Davidson-Celestine to refile zipline defamation claim against THA Chief Secretary

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tracy Davidson-Celestine –

FORMER People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council political leader Tracy Davidson-Celestine is expected to refile her defamation claim against Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.

In a statement, Davidson-Celestine said it was “foolish” for Augustine to claim victory after a High Court judge held her claim was automatically struck out because her attorneys did not apply to the court to hold a case-management conference (CMC).

On Thursday, Justice Carol Gobin, in an oral decision, held Davidson-Celestine’s case was automatically struck out on the basis of rule 27.3 of the civil proceedings rules (CPR), which governs how civil litigation is managed. It says a CMC must be fixed immediately after a defence to a claim is filed.

In October, Augustine’s attorney Ken Wright, who appears with Justin Phelps, raised the issue at a virtual hearing of the matter before Gobin.

Davidson-Celestine brought the claim against Augustine last year after he allegedly made defamatory statements against her in the run-up to the January 2021 THA election.

Augustine had allegedly accused Davidson-Celestine of corruption in relation to a zipline project undertaken under the PNM administration in 2015, while she was THA tourism secretary.

At October’s hearing, Wright said Davidson-Celestine’s lawyers did not apply to the court to host a case-management conference after the defence was filed. He said under the CPR, cases should be automatically struck out if the correct procedure is not followed.

The judge had invited submissions on the issue, and gave her ruling on Thursday .

In explaining what happened, Davidson-Celestine said the matter was struck out not as a result of any tact or skill on the part of Augustine’s attorneys, but because she had to change her legal team.

The statement said her claim was filed by Senior Counsel John Jeremie, who is now representing the THA in a lawsuit over the zipline.

The statement said Davidson-Celestine retained attorney Keith Scotland to represent her, and the claim is expected to be refiled shortly.

“Farley Augustine is not out of the woods yet,” the statement said.

Davidson Celestine said: “I have since instructed my legal team to refile the matter at the earliest possible date.

“What I still await is the evidence, almost two years later, after Farley publicly besmirched my name with declarations of having evidence of corruption in the zipline project involving me.

“If Farley was telling the truth, I expect he would have taken the opportunity to present it in the court of law. It would be a perfect platform for his voice.”

In her claim, Davidson-Celestine alleges that Augustine tarnished her reputation and character when he accused her of corruption in relation to the project.

Augustine made statements on the project while addressing a Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political meeting in Scarborough.

Davidson-Celestine denied any wrongdoing on her part, claiming the project had barely started when she left her role as THA tourism secretary to become ambassador to Costa Rica in 2017.

While the January 2021 THA election ended in a stalemate, the PDP, in December last year, defeated the PNM by a landslide, with 14 of the 15 seats.

Augustine has since been sacked as a PDP deputy political leader after falling-out with the party’s leader Watson Duke over the handling of an overseas trip by a group of folk performers from Roxborough. Duke resigned as deputy chief secretary of the THA.