s wife and further said she was recognised by the AG’s helper who was at the home at the time as the helper and Gumbs had worked at the Guardian South Bureau at the same time in the past.
Gumbs has denied that she impersonated a police officer or said she was a relative or friend of the family in all interviews conducted duing the pursuit of her story.
Tomorrow: Nalini Ramlogan responds
Following is the full text of the
letter from Pamela Elder SC to Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder:
Pamela Elder, S.C.
Guerra, Elder & Associateds
#40 Alfredo Street,
Port of Spain.
September 5, 2013
Ms Omatie Lyder
The Editor in Chief
The Trinidad Express Newspaper Ltd
35-37 Independence Square
Port of Spain
Re: Slanderous words and utterances made by Anika Gumbs-Sandiford against Senator the Honourable Anand Ramlogan SC.
I write to you on behalf of my client Senator the Honourable Anand Ramlogan, SC, Attorney General of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. This letter is to inform you of certain unlawful, deplorable and unprofessional conduct of your journalist Ms Anika Gumbs-Sandiford.
I am instructed that on 3rd September, 2013, Ms Anika Gumbs-Sandiford gained access to a gated community in Palmiste, San Fernando where my client resides by falsely pretending that she was a visitor to another resident. By so doing, she deceived the security personnel and circumvented the strictures of the security measures attendant at the compound.
On entering the compound Ms Gumbs-Sandiford proceeded to my client’s town house where, in the presence of Ms Goomatee Ragbir, his domestic helper, Ms Gumbs-Sandiford informed my client’s wife, Mrs Nalini Ramlogan that she was a friend of the family who had come out of grave concern for her safety and welfare. To the utter consternation of my client’s wife, Ms Gumbs-Sandiford proceeded to make serious defamatory remarks against my client.
Ms Gumbs-Sandiford repeatedly stated that she knew that my client would beat her while he was drunk and that she “was a victim of serious domestic violence and abuse”. She also stated that the most recent act of domestic violence occurred some two weeks ago. Mrs Ramlogan vehemently denied the spurious and unfounded allegations and requested that Ms Gumbs-Sandiford immediately leave the premises. Rather than acceding to this request, your journalist continued to repeat the allegations and boldly asked my client’s wife to speak with her in private so that she can confide in her. She further stated that she understood that she was being threatened by my client and was scared.
My client’s wife vehemently and continuously denied all of the slanderous remarks made against her husband and requested that your journalist respect the family’s privacy and leave the premises.
My client’s domestic helper recognized Ms Gumbs-Sandiford as a journalist since she knew her from an association at another newspaper establishment in South Trinidad where the helper formerly worked.
Your journalist thereafter proceeded to the home of a senior citizen Ms Indra Abdool on the same compound. She informed Ms Abdool that my client was having an affair with someone who was living on the said compound and that he would regularly drink and beat his wife. When Ms Abdool indicated that she has no knowledge about this, Ms Gumb-Sandiford asked Ms Abdool “what kind of woman are you, that you do not even care if Nalini (my client’s wife) was being physically abused by the AG?” Ms Abdool asked her whether an opposition political party had sent her and she replied in the negative, indicating that she was a concerned family member.
In an apparent relentless pursuit of the desire to author a false, malicious and sensational story, Ms Gumbs-Sandiford on 4th September, 2013 visited the elderly mother-in-law and father-in-law of my client at their home in Barrackpore. She gained access to their home by falsely representing herself to be a police officer who was investigating a complaint of domestic violence allegedly made by my client’s wife. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford entered my client’s in-laws’ premises in the company of a male companion of African descent. She confronted the elderly couple by repeatedly saying in an alarming tone “you don’t know what happen to your daughter?”. Her statements instilled fear and anxiety in my client’s in-laws with the result that his mother-in-law began to cry. I am instructed that the male companion of Ms Gumbs-Sandiford had in his possession a recording device which he used to take audio and also videographic images of my client’s mother-in-law in tears.
Ms Gumbs-Sandiford then repeated to his in-laws the defamatory remarks against my client which she had made to his wife on the 3rd September, 2013. She further stated that my client was “a dangerous man” who was “abusing [their] daughter” and that her life was under threat as my client “could kill her”. Further, that her daughter’s body had bruises from constant beating occasioned at the hands of my client. Despite the robust denials of these allegations and expressions of alarm made by his in-laws, your journalist insisted that my client was guilty of physically beating and abusing their daughter.
My client’s mother-in-law repeatedly explained to your journalist that she had visited her daughter and son-in-law at their home the previous day and that these allegations were not true. She stated that she was a regular visitor to the home as she is very fond of her grandchildren.
Your journalist’s conduct in relation to these elderly citizens was reprehensible and unprofessional and brought unnecessary fear and anxiety to these simple and elderly individuals.
Notwithstanding the clear and cogent denials, and the baselessness of the allegations, your journalist persisted in her conduct by emailing to my client a series of questions which are scandalous and outrageous. I have advised my client that he should not respond to any of these offensive questions.
The course of conduct embarked upon by Ms Gumbs-Sandiford is highly improper and constitutes a gross invasion of the privacy of my client and his family. The aforesaid false and malicious allegations made by your journalist against my client are slanderous.
Your reporter is advised that by pretending to be a police officer in order to gain access to my client’s in-laws’ home, she has contravened Section 62 of the Police Service Act Chap 15:01 which provides that any person who “in any way pretends to be a police officer for any purpose which he would not by law be entitled to do of his own authority, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of thirty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for three years.”
In these circumstances, my client has been legally advised the he is entitled to bring a claim for inter alia defamation and that there is a realistic prospect of success of such action before the courts.
I wish to further enquire from you whether your journalist, was in these circumstances, validly acting upon an assignment duly authorised by the Trinidad Express Newspaper Ltd, or whether she was at the material times acting on her own accord. In this regard, I call upon you to provide a response within 48 hours of receipt of this letter.
Should your newspaper intend to publish any story relating to any allegation of domestic violence purportedly committed by my client, I call upon you to inform the undersigned so that my client can be afforded the opportunity to approach the courts for the relevant relief. Should you fail to do so, my client reserves the right to bring the contents of this letter and the request made herein to the attention of a judge of the High Court.
You are hereby notified that any publication by you of matters relating to these falsities would result in legal proceedings being instituted against both your newspaper and Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. In the circumstances, I ask you to note that I have my client’s firm instructions to take all such action as may be necessary to protect his good name and prevent him from being brought into odium and disrepute.
Please govern yourselves accordingly.
Pamela Elder SC