Businessman Inshan Ishmael has made good on his threat to sue four-time Calypso Monarch Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins for defamation over his entry in this year’s National Calypso Monarch competition.
Ishmael’s lawyer Richard Jaggasar filed the lawsuit against Rawlins and the Copyright Organisation of T&T (COTT) yesterday afternoon.
In his court filings, Jaggasar claimed that on February 5, Rawlins, with COTT’s permission performed a calypso titled Another Sat Maraj is Outside Again which allegedly named his clients.
“The lyrics of the song directly name, identify, and attack the claimant; and encourages others to attack the claimant verbally and physically and to financially abstain from his businesses,” Jaggasar said.
“As a result of the lyrics of the song the claimant is now viewed as a criminal, a racist, and a thief,” he added.
He claimed a video of Rawlins performing the song was posted on YouTube and shared on social media with tags identifying his client.
Although Rawlins did not qualify for the semifinals of the competition at Calypso Fiesta in Skinner Park, San Fernando, on February 11, Jaggasar claimed the video of the performance was widely shared.
Jaggasar said although a pre-action protocol letter was served on Rawlins and was reported in the daily newspapers, Rawlins failed to respond leading to the lawsuit.
“At the trial, this shall be contended as an aggravated factor as it is in complete defiance of normal practice, practice directions, and makes a mockery of the judicial system,” Jaggasar said.
He referred to a report in which Rawlins was interviewed and rejected the legal threat as he denied that Ishmael was the subject of the song.
Jaggasar challenged Rawlins’ claim over the song as he contended that Rawlins repeatedly mentioned “Ishmael” throughout.
“In any event and for the removal of doubt the public continued to take the defamatory song as referring to the claimant,” he said.
He pointed to an interview with Rawlins on Street 91.9 FM on February 14, in which Rawlins allegedly admitted to “camouflaging” his client’s name in the song targeting him.
Jaggasar pointed to the fact that the song was repeatedly highlighted in the advertisement for events allegedly hosted by Rawlins this weekend at the Government Plaza in Port-of-Spain and at the Naparima Bowl.
“The first defendant has not replied to the pre-action protocol letter but appears to be hosting an event which is geared towards publicly replying to the letter,” he said, as he pointed out that the advertisement indicated that the proceeds of the events would assist Rawlins in paying potential legal fees over the song.
Jaggasar noted that as the event was advertised on the radio, a broadcast license from COTT was required as the song was registered with it.
He claimed that when he contacted COTT last month to signal his client’s intention to sue, COTT confirmed that the licence was required and issued and it collected royalties on the song.
“It shall also be contended at trial that the second defendant, as the lawful owner of the statement, knew or ought to have known by their own assessment that the song was defamatory and did not discontinue the permission to perform same or prevent it from being broadcasted,” he said.
“Even to date they have opted to take no action,” Jaggasar said.
Through the lawsuit, Ishmael is claiming general and aggravated damages for the alleged damage to his character. He is claiming special damages as he claimed that his automotive and restaurant businesses were allegedly affected. He is also seeking an injunction restraining Rawlins from performing the song and distributing the video recording of the performance.
The case has been assigned to Justice Frank Seepersad.