La Horquetta/Talparo MP Foster Cummings speaks to the media after a meeting with farmers in Wallerfield on Saturday. – SUREASH CHOLAI
The disclosure of a 2019 Special Branch report accusing Government minister Foster Cummings of wrongdoing has forced the minister and his family to seek help from a professional therapist in the face of cyberbullying from people who believe the claims.
Cummings’ lawyers made the claim in a lawsuit filed against UNC senator Jayanti Lutchmedial on Friday, and accused her of putting the minister’s life at risk, and his family at risk of acts of violence based on allegations that he had “dealings with a reputed drug dealer and leader of a gang.”
The lawsuit which also lists the Express newspaper, its editor in chief Omatie Lyder and journalist Anna Ramdass as defendants, is seeking to prevent the republication of the allegations, as well as an order directing Lutchmedial and the newspaper to remove the offending posts from Facebook and the online article from all of its platforms. A list of all the Facebook comments is attached to the lawsuit to support of the claims the minister’s claims. The Express has since removed the offending articles from its online platforms without prejudice to discussions between lawyers.
Lutchmedial’s Facebook post on May 11 challenging Cummings to bring on the lawsuit was also cited as repeating false claims of alleged wrongdoing.
Cummings’ lawyers said that the Special Branch report “does not represent any final finding of fact which can be relied on by anyone” and have written to the acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob on May 11, seeking to verify its authenticity.
In that letter, his lawyers said, “Our client was and is still unaware of any criminal investigation into himself. If indeed our client is being investigated we also wish to enquire as to the status of same. Our client has instructed that should the investigations be ongoing, he remains readily available to co-operate with the police service in pursuit of its mandate.”
UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial disclosed a 2019 Special Branch report on Government MP Foster Cummings at a political meeting on May 5. – ANGELO MARCELLE
The letter also sought “a reasonable explanation” from the acting CoP as to how a “highly confidential document” came into the possession of Lutchmedial, if it is authentic and what steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of such a leak.
The day after the July 19, 2019 report, signed by ACP Pamela Schullera-Hinds, then head of Special Branch, was made public Jacob said it was authentic and had been provided to then CoP Gary Griffith. He said then the allegations against Cummings were being investigated as well as the leaking of the report.
Cummings on Saturday said he has provided all of the “evidentiary facts” to the Prime Minister to counter allegations of wrongdoing raised in the Special Branch report exposed on a UNC platform.
He was speaking at a meeting to assist farmers in Wallerfield where he responded to queries on the issue.
Cummings, the Minister of Youth Development and National Service and general secretary of the PNM, said he had already addressed the allegations raised by Lutchmedial at a previous press conference on May 6.
Asked if he had spoken to the Prime Minister and provided any documents about the claims made in the 2019 police report, Cummings said: “I held a comprehensive press conference at my office some time ago, where I addressed each item specifically and, therefore, if you just refer to that you should get answers to all the questions.
“Suffice it to say, the only item that I will respond to is that the Prime Minister and I speak all the time and we have had conversations on these matters, and he does have in his possession all of the evidentiary facts. In addition to that, you know we have sought to take certain action and I do not want to interfere with what is taking place at the court at this time.”
Asked whether he had been contacted by the police, the minister responded, “No, not at all.”
On May 12, Dr Rowley, speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference, said there was no proof to support allegations of wrongdoing against Cummings contained in the Special Branch report.
He said in a previous instance, Cummings had provided documents to counter allegations of wrongdoing raised by the UNC and waved a bundle of documents but did not make them public.
Rowley said it was normal practice for Special Branch to report directly to the prime minister, and in some instances not inform the CoP, on matters of national security.
He said such reports were usually graded on the veracity of the intelligence and had no weight in a court of law
In this instance, Rowley said Cummings, a former government senator, was a businessman who purchased the property which people had put on the market and the documents he had seen do not support the UNC claims.
He emphasised he was not defending Cummings and reminded that where matters of honesty and integrity are concerned, “every tub will sit on its own bottom.”
Cummings said he was certain the information in the Special Branch report was part of a “smear campaign” but could not say who was behind it.
“In due course those things usually reveal themselves. We are certain of what has been said on the UNC platform and therefore they will have their day in court,” he said on Saturday.
He was referring to the lawsuits filed against Lutchmedial and the Express newspaper seeking compensation for libel and injunctions to remove the offending articles and Facebook posts.
The Express republished the unedited contents of the Special Branch report after it was disclosed by Lutchmedial on May 5 at a political meeting.
On May 6, Cummings said allegations that he purchased three plots of land formerly owned by the Housing Development Corporation at Pt Lisas, Couva were false and does not have any connections with another HDC property at Ibis Avenue, Pt Lisas.
He said his wife was the owner of a parcel of land at the corner of Southern Main Road and Balisier Street East, Pt Lisas purchased from a private individual.
He said he was a director of a family-owned business Pical Services Ltd (PSL) but resigned from managerial duties in 2016 when he became a parliamentary secretary. Cummings also denied any links to a person identified as a gang leader and drug dealer in the Couva area who has benefited from working with the family’s businesses, or seeking to form a village council in Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas.