Judge orders Cro Cro to sing 'sanitised version' of song or face contempt charge

Calypsonian Weston
Calypsonian Weston "Cro Cro" Rawlins during a performace at the Naparima Bowl in February 2022. - MARVIN HAMILTON

FORMER calypso monarch Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins will only be allowed to perform a sanitised version of his 2023 calypso, Another Sat is Outside Again, at two shows this weekend in San Fernando and Port of Spain.

In an emergency hearing on Saturday, Justice Frank Seepersad issued a wider injunction against the calypsonian in a lawsuit filed by businessman Inshan Ishmael.

Ishmael initially wanted the court to prevent Rawlins from singing the song at the Naparima Bowl and Government Campus Plaza but then asked that both shows be stopped.

While the veteran calypsonian can sing his 2023 offering, he cannot repeat any of the words complained of as offensive and defamatory by Ishmael until the court determines if the words are, in fact, about Ishmael and defamatory.

He can rewrite the song but cannot recreate any references to the businessman, the judge’s order says.

“The defendant is a former calypso monarch, he has an extensive musical portfolio and is not a “one-hit wonder.” It is likely that the defendant‘s fans would enjoy his performance even if he does not perform the imputed calypso.”

Ishmael was represented by Nigel Trancuso and Richard Jaggasar while Rawlins was represented by Senior Counsel Gilbert Peterson and Kareem Marcelle at Saturday’s virtual hearing.

The injunction will continue until the trial of the matter or otherwise directed, Seepersad ordered.

“The artform has fashioned the way we live, think and socialise and the commentary it offers can catalyse awareness and change. Creative licence, however, cannot be used as a sword to engage in ill-informed or baseless attacks which can decimate an individual's character or integrity.

“We strive to live in a civilised space where freedom of expression must be balanced and must be engaged in a reasonable, fair and proportionate manner which ensures that the fundamental rights of others are not eviscerated.

“This court will not condone or accept any position which advances a narrative that social media comments or commentary by calypsonians is sacrosanct and that people should be free to say whatever they feel as they ‘speak their minds’ even if the content is divisive, derogatory, deceitful, dishonest or defamatory.”

The judge also warned that if any part of his order was violated, a no-tolerance approach will be taken and he will not shy away from finding anyone in contempt of breaching any court order.

In his arguments, Trancuso pointed to newspaper interviews and radio broadcasts with Rawlins speaking of the song. He said if allowed to sing the contentious song, his client’s reputation will continue to be assassinated and no amount of compensation would suffice.

Marcelle argued that Ishmael had not crossed the two major hurdles – if there was a serious issue to be tried or that the song was libellous. He also said he failed to show the impact of the alleged distress caused to Ishmael. Marcelle also pointed to possible defences open to Rawlins, including "fair comment." However, the judge said "fair comment" could not be based on speculation.

In his ruling, Seepersad said, “The court notes that the defendant's song referenced the name ‘Inshan’ which was juxtaposed against the assertion that this individual sells stolen car parts in the Bamboo.

“The claimant is a well-known social media and public commentator and the court takes judicial notice that he owns and operates a car parts business in the Bamboo.”

He referred to the media interviews with Rawlins and said, at this stage, it was plausible that Ishmael could establish at trial the calypso referred to him.

“The words used in the calypso are rather direct.”

“A person's reputation is not a tradable commodity but it is a prized possession. It is carefully fashioned over one's lifetime and must be jealously guarded. When an individual's reputation is defiled without justification, damages can never be viewed as an appropriate remedy.”

He said the greater risk of justice would be to refuse to grant the injunction.

“The court notes that if ultimately at the trial, it finds that the defendant did defame the claimant, it would be dangerous, obnoxious and unacceptable for the defendant to have milked the defamatory material for either financial gain or to effect continued and repeated damage the claimant’s reputation.

The issue of costs was reserved.


"Judge orders Cro Cro to sing 'sanitised version' of song or face contempt charge"

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