Masman peeved over cost of Borough Day cancellation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this 2018 file photo, members of the band Recession by the Eastman brothers relax for a minute during Point Fortin Borough Day J’Ouvert celebrations yesterday.

MAJOR economic fallout is being anticipated from the scaling-down of corporation events for the Point Fortin Borough’s 42nd anniversary.

Mas and pan stakeholders are upset by the last-minute decision, having invested heavily in the celebrations, and are exploring their legal options to recoup some losses.

One masman, Rick Davis, said he prefers dialogue rather than litigation. Estimating his losses to date between $70,00 and$80,000, Davis said if the borough can assist in refunding the 2,000 people who have registered with his band, he will be happy.

If not, he said, he may consider other options, as he has a valid contract which the corporation breached.

Unlike promoters who benefited from Government for Taste of Carnival, Davis said, “We did not ask the borough for any assistance. We invested our own mone, and this is the thanks we get.

“It’s heart-wrenching, and it breaks the spirit and the morale of what we have been doing for years.”

Davis said for months discussions had taken place and when the Prime Minister lifted covid19 restrictions, “We went to full 100 with the understanding that he said you could drink rum on the road now. We understood that to mean all gloves were off and you could do your own thing.

“This cancellation, coming two weeks before the event, is a major economic blow to the community that has given so much to the country.

“I think that decision lacked consideration for the small businessman in Point Fortin. The southern peninsula is already buckling under pressure with the pandemic, and this has further shredded the economic opportunity for small business.”

He counted, “bake and shark vendor, doubles man, small man who would provide security, others – who would have had a chance to earn a few dollars,” as those among the biggest losers of an opportunity to earn.

Point Fortin mayor Saleema Thomas issued a release on Sunday night, two days after the borough launched the festival, cancelling all shows the corporation had planned.

Rural Development and Local Government Minister and acting Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said Government took the decision on the basis of the timing of health data on covid cases, simultaneous with the reopening of schools.

Privately-run events are not affected by Government’s decision.

For the past 14 years, through his promotional outfit, Countrie Bookie, Davis has been instrumental in J’Ouvert celebrations in the borough.

His focus has not been on the traditional Carnival in TT, but rather on J’Ouvert in Point Fortin, which he takes to Plymouth for the Tobago old-time festival, Grenada, Guyana and Labor Day in the United States.

He said the timing could not have been worse as two weeks before J’Ouvert, a lot of money would have been expended, including money received as down payment or full payment for costumes, to import material.

“We made down payment to our service providers – DJs, music trucks, caterers, security – and these providers in turn would have begun their preparations as well.

“I am blindsided by this, because all assurances were given that the event was on. We were guaranteed measures would be put in place to prevent the spread of covid.

“We would have adhered to all health protocols, opening registration only to the fully vaccinated, understanding it was not business as usual, but life goes on and covid was not going anywhere.”

Davis said he has a substantial following in the US who come to TT for the annual celebration, which covid19 put on hold for the past two years.

Owing to uncertainty over covid in TT, he said he arranged a J’Ouvert celebration in New York on May 7, with the intention to livestream to TT.

“The powers that be asked me to bring the product to Point Fortin, (saying) we were having J’Ouvert, which I did – and this is the situation we are now faced with. This is why I believe they should assist us in recouping some of our losses, as we were not part of the decision-making process to cancel.”

He said he did not agree with the rationale for cancelling, saying he had the covid statistics on the number of deaths and infection for the past several months, :and there have been no major changes since the place started opening up.”

He said he believed there was “something more they are not telling us.”

But whoever took that decision, he said, “did not factor in the creation of the product that is Borough Day.”