A lesson for performers

On Monday afternoon, Machel Montano and Kernal Roberts heard their fate from magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor. Montano had been found guilty late last year on four counts of assault, while the single count of using obscene language was discharged. He was ordered to pay $27,200 in fines and compensation while Roberts will pay $24,000.

There should be no doubt that Magistrate Baboolal-Gafoor was guided by past incidents, the character demonstrated by and cited in testimonials for the two men, and perhaps the hope that the case might serve as an example and warning to other high-profile people of their responsibility to the public at large. The case certainly cost Montano more than the fines and compensation he has been asked to pay.

It may have implications for his freedom to travel and hence perform overseas. Already, too, since the judgement was handed down, the popular performer has lost at least one major endorsement deal, raised concerns among other existing and potential clients and polarised public opinion even more vigorously than he has previously.

In 2011 chutney soca singer Ravi Bissambhar was charged for inciting members of the audience to throw objects on stage during the Chutney Soca Monarch finals when it emerged that he was not the winner. In October 2012, he was reprimanded and discharged.

Officers of the court face a unique dilemma in such cases. The court must make consequences clear while ensuring that the public is not alienated by the process. The experience of Montano and Roberts was an opportunity for magistrate Baboolal-Gafoor to offer guidance, instruction and possibly influence not just the pair of performers, but also the large group of young people who take cues from them.

Machel Montano and Kernal Roberts should walk away from this case not only with the gratitude and thanks to God that they have verbally expressed, but also fully understanding what this experience has to teach them. Lesson number one should be that superhuman patience is expected of the extraordinarily popular. The case as outlined in court made it clear that Montano’s group was subject to specific and sustained attention at Zen.

Nevertheless, their response was ultimately judged to be unwarranted. The second lesson should concern public expectations of them. If you encourage roughneck behaviour on stage, it should come as no surprise to find it returned at a nightclub. An artiste gets what he/she puts into the world and that’s something both men should consider in their future work.

Finally, Montano announced that he would continue to live his life “one day at a time” after the sentencing. He should, instead, feel motivated to take a much longer view. Machel Montano is the creative lead of a clan of talent that looks to him for guidance. He is no longer a teenager, and more is expected of him.

Baboolal-Gafoor’s sentencing suggests that she believes that, given a chance, he will contribute more value to his art and the nation as a whole. Both men need to demonstrate that they deserve that trust.

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