San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello – Lincoln Holder
MONEY woes for regional carnivals continue, in spite of a statement by chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) Winston “Gypsy” Peters on Thursday, that all monies had been disbursed.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello who complained bitterly about the strain the uncertainty of funding was having on celebrations, confirmed that a member of the carnival committee collected a cheque for $350,000 from the NCC on Thursday morning.
The cheque which was signed since February 14, is insufficient to manage carnival in the city, he said.
While Regrello claimed insufficiency, Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin is claiming discrimination.
Benjamin said several UNC-run corporations, including Chaguanas, Couva, Gasparillo, Princes Town and her own region, had not received a penny as of 4.30 pm on Thursday afternoon.
Several calls to Gypsy’s cell phone to verify whether there was any truth to the claim went unanswered, but activated a recording that his mailbox was full.
“Government is stifling the regional carnivals,” Benjamin charged.
“I spoke with Chaguanas Mayor Faaiq Mohammed, he said he was yet to receive a cheque from the NCC. It was the same situation in Couva and Gasparillo, which had intended to collaborate to host joint Carnival celebrations.
“Chairman of the Penal Debe Corporation Dr Allen Sammy said he only applied for funds to hold J’Ouvert celebrations, as all other celebrations were cancelled. He did not even get that.”
Julian Adams, chairman of the Princes Town Regional Corporation (PTRC), told the Newsday the carnival committee was able to get a line of credit, on good faith to launch their carnival.
Left with IOU’s to suppliers, he said they were still in the dark with no idea of the sum to be allocated to PTRC.
“This has put a damper on our celebrations because bands, not knowing the prize structure, are hesitant to register for competitions. Still, we are hoping and wishing for the best.”
Benjamin said the situation was no different in her own constituency as people were reluctant to even buy a T-shirt and cut it up to play mas.
“The Moruga/Tableland gayelle (stick fighting) did not receive a single penny either. They attempted to contact the NCC chairman, who would have contested the seat in the last general election for the PNM, when their request was not even entertained but that too failed.
“They had to do it on their own.”
Government has allocated $147 to the NCC for disbursement among 57 regions in the country.
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, in a statement hinted at requests not being made on a timely basis by the NCC. It said the Ministry of Finance had approved the release of $83,861,683.00 to the NCC, on Thursday, which is to be disbursed with dispatch.
Regrello said it is time for out-of-the-box thinking for funding regional carnival, independent of Central Government.
“We have to start thinking bigger and moving Carnival away from the subsidy of Government and the State in going forward.”
He suggested that local government reform might be the solution to the problem, as that would give regions the autonomy to set aside from its revenue collection, a sum to manage its own celebrations.
“I am not bashing Central Government for what is happening,” Regrello insisted, “But I think we need to move away from the dependency on the State to manage regional carnivals.”
He also had some choice words for private enterprises and businesses which benefit from the Carnival fraternity’s annual investment, yet fail to return that support.
“I am saying Carnival is not only about the masqueraders, calypsonians and the steelpan. It is about service providers, suppliers, business people, hardware’s, fabric stores, food vendors, caterers, transportation people, manufacturers who own these businesses.
“All of these people benefit from Carnival investment, but there is no return or direct contribution to the city of San Fernando.”
Pointing out that southerners drink more or the same amount of liquor like people in Port of Spain, Regrello observed not one manufacturer of these alcoholic beverages were involved in the sponsorship of steelband or the mas bands.
“Corporate TT must consider that there are places other than Port of Spain which make up TT that have been neglected.”