Tennis body: Justice Donaldson-Honeywell “misdirected herself” in “illogical ruling;” TTTTA lodges appeal

The legal stakes continue to rise in the impasse between star players Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung and the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA). The umbrella body has again ignored the arbitration route and instead responded with a blistering counter-attack on Madame Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell.

The TTTTA, represented by attorneys Stefan Ramkissoon, Dinesh Rambally and Kiel Tacklalsingh, essentially accused Donaldson-Honeywell of botching the court matter.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago table tennis star Dexter St Louis (left) attacks opponent David Mahabir during the 2016 Solo National Championships at the Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Saith Park, Chaguanas.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“The learned Judge misdirected herself in law, did not observe the applicable principles,” stated the TTTTA appeal, “and/or misapprehended the evidence in such a way that no reasonable persons would have come to the same conclusion.”

The body’s Executive comprises Ian Joseph (president), Simon Spicer (1st vice-president), Verna Edwards (2nd vice-president), Clive Ramsingh (3rd vice-president), Aleena Edwards (general secretary), Sarita Maharaj (assistant secretary), Janice Lewis (assistant secretary), Ray Fermin (treasurer) and Sherdon Pierre (public relations officer).

St Louis and Chung, who are both based in France and are arguably the country’s most successful players of all time, are represented by attorneys Dr Emir Crowne, Sheriza Khan and Matthew Gayle.

St Louis and Chung contend that they were unfairly omitted from the TTTTA’s team for the April Commonwealth Games and have sued for damages. Last Wednesday (31 January), Donaldson-Honeywell dismissed the players’ request for the High Court to refer their grievance with the local sporting body to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) for arbitration.

However, the High Court Judge opted to continue an injunction against the TTTTA—which effectively prevents the National Sporting Organisation (NSO) from preparing for the Games—and warned of a possible “wasted costs order” against the table tennis body as well.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago rising star Aaron Wilson was selected to represent his country at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

“The grounds on which the said order is being considered […] are that the (TTTTA) refused unreasonably to try an alternate dispute resolution procedure of arbitration,” stated Donaldson-Honeywell, “although said method may have been more expeditious, less costly and equally if not more effective in achieving a just result based on specialisation of the tribunal in sports practice and law.

“And that by the said refusal the (TTTTA) may have caused all parties to incur costs and delays unnecessarily.”

The next hearing date of 5 March is barely 24 hours before the TTOC’s final deadline for submitting its team for the Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Goldcoast, Australia, and creates a considerable risk that Trinidad and Tobago will not have a table tennis player at the prestigious tournament.

The TTTTA selected Aaron Wilson and Yuvraaj Dookram as its players for the Games, with Arun Roopnarine as reserve.

Joseph suggested the table tennis body’s legal strategy is partially motivated by money. Already, the cash-strapped NSO has committed something in the region of TT$30,000 in legal fees to the case.

But Joseph and his Executive did so in the belief that they would win and be granted legal costs. Arbitration, the TTTTA president suggested, would probably force the body to have to absorb those fees.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) president Ian Joseph (right) collects a cheque from a representative of a sponsor, Solo.

“It is not that we are just resisting arbitration [arbitrarily],” Joseph told Wired868. “We asked our lawyers to seek costs and damages [at the start of this case]. So if we go to arbitration, there is no way for us to recover what we are paying our lawyers.”

Of course, there is a legal cost to an appeal as well. But the TTTTA’s attorneys are satisfied that their client—and not Justice Donaldson-Honeywell—is in the right. And they minced no words in saying so.

“The learned Judge’s ruling/decision imposing an injunction enjoining the (TTTTA) from advancing the selected (Wilson and Dookram),” stated the appeal, which was signed by Ramkissoon, “is a cumulative result of errors in principle, procedure and substance thereby causing manifest injustice.”

The TTTTA’s list of Donaldson-Honeywell’s alleged errors includes misuse of the injunction, failing to strike out “highly prejudicial statements,” accepting “outdated and/or unaudited bank statements” from St Louis and Chung in deciding upon likely damages, and using “unsworn email evidence” by St Louis and Chung to reinstate injunction.

According to the TTTTA’s appeal, Madame Justice was attempting to punish the NSO for exercising its right not to use arbitration.

Photo: Yuvraaj Dookram (left) receives silverware from TTTTA official Vasdev Bob Roopnarine.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

“The learned Judge failed to appreciate properly or at all,” stated Ramkissoon’s legal document, “that the combined effect of her orders granting the injunction, dismissing the Respondent/Claimants’ application for a referral to arbitration and the notice of the likelihood of a wasted costs order being made premised on the non-consensual approach of the (TTTTA) to an alternate dispute resolution procedure of arbitration, was far remote from the legal principles of granting or refusing an injunction.

“And [was made] literally to punish the (TTTTA) for its non-consensual approach to the detriment of its own defence in the matter and the third parties selected to participate in the Commonwealth Games.”

The TTTTA contended too that Donaldson-Honeywell wrongly supported the “improper motive” of St Louis and Chung, which was that “if they were not the athletes selected to participate in the Games then no one else should attend.”

