By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 20, 2023
A few days ago, businessman Inshan Ishmael issued a pre-action protocol letter to Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins). He demands Cro Cro respond favourably to his letter within the next 28 days or face legal action in the High Court. Ishmael says he is the subject of Cro Cro’s calypso, “Another Sat Is Outside Again”.
Attorney Richard Jaggasar, Ishmael’s lawyer, says, “In the trial it will be contended that it was immaterial whether Cro Cro intended to cause harm or was careless in making his statements, as the tort of defamation is one of strict liability.” (Express, February 14.)
In other words, he argues that his suit does not require proof of mala fides (bad faith). He insists Cro Cro must be held accountable and made to pay for the blasphemies he has uttered about Ishmael and, by extension, the Indo-Trinbagonian community.
From the arrival of the English on our shores in 1797, Trinidad has been governed by Spanish and English laws. The libel laws in England and the American colonies “imposed criminal penalties, rather than civil. People were convicted of seditious libel for speaking or writing against the King of England or colonial leaders. People could be prosecuted for blasphemous libel for criticising the church” (David L Hudson Jr, “Libel and Slander”, The First Amendment —Encyclopedia.)
White people have been in charge of Trinidad’s Judiciary since the 1797. Until 1853, “no person was admitted to practise in this colony as an attorney and solicitor, whose credentials as such had, at first, been earned in England or Ireland, or who was recognised as a writer to the Signet in Scotland”. (William Seaton, “Vicissitudes of the Profession of Attorney and Solicitor in Trinidad”.)
After 1847, some exceptionally gifted black lawyers and solicitors, such as Alexander Fitzjames, Michel Maxwell Philip, Vincent Brown and Cyrus Prudhomme David qualified from the Inns of Court in England. They advocated for black people and contributed much to Trinidad’s jurisprudence.
Necessarily, the privileged folks (planters, merchants, shopkeepers, etc) had legal representation at the courts. While their issues were dealt with expeditiously, the gripes and injustices of the demimonde (or the people who resided on the edges of the society) were left unattended. It was the calypsonians who spoke on their behalf.
This is why Cro Cro was not afraid when Jaggasar boasted he would rely on a literal interpretation of tort law. Cro Cro may not have known about the legal formulations that Ishmael’s lawyer is prepared to use, but he recognised the strategy for what it is: a variation of the old tactics of intimidation that the dominant race has used against his people for ages. As a warrior of the race, he was not particularly afraid of such tactics.
The outstanding justices of the 19th century had knowledge of linguistics, an acquaintance with different languages, and a fundamental understanding of their infant society.
JJ Thomas, author of The Theory and Practice of Creole Grammar, noted that William George Knox, chief justice from 1849 to 1869, “was not only an accomplished linguist, but he also had some acquaintance with philology… [He] spoke the vernacular French patois well, and was in 1869, preparing for publication a philological dissertation thereon over which he had long brooded”. (Anthony Delamere, The Old and the New Bar.)
Philip knew the Spanish law that under-girded the English law that governed the island. He drafted the ordinance that made the professions of attorney and solicitor more accessible “than it had been for well-nigh two decades” and the ordinance that brought Trinidad and Tobago together as a political entity in 1888 (“Vicissitudes of the Profession”). He also wrote Emmanuel Appadocca (1854), the first novel of the Anglophone Caribbean.
Jaggasar and his colleagues may be familiar with the letter of the law. As a calypsonian and “a conscious black man”, Cro Cro was concerned with the spirit of the law, which is vital to his people’s spiritual well-being. Therefore, his response to Ishmael’s boast of crippling him financially: “Calypso was born out of protest. I will always sing about the issues.”
These are the words of a warrior who is ready to protect a verbal-musical form that was performed also at African cultural practices such as the kalenda, shango, belair and other work songs. The calypsonian, part of the warrior class, always saw his function as defending the race, which is why he takes his responsibility to his group so seriously.
Instinctively, Cro Cro recognises the important truism, “He knows neither law nor justice who only law and litigation know.” Law is more than statutes and torts. He realises that one has to immerse oneself in the history and geography of a people to understand what makes them function.
