Alexander to Pay Mickela Panday $1M in Damages

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By Prior Beharry

ACTIVIST Phillip Edwards Alexander is ordered by the court to pay Mickela Panday close to $1 million in damages for defamation.

In a judgement delivered on November 8, Justice Devindra Rampersad upheld Panday’s claim that she was defamed by Alexander who made a live video on the Facebook page of the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) on July 17, 2020.

Alexander had said: “I’m coming to you from St. Vincent Street, behind me is the Guardian of Democracy building where CNC3 is held, 7 o’clock, when the 7 o’clock news is about to start on Nomination Day in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Guardian of Democracy, CNC3 and the Guardian Media owned by the Sabga group of companies have deliberately refused to cover the Progressive Empowerment Party. Every 2 by 4, every fly by night organization-Mickela Panday and the Syrian money that she was taking to, to, split votes, that[sic] get coverage for bowing out. She couldn’t bow in, she couldn’t get five members, she couldn’t get one candidate, she get media time.”

Phillip Edward Alexander

Panday said that the video remained on the PEP and Alexander’s Facebook pages from July 17, 2020 up to at least the first case management conference of the matter held on November 17, 2020 (about four months later).

She said she became aware of the post on the evening of July 17 and in a letter five days later she asked Alexander to remove it and issue a full and unequivocal retraction and apology in terms to be approved by the her attorneys and to be published on the PEP Facebook page.

Panday’s attorney argued that it was plain that the words complained of were defamatory to her in that it stated as a fact that she accepted money to “split votes” – a politician and barrister ready to trade her commitment to the national interest for any financial gain is disreputable.

Her attorneys submitted that the post would have had her reputation diminished by being accused of disreputable and unethical conduct.

They said, moreover, it was a criminal offence to pay or receive money in exchange for a candidate “bowing out” of an election as per section 75 of the Representation of the People Act.

At the trial, Alexander claimed that he never received the pre-action protocol letter despite the fact that it was sent via registered mail and he was therefore deprived of the opportunity to issue an apology.

Justice Rampersad said, “Notwithstanding the same, there was nothing preventing the defendant from issuing that apology when the claim was served on him and so avoid having this matter proceed. Instead, the defendant doubled down in his defence and carried the matter all the way to trial without any apology until he gave his witness statement – a fact not broadcast to the world as was his post – despite the fact that he had no basis whatsoever to have made the statement that he did.

“On top of all of that, the defendant put forward a defence which was bound to fail for lack of any cogent evidence in support and therefore aggravated damages are warranted as the defendant failed to mitigate his position despite the fact that his claim that was considered above was baseless.”

The judge said, “Having regard to the family name of Panday, which the claimant carries, and the local history of that family together with the claimant’s own otherwise unblemished history (in so far as no evidence of the same has been brought before the court), the court is of the respectful view that an award of $600,000 with exemplary damages in the sum of $250,000 is appropriate.

“These figures are adjusted upwards from other comparables to meet the trend in terms of the current economic situation, after considering all of the authorities cited in this judgment.”

Justice Rampersad also ordered Alexader to pay prescribed costs of claimant prescribed costs in the sum of $97,750.

On Sunday, Alexnader said he resigned from as political leader of the PEP.

Panday was represented by Justin Phelps, Rikki Harnanan and Chase Pegus instructed by Elena Da Silva-
Ottley. Appearing for Alexander were Arron Levi Daniel Smith instructed by Amelia Kamraj.


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