“The totality of the orders (i) granting the injunction, (ii) dismissing (St Louis and Chung’s) application for a referral to arbitration and (iii) the notice of the likelihood of a wasted costs order being made,” claimed the TTTTA’s legal team, “premised on the non-consensual approach of the (table tennis body) to an alternate dispute resolution procedure of arbitration, establish (sic) that the Court acted illogically and granted a futile injunction having regard to all the circumstances.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s France-based table tennis star Rheann Chung celebrates her 2016 Solo National Championships final win over Aleena Edwards at the Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Saith Park, Chaguanas.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

It is uncertain whether, if the appeal is unsuccessful, the TTTTA will still refuse arbitration and take its chances in the High Court—despite the possibility of a “wasted costs order.”

If the NSO stands firm, the sport might go unrepresented at the Commonwealth Games. Conversely, the TTOC’s arbitration body—if used—could either rule in favour of sending Wilson and Dookram, replace them with St Louis and Chung or choose Wilson and just one of the France-based players.

The case hinges on the selection process used by the TTTTA.

“I was unfairly bypassed for selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” stated Chung, in her court affidavit. “I was neither given an opportunity nor informed of any trial events for selection by the TTTTA, despite my previous contributions as a national of Trinidad and Tobago, often at my own cost.

“[…] On the face of it, none of the players who have been chosen have the standard of play that either [Dexter St Louis] or myself have. I […] believe that, had I been given a fair and just opportunity, I would have been selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

The TTTTA insists that it followed proper procedure and St Louis and Chung ruled themselves out by failing to respond within the body’s deadline for communicating their interest in playing for the country at the Commonwealth Games.

Photo: TTTTA general secretary Aleena Edwards (right) goes on the offensive against Rheann Chung during the 2016 Solo National Championships at the Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Saith Park, Chaguanas.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“When (the) TTOC asked for each individual player’s requirements,” stated TTTTA general secretary Edwards [A], “emails were sent to both Rheann and Dexter asking for their details but (we) did not receive any responses from them to enter into the visa online system. […] The persons chosen were duly chosen in accordance with the requisite processes of the Association in that regard.

“The selection of players is not based merely on a comparison of standard of play between [the chosen players] and [St Louis and Chung]. The Association duly followed the Association’s policy and procedures in the selection of the players.”

The TTTTA contends that not only were St Louis and Chung wrong in their interpretation of this matter but so was Justice Donaldson-Honeywell.

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  1. Lasana Ian Joseph should replace Tommy Joseph I feel he will be successful being a comedian or is either he suffering for mass hullication and vain imagination . The TTTTA selected a team on the 14th November on that said day during the selection process Ian Joseph and the members receive a letter from our lawyer which was copied to the TTOC asking for abrtitation because we had already know that they were not going to select us. Two other letters followed in late November and early December with no response from the TTTTA another letter was sent by our lawyer to TTOC asking them in invoke arbitration. They response by saying it had to come from the TTTTA . Now Ian Joseph is saying that they cannot go to abrtitation because they want to recuperate they legal fees, also on two occasions the judge stress to them that abrtitation is more suited for this process, they refuse to heed to her calling , they could of gone to abrtitation and avoid any legal cost in the first instance but what is comical is that in your last interview with Ian Joseph he said that going to abrtitation they would have had to compromise. So which one is true. Is it the legal cost or the fact that they have to compromise.

  2. How do you describe this behaviour? It is hard to fathom. You were not picked. Is this how it is done internationally.?.

  3. Whatever happened to natural justice? Has no place here? These 2 overseas players have virtually blocked the emergence of local players. So should the Association just exist for the benefit of persons who do not live here to the exclusion of locally based nationals? Interesting.

    • One could also question what coaching staff have done that the overseas players are better exposed. They could have simply requested the two partake in a minimum number of local contests to be eligible for selection.

    • I’d think you try to pick the players who give you the best chance of winning matches.

    • OK. The way the 2 of you put it, it sounds so simple and logical. It’s all about winning. What I see though is that circumstances have worked in a way to put 2 individuals is a position to dictate how things go, most of the time to their advantage. They have the power. But say what … it is what it is.

    • Olabisi are you saying that local coaches are incapable of training their charges to beat old overseas players?
      Working hard also allows for smart. Youtube videos and online info can suggest weaknesses of the two. Beating them should be simply wear them down and choke them up. If they like pace slow it down. If they like it down the middle take them to the sides. Train to be greater. Raise the bar to take world gold. Stop fighting for just trini podiums.

    • I dont have the inside knowledge that you seem to have about the local association. But in order to make a judgement about their capacity to develop international winners, one would have to examine their track record over X years to see whether there has been any improvement in the quality of the game of the local players. If there has been, then in my view, they are on to something good, even if nobody is at the level yet of the 2 overseas-based individuals. Young ones here can benefit from international exposure. I tend to think developmental, long term.

    she make ah backflip and …

  5. We have all kinna bush judge here tes..which is why the PC is sacrosanct

  6. Wait, did they just say that the Judge is either incompetent or imbecilic?

  7. “According to the TTTTA’s appeal, Madame Justice was attempting to punish the NSO for exercising its right not to use arbitration.”

    May not necessarily have been her intent, but it’s certainly the effect of her ruling. To essentially threaten them with “arbitrate or I will consider making you pay their costs” is unconscionable. They have an absolute right to litigate if that is their choice.

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