"I am very sorry for what has happened. I think he is a great musical icon. We all agree on that. We are very proud of his talent, but when you break the law, you have to pay for it."
That was the statement made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday on soca star Machel Montano being convicted on five criminal charges.
Persad-Bissessar was speaking with reporters during her annual Christmas Gift Outreach at the bpTT Grounds in Mayaro last evening.
Montano has been courted by the People's Partnership administration, and used to stir the patriotism of citizens during the nation's 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations.
Montano was on Monday found guilty of four charges of assaulting Russell Pollonais, Brandis Browne, Janelle Lee Chee, and Gerard Bowrin outside the Zen nightclub in Port of Spain on April 26, 2007.
He was also found guilty of using obscene language that night.
Also found guilty of assaulting Pollonais and Browne was Kernal Roberts, the son of the late calypso icon Lord Kitchener.
Two other entertainers, Rodney "Benjai" Le Blanc and Joel "Zan" Feveck, were found not guilty on assault charges by Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor.
The families of several of the victims feel that Montano has shown no remorse, and Browne believes the entertainer should serve prison time for the offences.
Montano and Roberts face a maximum five years in prison for the offence of assault occasioning bodily harm.
Persad-Bissessar, who was accompanied on yesterday's gift-giving exercise by Member of Parliament for Mayaro Winston "Gypsy" Peters, said of the verdict, "Why I will not comment on it in any adverse manner (is because) I have not spoken to him, to his lawyers or to his family or to him (regarding) if they placed an appeal at the court."
In January 2011, Persad-Bissessar was on stage when Montano performed at the Rienzi Complex, Couva, during the first anniversary celebration of her becoming political leader of the United National Congress (UNC).
Persad-Bissessar in February also attended a Montano concert and appeared on stage with the performer. Montano won last year's Soca Monarch competition, taking home a one-off prize of $2 million sponsored by the Government.
This year, he won the Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch competitions, taking home $2.5 million.
On May 24 this year, Montano was among the entertainers performing at the People's Partnership second anniversary celebrations at the Mid-Centre Mall, Chaguanas.
In May, a $5 million deal was announced by Planning and Development Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie in which Montano would partner with Government to compile a CD to commemorate the country's 50th anniversary of Independence.
Tewarie told the Express on Monday that the Montano matter was still not fully resolved, since the sentencing was adjourned to January 17.
And the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), which has a big endorsement deal with Montano, has issued a press statement, standing by him.
Persad-Bissessar said she could not comment on the TSTT endorsement.
"TSTT will have to deal with that," she said yesterday.
Peters also spoke about Montano, saying the entertainer was a great artiste who had made positive contributions to the country and who should be allowed to defend his Carnival titles next year.
—with reporting by Carolyn Kissoon