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PEP leader Phillip Alexander

Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP) leader Phillip Alexander has rubbished a defamation lawsuit threatened against him by the Urban Development Company of T&T (Udecott).

In a press release issued yesterday, Alexander questioned the decision of the State project management company to sue him over his allegations on the $89 million renovations to President’s House.

“It would be interesting to see how the court determines the State’s right to refuse accounting or to muzzle citizens questioning their activities,” Alexander said.

Alexander also criticised the decision of Udecott’s lawyer Deborah Peake, SC, to cite a case in which High Court Judge Carol Gobin made strong statements on Alexander’s conduct as she ordered him to pay businessman Andrew Gabriel $775,000 in compensation for defamation. The case is currently before the Court of Appeal.

“I would remind Ms Peake that T&T is still a democracy and freedom of speech is alive and well, regardless of whether she wears silk, satin, or polyester cotton to work,” Alexander said.

Peake’s letter stemmed from a video posted on the party’s social media accounts on January 3.

In the video, titled “A PEP Special Investigation into the cost of President’s House Part 1”, Alexander and a guest identified as Stephan Reis discussed the renovations performed on the building for approximately one hour and two minutes.

Peake said: “Notably, throughout the video you made it clear that you were speaking from a lack of knowledge and did not even know the size of President’s House but nevertheless proceeded to make a number of false, ill-informed statement concerning the project and my client’s handling of same.”

Peake stated that the “egregious allegations” were wholly unjustified and malicious.

Peake gave Alexander until this morning to officially respond to the letter before filing the lawsuit.

Shortly after Alexander issued his release, Udecott’s Corporate Communications Manager Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms issued a release to the media stating that Udecott’s chairman Noel Garcia has threatened to sue Alexander in her personal capacity.

“I feel very aggrieved. I am paying this for myself. Not a cent of tax-payers dollars is being used for my legal action. I wish to protect my name and 39 years of unblemished national public service, having served on at least 10 Boards,” Garcia said, in a direct quote in Stapleton-Whyms’ email.