Live Wire chronicles: Rikki robbery, Sturge’s US plea and a vicey story

Soca chutney star and local music icon, Samraj “Rikki Jai” Jaimungal, was the victim of armed robbery on Wednesday night, after band rehearsal on Wednesday night. So far, Mr Live Wire understands that Soca Monarch franchise holder, William Munro, is not considered a suspect.

Photo: Chutney soca star Rikki Jai.
Photo: Chutney soca star Rikki Jai.

“He threatened to shoot me but I begged for my life,” Jai told the Trinidad Guardian. “I told him he did not have to shoot, I will hand over the money and he showed me some mercy and only robbed me.

“I have to thank God for that.”

The incident lasted approximately three minutes before the bandit took off with Jai’s cash and cell phone. Live Wire cannot confirm that Minister Two Pull heard about the robbery and said: Amateur! My gang would have held him hostage for five years and been sure to empty his treasury!

In fact, Jai, probably miffed by the anticlimactic feel of the episode, told the Guardian that he drove after the bandit but lost sight of him near the Carib Brewery.

Was Jai hoping to convince the robber to collaborate on another crossover hit?

Live Wire is glad he didn’t catch him. Suppose the fellah’s tune of choice was: “Bang bang?”

Photo: You want your money back?! You must think I asked you for a loan!
Photo: You want your money back?! You must think I asked you for a loan!

As Organiser sang, almost three decades ago, Trinidad and Tobago is bandit country and one might as well show some respect for exponents of the art form.

Why force a bandit to have to rearrange your physiognomy or lower the resale value of your vehicle to prove his commitment to the enterprise?

If Jai ever finds himself in such an unfortunate situation again and the bandit asks if he will stay put, the correct answer is: Ent you know.

It is easy for us to think that the life of banditry is a free-for-all binge of snatching wallets, emptying bank accounts and paying millions for unfulfilled State contracts. But then the grass always looks greener from the other side.

Take, for instance, the sad tale of the late Matthew “Smeagol” Simmons, who, according to his sister Jahalia, was a former Morvant resident entrusted with a leadership role in a Belmont gang.

Photo: Can Smeagol get on the executive committee of your gang?
Photo: Can Smeagol get on the executive committee of your gang?

“There was a split in the gang he was in,” Jahalia told the Guardian, “and because he was close to one of the senior members he was placed in the leadership position.

“I think he was not liked because of the fact that he was originally from Morvant.”

Morvant residents are not good enough for executive positions in Belmont gangs?

And here we thought only primary schools, banks and Darryl Heeralal were hung up on discrimination by street address.

An eyewitness recounted Smeagol’s last stand, as a masked man—subsequently identified as Oswald Bailey—pulled in front of the former’s taxi with deadly intent.

“As Smeagol see the car pull up and the masked man come out, he jumped out of the taxi and ran up to him,” said the eyewitness. “Smeagol was shot but he still ran up to the masked gunman and began fighting with him. He managed to reach for the gun and shot the killer with his own gun.

“The masked man dropped down right on the road and as Smeagol attempted to walk away he drop down on the pavement where he died. The man get his own justice yes, because the police don’t give none.”

Photo: Senior superintendent Johnny Abraham's job description may or not include the roles of judge, jury and executioner.
Photo: Senior superintendent Johnny Abraham’s job description may or not include the roles of judge, jury and executioner.

Right now, if you are anything like Mr Live Wire, you might be thinking: Who is this eyewitness who knew Simmons by his alias and has such radical, albeit poetic notions, of justice?

But, let’s face it, justice is a fluid term in Trinidad and Tobago.

Take Opposition Wayne Sturge’s efforts to have UDECOTT chairman Noel Garcia investigated for allegedly accepting kickbacks during his spell as HDC managing director.

Last week, Sturge sent a letter to the US Embassy and copied it to the US AG Loretta Lynch, which urged the North American nation to: use its power to make the relevant enquiries to determine whether accounts in the American financial system were used by persons included, but not limited to Mr Noel Garcia, in connection with acts of fraud, including the receipt or transfer of illegal payments, bribes or kickbacks and if so the exact nature source and disposition of those funds.

Sturge could have waited on the local Police Service and Integrity Commission. And his request was a sorry indictment on our boast of self-governance.

Photo: United States Attorney General Loretta E Lynch:  So you want us to investigate Noel Garcia? How about Ish?
Photo: United States Attorney General Loretta E Lynch:
So you want us to investigate Noel Garcia? How about Ish?

But then, more than two years on, the police still cannot determine what the “plant-like substance” was in former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s residence. And the Integrity Commission might still be waiting on all the right boxes to be ticked before probing TOP leader Ashworth Jack’s “pumpkin and bodi” mansion in Tobago.

The thing is the United States Department of Justice prefers to use its considerable resources to stalk big fish not wabeen.

It is often an alien concept for local law enforcement officers, who always seem to execute drugs busts when nobody is home but are much more adept at conducting arrests for soliciting or child maintenance.

