Newsday understands Gibbs has already issued directives in the matter, first raised last November by Persad-Bissessar and police are now in the initial stages of an investigation into whether or not a criminal libel occurred.
Criminal libel is a form of defamation that is a misdemeanor and is not civil in nature. It is rarely prosecuted and has several forms or sub-offences which make prosecution a delicate matter. The offence dates back to thirteenth-century Britain under the reign of Edward I.
The complaint against Manning stems from statements he made in a committee room of the Parliament on November 12, mere moments after Persad-Bissessar in Parliament unveiled a regime of unauthorised interception which occurred under his tenure as Prime Minister. Unable to respond to Persad-Bissessar in Parliament because of the Standing Orders, Manning held a press conference in a committee room adjoining the chamber.
Manning made a series of statements about Persad-Bissessar and her administration’s fight against the drug trade. The statements, reported in the press the next day, were not covered by Parliamentary Privilege.
A week later, Persad-Bissessar fired back, with lawyers despatching a pre-action protocol letter to Manning on November 19, threatening civil action. Her attorney in this matter, Devesh Maharaj said Manning’s statements had adverse repercussions for Persad-Bissessar’s reputation.
It is unclear whether the civil complaint was separate and apart from a criminal complaint lodged by Persad-Bissessar. However it is understood that the police probe relates to the same facts covered by the civil complaint.
Manning has not publicly apologised for his statements. In fact, in Parliament on the day of the despatch of the letter he repeated some of his claims and made further allegations against Persad-Bissessar in relation to her private home in south Trinidad.