A dispute on where to host tomorrow Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day celebrations has led to Bishop Mural Dillon, President of the Tobago United Spiritual Baptist Assembly, removing himself from the activities and opting to broadcast information on the history and importance of the celebrations on local radio stations instead.
Speaking to Newsday Tobago on Tuesday, Dillon said he was perturbed to learn that the venue for tomorrow’s celebration was changed from Assembly’s Signal Hill site where its Multipurpose Facility is being constructed to the carpark at Gardenside Street, Scarborough.
He said this decision was taken at a January 8 meeting of a committee in charge of the celebrations, but he was only made aware of the new location at a January 29 meeting.
“I was mad when I heard that information and I am going to plainly say I, as the president, was not present when the decision was taken. When I went to the next meeting and I began to ask questions, members were trying to shut me up,” he said. Dillion said he was of the view that the Baptist community should “be grateful and use what belongs to them.
“We have a piece of land that belongs to us, we must make use of what we have. When we make use of what we have, God is going to open a door for us to move forward and because they are not using what God blessed us with, I know that we are going to be losing instead of gaining. We must use what we have to the best of our ability to move forward in life. “If the event that we are planning for this year’s celebration will not take place at Signal Hill, I will not be a part of the celebrations because some persons in the organisation have no regards and respect for authority. They do not know what it is to support a vision.” Asked about the Dillon’s stated non-participation at tomorrow’s celebrations, Secretary of the Assembly, Mayda Edwards-Cowie, declined comment, stating “if that is what he said then that is what it is.” Edwards-Cowie also told Newsday Tobago last week Monday that the organising committee had decided not to submit a budget to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for any financial assistance this year for the celebrations.
“Maybe after liberation we will ask for assistance for the construction of the Multipurpose Facility building at Signal Hill. We spent a lot of money getting the land even but we have started construction and we are going to resume work right after liberation celebrations.
“Also we won’t have any exhibition this year because we had some challenges,” she said. “We are scaling down because when we hosted the celebrations last year at Signal Hill, 10 tents cost almost $10,000. If we need to have public address systems and other necessities, this will cost, that is why we scaled down, so after Liberation this year we want to put everything back into the construction of the Multipurpose Facility at Signal Hill.
I don’t think these changes will affect the essence of the celebrations of Spiritual Baptist Day in Tobago, neither do members of the committee,” she added.
But Dillon told Newsday Tobago that financial assistance was needed and that “no one informed me of this final decision as to why correspondence was not sent to the THA requesting assistance because I do believe we need assistance to host such an event.
“We don’t have the resources we ought to have to host a function, so we need assistance from somebody,” he said. Last year the Assembly requested $70,000 from the THA for the celebration. Tomorrow’s celebrations will begin with a procession at 9 am from Tambrin Square, uptown Scarborough to the carpark at Gardenside Street, downtown. The procession will include the 14 Stations of the Cross, as the day coincides with Good Friday celebrations, which will be followed by an ecumenical service at the carpark. Members of the Baptist faith will commemorate 67 years of freedom to perform spiritual rituals and other practices of the religion in public after it was banned though the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance. This was repealed on March 30, 1951.The occasion was officially proclaimed a holiday in 1996.