Cummings, Lutchmedial to meet in court over ‘land-grabbing’ claim

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Foster Cummings

MINISTER of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings has initiated legal proceedings for defamation against Opposition senator Jayanti Lutchmedial over statements she made at a UNC meeting last week.

On Wednesday, attorneys representing Cummings, the MP for La Horquetta/Talparo, wrote to Lutchmedial demanding that she remove the video of the statements she made about him from all platforms; apologise and publicly retract the allegations; undertake not to repeat her statements; and make a reasonable proposal for compensation for the damage done to his reputation and good name.

Attorney Jennifer Farah-Tull, of the law firm of Hove and Associates, is representing Cummings, together with attorneys Farai Hove Masaisai and Christopher George.

She wrote, “Our client categorically states that the matters complained of are false,” the letter said.

Farah-Tull told Lutchmedial if she does not fully retract her statement as untrue, incorrect, and unfounded, proceedings will be filed against her. She was told she ought to have known better and that her actions were irresponsible and reckless.

On May 5, in San Fernando, Lutchmedial read from a 2019 Special Branch report on Cummings. The document alleged that Cummings was involved in several illegal activities involving Housing Development Corporation (HDC) lands. It also alleged improper behaviour in relation to government contracts and an association with alleged criminals.

Farah-Tull also told Lutchmedial neither she nor the minister knew the circumstances of the document or whether it represented any final finding of fact that anyone can rely on.

She also said Cummings had a reasonable expectation of privacy of information relating to any police investigation. She pointed out no charges have been brought against him and the police have not said what they were investigating.

File photo: UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.

Farah-Tull said before he entered politics, Cummings was managing director of several family-owned businesses which operated responsibly and with transparency in the public and private sectors.

He has denied mobilising residents for his own means; and categorically denied he or his family had interest or connection with a property at Ibis Avenue, Point Lisas.

Farah-Tull also said Cummings’s name has been tarnished and the incident has caused him much embarrassment. His family has also suffered and they have had to hire a therapist since the accusations have led to them being cyber-bullied.

“We say that the intentional infliction of emotional harm arising from the mental and emotional distress that our client experienced is a direct result of the disclosure of his private and confidential information…

“The manner in which the information was disclosed was inconsistent with the tenor of the document which spoke of allegations being investigated while you wilfully presented it as findings of fact.”

Lutchmedial was given until 1 pm on Thursday to remove the video of her address at the UNC meeting and publicly retract and apologise.

In an immediate statement, Lutchmedial was unrepentant.

She said, “I have today received a pre-action protocol letter from the embattled Minister Foster Cummings requesting an apology and compensation.

“After fighting off the strong temptation to throw it in the dustbin, I decided to pass it on to my attorney, former attorney general and senior counsel Anand Ramlogan.

“I would like to inform Mr Cummings…that I’ve donned my robes and bands for the past 15 years in defence of truth, justice and the rule of law.

“As such, I have a lot of court clothes. I strongly advise that they too should invest in appropriate attire for the courthouse.”