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TSTT board acts after public outcry
Majority state-owned TSTT has severed its sponsorship relationship with reigning Soca Monarch and Road March king, Machel Montano. The TSTT board, chaired by former Commissioner of Police Everad Snaggs, met last week and decided to end the telecommunication company’s sponsorship of Montano’s 2013 shows and performances, including his scheduled Soca B Square performance at Woodford Square in Port-of-Spain, today.
The Guardian was reliably informed that the decision, which comes after the soca star was found guilty of five charges on December 10 by a Port-of-Spain magistrate, was also taken in light of recent public calls for TSTT to cut ties with Montano as a sign the company would not endorse the behaviour for which he was found guilty.
Fixin’ T&T chairman Kirk Waithe had only last week called on the board to cut ties with Montano. Montano was found guilty of four charges of assault against Gerard Bowrin, Brandis Browne, Janelle Lee Chee and Russell Pollonais, arising out of a fracas outside the Zen nightclub in Port-of-Spain on April 26, 2007. He was also found guilty of using obscene language during the same incident.
Initially, Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor had adjourned Montano’s sentencing to January 17, but when the matter was heard on that day, the magistrate deferred sentencing until February 25. TSTT had sponsored Montano at least since 2006, during which time the company spent millions of dollars defraying the soca artiste’s stage production expenses in exchange for Montano appearing in TSTT advertisements.
T&T’s most popular soca artiste since Superblue was in his prime, Montano is seeking to defend his Power Soca Monarch and Road March titles this year with the biggest threat coming from a rejuvenated Superblue, with his 2013 hit Fantastic Friday. Montano, 38, has been at the forefront of soca for 30 years.
Also charged with Montano were Kernel Roberts, Joel “Zan” Fezeck and Rodney “Benjai” LeBlanc. Roberts, son of legendary calypso icon Lord Kitchener and composer of several of Montano's hit songs, was also found guilty on two charges of assault. Benjai, who was charged with one offence of assault and Fezeck, who was charged with two offences of assault, were each found not guilty.
At the hearing on January 17, lawyers representing Montano and Roberts, as well as from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, made legal submissions to the magistrate on whether or not the two convicted men could be sentenced to community service for the offences.
Efforts to contact Elizabeth Montano, Machel’s manager and mother, last night were unsuccessful as calls to her cellphone went unanswered. TSTT spokesperson Camille Salandy also did not return a message left on her mobile phone up to late last night.
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