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Tuesday 21 May 2019
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NCC ordered to pay PanTrinbago

Judge: Pan in need of financial care

PanTrinbago president Keith Diaz speaks to the media at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday along with other members of his executive. PHOTO BY ENRIQUE ASSOON
PanTrinbago president Keith Diaz speaks to the media at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday along with other members of his executive. PHOTO BY ENRIQUE ASSOON

The National Carnival Commission (NCC) has been ordered to pay to PanTrinbago the revenue from gate receipts at Panorama 2017 events.

The NCC has 28 days in which to do so, however, this time will begin seven days from today as the High Court judge who made the order allowed for a seven-day suspension of his decision.

During the seven-day period, the NCC and PanTrinbago are expected to resolve a claim by the commission that the revenue from the 2017 gate receipts would be deducted from money paid to the pan body for this year.

In his 73-page ruling yesterday, Justice Vasheist Kokaram said from the evidence advanced before him “as a financial product, pan is in need of financial care.”

Gate receipts historically account for an average of $3 million while PanTrinbago said the overall cost to host Panorama events was approximately $30 million.

PanTrinbago initiated legal proceedings against NCC after an order by Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly in January that the commission would manage the gate receipts for all Carnival 2017 pan events. PanTrinbago contended that they were entitled to the proceeds from the ticket sales from the Panorama semi-finals and finals while NCC countered that it was entitled to the proceeds as it is managing all the Carnival events.

Kokaram ruled that the decision for NCC to retain the gate receipts was illegal as it breached an almost 20-year-old settled policy and practice, set out by a 1997 Cabinet decision, for PanTrinbago to control the receipt of tickets and retain the revenue.

PanTrinbago president Keith Diaz leaves the Hall of Justice after a high court judge ordered the National Carnival Commission to pay to the pan body the proceeds of the sale of tickets for Panorama 2017 semi-finals and finals.

He said any alleged unlawfulness of PanTrinbago’s retention of gate receipts as being inconsistent with the NCC Act was “insufficient on its own to trump the settled upon which PanTrinbago had arranged and planned its affairs for just under 20 years.”

The judge also held that NCC failed to substantiate its allegation of insolvency and mismanagement by PanTrinbago to justify a departure from the established policy or that the money it collected in 2017, which was held in escrow, was for the benefit of pan’s development or for other pan events.

Kokaram also ruled that the consultations that were held with the pan body when the decision was taken were “perfunctory, unfocused and last minute” and “insufficient to bring about such a radical and sudden change in policy and approach so soon before the events.“

He also said the dispute should ”never have reached this stage.“

“Both parties saw no difficulty in these arrangements until 2017 when the minister sounded a change in approach,” he said.

According to the judge, the real “tension” in the case was the State’s concern over PanTrinbago’s ability to properly exercise financial and managerial prudence in the management of their affairs especially during a time when a “shrinking economy” brings about concerns of financial prudence and accountability.

While NCC chairman Colin Lucas declined to comment on the judge’s ruling, PanTrinbago’s president Keith Diaz said the victory was not only for the pan movement but the entire country.

He said the move in 2017 was oppressive to PanTrinbago, which suffered hardship as a result and led to the executive being on the receiving end of abuse from the public and members.

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