Yet, wabeens do sometimes grow into big fish.

Take for example a police raid on a “vice party” at an El Dorado residence over the Father’s Day weekend in 2012.

The Northern Division Task Force, who got wind of the event through BlackBerry message adverts from promoter Anthony Smith, stormed the party at 4 am and found naked women gyrating on men and over a dozen hired “dancers.”

Photo: Who're you calling a bitch?!
Photo: Who’re you calling a bitch?!

Police made 33 arrests, including 14 dancers and patrons who paid the admission of $200. At least two of the women were minors.

Magistrate Gail Gonzales  fined dancers and patrons who pleaded guilty between $300 and $400.

Now you might be thinking: $200 admission, $400 court fine plus scantily clad gyrating women probably makes Smith’s party a more economical all-inclusive fete than most.

Or, minus the minors, how is that different to most bachelor parties?

But consider the party planner, Smith. Gonzales sentenced him to three month’s hard labour on 17 June 2012.

It would not be the last we heard of him though.

On Wednesday 6 January 2016, Smith, a married father of three and bar owner, appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesars.

Photo: Anthony Smith faces 21 criminal charges before the Magistrate's Court.
Photo: Anthony Smith faces 21 criminal charges before the Magistrate’s Court.

This time, Smith faced 21 criminal charges including causing or inciting a child into prostitution, sexually penetrating the child, common assault against the child and recruiting the child for the purpose of human trafficking.

The illicit actions were alleged to have occurred at unknown dates during the almost one-year period at various locations, including a house at Dookie Lane, Cane Farm, Arouca; Oropune Gardens, Piarco, and once at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain.

After the alleged antics of Roodal Moonilal, Jack Warner, Darren Millien and, now, Anthony Smith, God knows what has to happen at the Hyatt next for it to finally be put on the list of local criminal “hot spots.”

The moral of the story? Do morals survive in these parts?

But Mr Live Wire would like to encourage the police to soldier on, despite the criticism, and follow up on the suspicious characters within their database.

Photo: License and registration please...
Photo: License and registration please…

We can start with Jai’s robber. Let’s arrest him now before he is running a State-favoured construction firm in five years time!

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  1. After the robbery, Jai said that he now knows how the other contestants in the chutney soca competitions feel.

  2. Ricki Jai tell the bandit that if yuh doh leave meh, ah go sing a song. The bandit bust a shot and run in fear – holding his ears. Jai chased him up to carib, but got distracted when he saw the factory and then felt a sudden excruciating thirst, as such gave up the chase and went for a beverage.

  3. That whole fraternity is not known for TRUTHS. Real kicks. Rikki runs down a bandit with a gun? Clowns!

  4. The media also provide us with less detailed information about local goings on than they do about foreign.

    • That may be linked to resources. Small staff. Access to neughbourhoods. Etc.

    • It may also be linked to lack of dedication, poor motivation and an absence of professional pride as well Rhodes.
      The Express Asha Javeed seems to be having little problem.

    • Rhoda, I only wish I had the resources the newspapers do. Too much of news is press releases and press conferences.
      Editors need to free reporters up to find news. And encourage reporters to cover particular beats diligently.
      There is no specialist education or energy or environmental reporter from what I see generally. Not columnist but reporter.
      We are short staffed but I think we can do better with a little brain storming.

    • Lasana Liburd…when ever I pound the slackness of reporters I consistently get the argument of low remuneration. Like you, if I had their resources…or in my case, more time, I would make ole mas in this place.

    • Nothing to do with remuneration. Because I’m not asking them to work overtime. Just more structure to their hours at work. Less time answering the phone and more time on stories.
      I know the system well. Too many editors who never really worked as reporters and are just bluffing is part of the problem.
      They can’t guide their reporters and don’t understand how to support them, motivate them and unleash them.

    • First, Asha is self-motivated. Second, she is never shy about getting advice or bouncing ideas off vets, including people outside Express when necessary.
      And when she sinks her teeth into an issue, she gnaws at it for weeks or even months like the LifeSport matter for instance.
      So she sticks around long enough in a beat to get some in-depth knowledge.
      Most reporters don’t specialise in a field and bounce around from one beat to another so often that they don’t really become experts in anything.

    • In other words Asha is a higher caliber journalist than most of her Express colleagues for the simple fact that she takes her craft seriously?

      If so others have very little excuse.

    • Exactly. Genius is just a capacity for hard work and problem solving.

    • Then perhaps the paper can find ways to offer incentives for better work.

    • At a point in time, there used to be local awards, if I recall correctly. Award winning (local snd foreign) journalists should be able to command higher salary. Maybe some of our local stories might be picked up by regional and int’l press and get paid for that as well.

    • When the stories are picked up by foreign press, it is the newspaper that is paid as they own copyright Nerisha. Freelancers sometimes have different contracts but rarely.
      The media awards do help I think. And it should raise your value too.
      But then there have been no awards in well over a decade I think. So the good journalists motivated themselves regardless.

