The Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) comments about Tracy Davidson-Celestine’s role in the now-infamous zipline project is par for the course of election campaigning.
However, if the political leader of the Tobago Council of the People’s National Movement (PNM) was defamed, those who did so should face the consequences.
This is the view of former High Court judge Herbert Volney.
Davidson -Celestine said on Monday, she intends to serve the PDP’s Deputy Political Leader Farley Augustine a pre-action protocol letter for defamatory statements about her involvement in the zipline matter. He made the comments during the lead-up to the 2021 Tobago House of Assembly’s elections. Davidson- Celestine is a former THA Tourism Secretary.
Soon after the legal threat, Augustine held a press conference saying he was ready for a legal fight.
“ If it (Farley’s comment) is a true comment and he has a good basis for making the statement, and the source is an impeccable one like the auditor general and its information in the public domain, … then it’s fair comment,” Volney told Guardian Media as he weighed in on the matter.
But he quickly warned, “However, if the statement crossed the line into untruths, mischief, malice, and falsity, she is likely to succeed.”
Volney, who presided over hundreds of cases, added:
“ The thing Dr (Keith) Rowley has been saying is that she was not active on that account…and Davidson-Celestine has also been saying the situation did not take place under her watch (term in office).”
The former Justice Minister in the People’s Partnership (PP) government, who has been on social media commenting on a wide range of issues under the heading ‘The Bench Report’, said people have a “democratic right” to comment on the zip line issue but must be wary of crossing the line.
“Members of the public are entitled to pronounce on the matter. They have a right to freedom of speech. Remember justice is not a cloistered virtue. People can speak their minds so long as they do not defame the lady (Davidson-Celestine),” he said.
Asked if social media commentators can continue discussing the issue after legal action is taken, he replied:” Once the court action is filed, they must stop. However, if only a pre-action letter goes out, people are free to comment.
Volney also said Davidson-Celestine’s legal threat against Augustine and others “may be only a grand charge.”