“Certainly it is highly unusual,” Richards said. “It is most unusual and I am not quite sure about the legality of it. But I don’t want to comment further on it because he is a successor.”
On Wednesday, President’s House confirmed in an official statement that the Office of the President had obtained legal advice from senior counsel, “regarding certain offensive statements recently made by a radio talk show host.”
President’s House stated a pre-action protocol letter was issued to Price last Friday, “in respect of certain defamatory statements.” This, President’s House said, was done, “on behalf of Her Excellency Reema Carmona and the Office of the President.”
The full text of the letter from the President has not been released by President’s House. The allegedly defamatory remarks have also not been identified. However, in defamation cases the remarks alleged to be defamatory are not normally repeated outside of private legal correspondence between the parties in order to maintain the status quo and to not risk deepening the alleged defamation.
Still, legal experts yesterday said the issuing of a letter by the Office of the President on behalf of Mrs Carmona raises an issue separate from the substantive question of whether defamation has taken place in this case. Lawyers said questions now must be asked on whether the State is funding a legal action which is not, strictly speaking, related to the Office of the President, as this is a case of alleged defamation between two private individuals.
“On the face of it, it would seem to be essentially for Mrs Carmona’s lawyers, not the President’s,” one attorney said. “I don’t know how the way she dresses or how comments about that, defamatory or not, could be defamatory to His Excellency.”
In its press release on Wednesday, the Office of the President linked defamation of Mrs Carmona with the “dignity” Office of the President.
“Unwarranted attacks which cross the line into defamation and which seek to bring members of the family of His Excellency the President and by extension the Office of the President into disrepute will not be tolerated,” President’s House said. “The Office of the President will be vigilant to protect the dignity of Office of the President and ensure that the citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago continue to maintain respect for the Office.”
The statement did not specify how the legal costs in relation to this matter will be funded: whether through legal expenses incurred via the Office of the President or whether the case will be funded privately. The media statement was issued under an official letterhead of President’s House.
A President’s House spokesperson could not clarify the issue of payment of legal costs or state whether the President’s letter would be released.
Price did not respond to calls and messages. On Wednesday evening she posted on Twitter: “Eyelashes :- CHECK. #weready #bringit #wheit” as well as an internet meme from her Instagram account. That meme read, “Section 34, no comment. Run off bill, no comment. Comedian makes jokes about yuh wife...lawyer letter. How’s that working out for you on social media?” The meme had more than 1,000 “likes” as at yesterday afternoon.