Cro Cro says, “I am singing for people to wake up and get conscious, and that is the job of the calypsonian. Calypso was born out of protest, and I will always sing about the issues. I never had a rough year, so whether I am in the semi-finals or not, that is not slowing me down. They want me to stop? Not over my dead body.”
Sat Maharaj, a quintessential Trinbagonian, fought tirelessly for the rights of Indo-Trinbagonians although Cro Cro criticised him relentlessly. He never brought a suit against the latter. He knew one could not/should not try to silence the voice of the calypsonian. He didn’t care what Cro Cro said or felt about him. Like Cro Cro, he just kept on working to improve the well-being of his people.
We’ve come too far by faith and action to turn back now. Thus, I hail our warrior king.
3 thoughts on “Cro Cro: our warrior king”
Cro Cro is king of the banana republic. In other parts of the world he would be sued. Defamation of character is a breech of the true spirit of calypso. Chalkie sang about Sat but he was attacking the early marriage policy of SDMS. Today in many US states a 15 year old can get married. The requirement is to come before a judge and if everything checks out and the girl is not forced, a certificate is issued for her to enter holy matrimony. With 3000 teenage underage school girls getting pregnant every year. The bastardization of the next generation continues. Of course if no one reports who will the police arrest.
But back to the topic at hand, the part of the calypso that identifies Inshan, Bamboo and car thief is libellous unless Cro have proof the Inshan is a car thief. It is well known that Inshan love black people, he publicly declared many are his friends from his early school days. And them indian and them was racist. He make a public confession. So if a brethren slip and make some money off him you would think like Sat he would take it on the chin. But he is prepared to stifle black culture, especially since these singer in particular gets CEPEP contracts and is a known balisier juice drinker. PNM supporters have the lowest moral and ethical values when it comes to Carnival and calypso. They will bump and grind to anything.
It remains to be seen if Cro Cro will have to pay up…but I suspect people from balisier house is edging him on…
“SEVEN people were murdered on Carnival Saturday including a man who was beaten to death near a police station and a man who was found shot to death in Wallerfield. The seven killings took the murder toll to 92 for the year.”
The Birdie reminded children of the importance of an education.
“Children, go to school and learn well
Otherwise later on in life you’ll go catch real hell
Without an education in your head
Your whole life will be pure misery, you’re better off dead
For there is simply no room in this whole wide world
For an uneducated little boy or girl
Don’t follow idle companions or you will get burned
To earn, to earn, you got to learn”
The gangs are outperform all and sundry as the number rise each day. Many of these gang leaders are high school drop outs without a structure in the home. Birdie reminded the nation children of the need to lift and elevate themselves from a life of degradation by having an education.
In 7 years of this Rowley administration they built one school and left several schools nearing completion undone. Ramai Trace Hindu School is 95% complete and was left for grass to grow over the school. They could have handed it over to SDMS and it would have been completed. Meanwhile in 5 years Kamla built over a 100 schools. Is it any surprise that TnT is failing under the dastardly Rowley regime? Punishing the children in Ramai Trace, they have to get up early in morning to get set to commute a distance to get an education. It is not right.
According to the Express “ I’m dreadfully alarmed that there are some 50,000 primary and secondary pupils who have been unable to access remote learning during the past year of “lockdown”. This is approximately 23 per cent of the estimated total of 216,000 pupils. This calculation is based on 18,000 pupils per year times 12 grades.”. “ This Government thought purchasing 18,000 laptops or devices every year was a waste of money. Are you happy now? Your Education Minister goes to the corporate community to “beg” for them to contribute.” According to Newsday “ 9,000 falling beneath 50 per cent in SEA results, are all very troubling, especially with downstream lower-class consequences.” 2021
Less than 2 months in this year and close to a hundred murders. Social ills combined with a lack of jobs and a sense of hopelessness is driving the hearse to the grave. This PNM regime led by maximum leader is taking TnT down to the abyss. A regime change is long over due.
An Islamic Sat?
Maybe Vijay Maharaj could, when he next goes on vacation, ask Inshan to act as Maha Sabha head for a week or so. Maybe add some Hijab options to the Lakshmi Girls uniform….. why not a little diversity? And one week off alcohol wouldn’t hurt the Hindu community (except for those who develop severe withdrawal symptoms, in Parliament and elsewhere……)
Worth it just to troll Cro Cro and leave him scratching his head……..