Foster Cummings withdraws appeal against injunction rejection

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Foster Cummings

YOUTH Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings has withdrawn his appeal of a judge’s refusal to grant him an injunction to stop Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial from speaking about his private and confidential information.

Cummings is also the MP for La Horquetta/Talparo and general secretary of the ruling People’s National Movement.

He will now have to pay two-thirds of Lutchmedial’s costs for the appeal and the failed application before Justice Nadia Kangaloo in May. His defamation claim against the Opposition senator will come up for hearing on March 10, 2023.

On June 10, Kangaloo ruled that Cummings failed to provide evidence to support his contention that Lutchmedial’s statements and publishing personal information, including banking details, at a UNC meeting and on her Facebook page, were reckless and affected his family life.

In her ruling, Kangaloo said the senator presented a “plethora of evidence” in support of a defence of justification and fair comment, which led the court to the conclusion there was no serious issue to be tried.

She said Cumming’s evidence of “alleged danger and harm” to him and his family had not materialised, adding also that when comparing the evidence of Cummings and his witnesses to that of Lutchmedial, “Mr Cummings’ case is comparatively weak.”

Cummings appealed Kangaloo’s decision on June 21. Justices of Appeal Mira Dean-Armorer and Malcolm Holdip’s order gave him permission to withdraw the appeal.

Cummings’s attorneys had filed the emergency application to stop Lutchmedial from publicly speaking about his private and confidential information and to get her to take down all information about him and his banking details posted on her Facebook page. He also sought to have her take down recordings of her statements of May 16.

Although reference was made to her earlier statements on May 5, on the same platform, in which she released the contents of a Special Branch report on the minister, the injunction application took issue with her use of his financial records.

At the UNC’s Monday Night Forum, Lutchmedial raised questions over a public entity’s payment into the credit union account of a high-ranking public official.

The senator said a cheque from the public body was also uncovered which had been made out directly to the credit union. Cummings has since publicly clarified the business transactions. In his injunction application, he also gave an explanation for the transactions. He said the company Rivulet Investment Group Ltd, which is owned by his wife, Juliet Modeste, received loans over the years from the credit union. Cummings was the CEO of Rivulet and a director of Pical Services Ltd – the two companies the senator identified – before he became a minister.

In her defence, Lutchmedial said as an opposition senator, it was her duty to hold the Government to account “in the interest of transparency, accountability and good governance.”

She said the information she received from a whistleblower was cause for public concern and required some explanation and an investigation.

Lutchmedial contended she had a right to freedom of political thought and expression and as a senator, she was entitled to exercise that right in the public’s interest.

She denied defaming the minister, saying after her inquiries when she received the documents, her statements were honest and made in good faith without malice.

“Taxpaying citizens have a right to know about the conduct of their elected officials,” she said in her defence. Cummings was represented by attorneys Farai Hove Masaisai, Christopher George and Jennifer Farah-Tull. Appearing forLutchmedial are Anand Ramlogan Kent Samlal, Jared Jagroo, Vishal Siewsarran and Natasha Bisram.