Carnival 2018 is just two months away, but things are not looking very merry for the festival.
The first Panorama show is just about one month off, on January 4, and there seems no end in sight to the financial wrangling between the special interest groups – Pan Trinbago, the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), and the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) – and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and/or the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts.
There is an ongoing court matter between Pan Trinbago and the NCC about the gate receipts from Panorama this year.
Meanwhile, the 40-plus employees of Pan Trinbago are not being paid. According to one, “We received salary on October 12, but October and November are still outstanding.
“We need our salaries, we have rent to pay, food to buy to feed our families and money to send our children to school. This looks like it will be a bleak Christmas.”
Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz said, “We have not received any subvention and the NCC has not paid us the ten per cent from the Panorama prize money for this year.
“That is the money we use to carry out the daily running of the organisation. We have not paid rent for our offices for about five months and we are not in a position to help the east, south and Tobago zones with their office rental either.”
Newsday was told the phone lines at Pan Trinbago’s Park Street headquarters have been disconnected and there has been no electricity at the Northern Region Office, Jerningham Avenue in Belmont for some time. Pan Trinbago pays this bill for the region.
The situation at TUCO is much the same, as about 25 workers there have not been paid for November and their executive reportedly had to beg for salaries for October.
TUCO is at loggerheads with the ministry over the public disclosure of an alleged audit that was private and confidential but which ended up in a newspaper report.
In addition, NCBA president David Lopez, who was appointed to the board for six months, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to both the NCC and the minister on the ground that the NCC board was not properly constituted according to the act. Under the 1991 NCC Act, the board shall be made up of nine people (commissioners), one of whom must be from the organisation most representative of Carnival bands.
There is also an existing court matter involving the TT Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) , which is challenging the the minister’s six-month appointment of Lopez. A decision is expected to be given on January 10 by Justice Joan Charles.
Newly-appointed chairman of the NCC Colin Lucas says he is not in a position to answer questions about those issues.
Another source at the NCC asked, “Is the NCC truly responsible for paying the salaries of the employees of those organisations?”