“Whether you agree with him or not, he was a fighter, fighting for his rights.”
Madam Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell paid tribute to the late Dexter St Louis at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, yesterday. Before extending her condolences to St Louis’ widow Jeromaine St Louis and his stepdaughter Rheann Chung, the high court judge expressed her satisfaction with the settlement reached in the St Louis/Chung vs Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) matter.
The trial was scheduled to start yesterday and conclude tomorrow. However, both parties agreed to settle. In a joint statement, the disadvantages of proceeding with the trial were outlined.
“The parties having recognised that a long, contested High Court action would only serve to deepen divides, entrench and, perhaps, financially destabilise the sport of table tennis in this country.
“The TTTTA acknowledges that certain actions and/or decisions in the past may have been perceived by the Claimants as being unfair. The TTTTA recognises that continued litigation would only serve to hurt the sport and the image of two athletes that have served Trinidad and Tobago with distinction. As a result, both parties have agreed to amicably settle this matter.”
St Louis and Chung took the TTTTA to court over their non-selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. They both attended the Games after the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) opened up two additional spots for table tennis.
The highlight of yesterday’s settlement was the TTTTA agreeing to establish the Dexter St Louis Memorial Fund.
“This fund would provide annual grants and/or scholarships for up-and-coming table tennis athletes,” the joint statement explained. “Clear criteria for the selection of said recipients would be established by the TTTTA and the estate of Mr Dexter St Louis.”
Matthew Gayle and sports lawyer Dr Emir Crowne represented St Louis and Chung in the matter. Gayle, who appeared for the claimants in the high court yesterday, was pleased with the terms of the settlement.
“The order today represents a victory for Dexter and Rheann,” Gayle told the Express. “Justice Donaldson-Honeywell has pronounced on the case once in the high court quite clearly in favour of Dexter and Rheann, and the court of appeal perhaps even more favourably endorsed their position.
“So today,” the lawyer continued, “the outcome and the creation of the Dexter St Louis Memorial Fund is as clear an acknowledgement as the association is ever likely to give of their shortcomings. Going forward, there’s an opportunity to really dedicate the association and this matter to young and promising athletes through this fund.”
TTTTA president David Joseph agreed that establishment of the fund was a positive move.
“I always thought it would be a nice way for Dexter’s name to live on,” the president told the Express, “and in the long term would be beneficial for players. At the end of the day, Dexter St Louis is the country’s most decorated table tennis player. I am very grateful that both parties were able to come to a reasonable ending, realising that the interest of the sport was the priority.”
St Louis, who died in May following a brief illness, represented T&T for more than three decades. He qualified for the Olympic Games twice and captured five Caribbean men’s singles titles.
Lawyers Dinesh Rambally, Stefan Ramkissoon and Kiel Tacklalsingh represented the TTTTA in the matter. Yesterday, Tacklalsingh spoke on behalf of the team.
“I hope Dexter St Louis is duly recognised for his contribution to the country and the sport.”
France-based Chung, a five-time Caribbean women’s singles champion, was in the court yesterday, along with her mother Jeromaine.
“The Memorial Fund is a great idea,” Chung told the Express, “to keep Dexter’s memory alive. Also, the fact that the TTTTA more or less acknowledged their wrongdoings was tremendously important to me. It was never our intention to damage the sport, and this was never about money. This was always about transparency and principle. Dexter was a guy who always fought for what was right.
“To all the NSOs (National Sporting Organisations), this is a warning to not mess with any athlete’s life. And I’m going to say this to the TTTTA, the slightest mistake and we will come at you again. To my lawyers, Dr Emir Crowne, Matthew Gayle and also Sheriza Khan who was there at the beginning, Dexter, myself and my mom appreciate you a lot. Thank you.”
Jeromaine was also very grateful for the legal direction received.
“We listened to the advice of the lawyers, which is what Dexter would have done. This case sends a message to all officials to respect all athletes, choose wisely, and not be biased and spiteful because there’s always a solution for justice. The Dexter St Louis Memorial Fund would keep Dexter’s name alive, and remind people about fairness and somebody who fought for justice for all athletes.”
There was no order as to costs in the settlement.