    • So…have recommendations been made to MATT, for eg, to re-introduce said awards? These may also help bring back standards in journalism, as well. Poor reporting, poor grammar, inflamatory/mis-leading headlines. And why are newspapers allowed to publish deceased bodies on front page, or at all? Since there is no moral/public outrage, they can just set the standard.

    • If that’s the case Lasana how is it that people like Asha are able to crank out such excellent work so consistently?

    • I’ll tell you something about those pictures of murder victims eh. Last week a friend of mine posted an article about a double murder in Belmont that featured a huge photo of the bodies as they lay uncovered in the road for adults and children to see, naturally I protested against the photo and the very next person to comment after me said she was happy that “they” were killing each other out. I asked her who is “they” and why did they deserve to be murdered, she said they were pests. When I asked her if she knew the victims she stopped commenting.
      The media posts these grotesque photos because they understand that their consumers would automatically find the deceased guilty and deserving of a death sentence.

      This is the culture to which we belong, now mind you had the American media featured a similar photo Trinidadians would say it was wrong and that they only posted those photos because the victims were black and lived in a depressed community.

    • Nerisha, I never thought the media awards worked well. But then I might so as I never won! Lol.
      The awards was discontinued by the time I was just about four or five years in the business. But here is what I found.
      The winner was always the biggest story but not necessarily the best written story. For instance, if I wrote a tremendous story about a community football game. It would have no chance against a story with typos about the women’s national team match against Ecuador. Because that was simply the biggest game of the year.
      The other thing is as a journalist I had started writing for the judges so to speak. Lol. In that if I felt this was maybe the type of big story that gets awards, I would put my back into it. And others did too.
      Before MATT discontinued the awards, I stopped participating and started trying to write every story as if it was for a Pulitzer. And I think I improved.
      So there pluses and minuses to it.
      The other thing is if the standard is low, then some average stories will get awards.
      But I suppose it might motivate young journalists when they see the benefit and hoopla for excellence and decide they want a big trophy too.

    • Vernal, I give up on talking about the photos yes. You talking about murder victims in certain communities.
      But they even do it for accident victims.
      I remember one person who said he stayed away from social media for weeks because his mom died in horrific accident and someone posted one of pics with caption: leg and thigh.
      I try not to think about what our reposting such photos from no less a source than our main media houses means about us as a people.

    • Check this for instance Nerisha. It is a match report on a second division football match. In Trinidad, most people don’t even pay any mind on first division matches. So you know that you are only writing for a few hundred people at best.
      But to me the goal is consistency as a writer, no matter how supposedly insignificant the story:

  5. Lol true. Not sure because one might have been more personal if u knew him from the ads then read about the issues opposed to just a random persons with vague info about abuse; or we just ride the incoming wave as it was a big issue in the US…well…after the first few days when more info came out, anyway.

  6. Not for nothing eh, but I’ve seen more indignation from Trinidadians towards former Subway sandwich franchise spokesperson Jared Fogle for his pedophilia than I do towards Anthony Smith for his child prostitution racket.

  7. Rikki is part and parcel of the bunch of liars, thieves and murders within unc nastiness. Is all a plot to make the new national securiy minister look bad. He ent what yuh call on yourself happen in.real eventually. I is me them.fools have to deal.with. nobody ent shutting me up. Everything them doing backfiring on them. Surge need to write lynch about the former govt role wrt dana seetahal and its connection with the 100million drug bust in virginia in 2013. Surge is another ANILLLL FOR THEM. All them waste a time dunce lowlve lawyers and minister like them mother send them to school not to be educated but to become SLAVES for all the wrong and not the right.

  8. I agree that Sturge’s request to the US is a sad reflection on us. Seems we really do need the big stick approach to keep us in line; left to our own devices, we would not address issues like OSHA, Minimum Wage, money laundering etc.

  9. Oh losh. I don’t know that Rikki had anything to do with Kamla got up to.

  10. Why he doh plea for Kamla and she bandits to bring back we money.

  11. Boss article! “It is often an alien concept for local law enforcement officers, who always seem to execute drugs busts when nobody is home but are much more adept at conducting arrests for soliciting or child maintenance.” But it always bugs me that after the fact the TTPS always and every time know who was a gang member or leader.

  12. And no arrest of the shooter of keron Cummings

  13. That was my thoughts exactly. U begged for your life then chased the bandit? U not serious about life, literally.

  14. Interesting that I read that story when Vernal posted it and wasn’t immediately outraged to be honest. Then I typed in the dude’s name to search and realised he just got busted in a human trafficking ring… :-/

    • My first thought when I saw Vernal’s post was “we can’t have stripper parties anymore?” “Lewd and suggestive dancing is a crime in this country, for adults?” But then the underage thing became a point and so…
      The father’s day thing I just think is ironic.

  15. What a way to celebrate Father’s Day…
    Doing to other people’s daughters what you wouldn’t want them to do to yours!

  16. That was a doozy…poor rikki Jai…even Ms rikki Jai from the 80s Kya comfort he tail

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