This article has been updated throughout to include an official statement by the Office of the President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and the most recent reactions by Rachel Price in response to the threatened legal action.

 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, October 21, 2014 (AMG) — President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Anthony Carmona, has issued a cease and desist order on comedienne Rachel Price to prevent her from making further comments on his wife’s choices of clothing.

According to media sources, lawyers representing President Carmona issued the pre-action protocol letter to Price on Monday morning. The action is believed to stem from a September 28, 2014 Facebook post attributed to Price, where she questioned Mrs. Carmona’s attire (at right) at an event held in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly last month.

Radio teasers for the comedienne’s upcoming show also suggested that Mrs. Carmona’s fashion choices would feature in Price’s comedic skit.

AMG understands that the President’s wife was attending a side-event billed as Fashion for Development, which celebrated figures who have raised awareness for social causes through fashion. Over forty first ladies, as well as the UN Secretary-General’s wife, attended the event.

President Carmona’s lawyers indicate that further legal action could be taken against Price if she continues to disparage Mrs. Carmona’s clothing “on social media and elsewhere.”

Reactions from Trinidadians to news of President Carmona’s actions have run the gamut from disbelief to mockery.

It is believed to be unprecedented in Trinidad & Tobago for a Head of State to take such action against a social commentator.

For her part, the comedienne has defiantly responded to the President’s action, tweeting:

[divider title=”POST-PRESS UPDATE” text_align=”text-center”] A release by the Office of the President, which was circulated after AMGs’ original coverage of this story, has confirmed the issuance of the letter to Price, stating in part that the Office will be vigilant to “protect the dignity of the Office of the President, and ensure that the citizens of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago continue to maintain respect for the Office.”

[message_box title=”Press Release – Office of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago” text=”The Office of the President has sought and obtained the advice of Senior Counsel regarding certain offensive statements recently made by a radio talk show host.

Consistent with that advice, a pre-action protocol letter in accordance with the Civil Proceedings Rules 1998 was sent by attorneys-at-law on behalf of Her Excellency Reema Carmona and the Office of the President on Friday 17 October 2014 in respect of certain defamatory statements.

The Office of the President respects and values the constitutional right of every individual to freedom of expression and the principles of fair comments. Freedom of the press remains sacrosanct. Freedom of expression is not however a licence to defame. The pre-action protocol letter issued on the advice of Senior Counsel was in respect of defamatory statements only.

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.

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.
“]

Price responds

Speaking on her morning programme on Trinidad’s RED 96.7 FM, Price continued her defiant stance to the President’s action. Quoted in the Trinidad Express, Price reportedly challenged:

Mrs Reema Carmona, I afraid of yuh pre-action? … Let me let all yuh know in Trinidad and Tobago, I will fight to the death to disagree with you. This is a democracy! I don’t live in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe or Idi Amin’s Uganda…This is a democracy and if I can’t talk about the President’s wife belly that was in meh eye, then something very wrong….

Yuh damn right, I doh know meh place. But I know meh citizenship. I mightn’t know meh place but yuh know meh home. This is Trinidad and Tobago. Carmona, send yuh letter and when you coming, come strong. Come hard. Come at me like a convict that now come out.

Legal questions

The Trinidad Express report further cited concerns by legal sources in Trinidad & Tobago who maintain that the Office of the President is not a legal personality recognised by law, and therefore cannot be defamed or included as a potential complainant in legal action.

Quoted in the Express report, one lawyer notes: “Mrs Carmona, like any individual, can take legal action, but the Office of the President cannot be defamed. You can only defame a legal personality recognised by law. The Office of the President is not a legal personality. There is no President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Incorporated. So it is quite wrong for the Office of the President to lend its authority to the cause of someone, albeit that it is a person to whom the President as a individual is connected.”

President of Trinidad & Tobago serves cease and desist order on comedienne Rachel Price

Antillean Media Group

Working with Caribbean media partners, we go behind the news to deliver impartial, evidence-based reports on issues that impact residents, governments and investors in over 21 Caribbean territories. Contact us at editor@antillean.org.

Category: Politics