JUNIA REGRELLO has to be congratulated for being a champion of the arts over decades. He was a founder and captain of the Skiffle Bunch Steel Orchestra based in San Fernando and was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) for his contribution as a member of the team that invented the G-pan.
He has also served as chairman of the Dimanche Gras Carnival committee and previously served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. He is clearly a tireless advocate of the Carnival arts who is very passionate about what he does.
However, Regrello’s conduct on Carnival Tuesday set a poor example. While it may be explained by his love of pan, it clashed with what is required of the person holding the office of mayor of San Fernando.
Video footage circulated on social media this week showed a stand-off between the mayor and police officers. The officers, it was later stated, had taken a decision to shut down Carnival two hours ahead of the expected midnight curtain call. Yet the mayor and his band resisted entreaties. Defiantly, they struck up the music.
The mayor and his legal advisers may well feel the decision of the police to end Carnival early was unwarranted or disproportionate. He may well be correct that he should have had a greater role in the decision-making process. And he also has a legal right to seek a review of the personal contact made with him by a specific officer. But he cannot excuse open defiance of the will of the police.
In a situation in which a high-profile threat to Carnival was reported and where people were arrested as operations continued in relation to reported plots of a nefarious nature, the mayor should have been more sensitive to the need to maintain the authority of the police.
If our high-ranking public officials do not cooperate with our police officers, what will the ordinary citizen think? The ordinary man in the street cannot refuse to obey a police officer. In fact, citizens are daily arrested for resisting police officers.
That being said, police officers are not exactly known to be people-friendly when carrying out their duties and due respect should be accorded to someone holding the office of mayor. In this context, we welcome the announcement by Deputy Police Commissioner Deodath Dulalchan that an investigation is to be conducted into the incident.
We maintain, however, that Regrello’s actions, however well-intentioned, were unbecoming of his role as mayor and as a cultural stakeholder. Our ability to hold Carnival celebrations annually is heavily dependent on the ability of the police to maintain order and to guard the well-being of all who participate in the festival.
The mayor should have complied with the wishes of the police. He risked provoking violent confrontation between revellers and officers by prolonging the standoff. Instead of questioning the decision that was taken – wherever it came from – he should have taken note of it and sought redress in a dialogue with the police after Carnival Tuesday.