WRANGLING between the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) Tobago Zone and the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) deepened as attorney Martin George sent a letter to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) addressed to its chief secretary Kelvin Charles.
The TFC falls under the THA.
Martin George and Company, acting on behalf of TUCO Tobago Zone, requested the organisation’s full budgetary allocation be made or written undertakings given within seven days and a written commitment that “there will be no interference, intimidation, usurpation or attempts to take-over, hijack the role, functions and responsibility of TUCO Tobago Zone.”
If this is not done, the letter states, then TUCO Tobago Zone through its attorneys will approach the High Court for an injunction against the THA, TFC and TFC chairman, George Leacock.
This move comes after TUCO Tobago’s president Ainsley King, in a January 30 Tobago Newsday article, accused Leacock of running the commission in a “dictatorial” manner and “undermining the calypso governing body.”
The article also said King responded to statements made by TFC that TUCO refused to attend a meeting hosted by the commission to discuss Carnival 2019 plans. King was quoted in the article as saying that the organisation submitted its budget to the commission “on request” but also complained about the manner in which Leacock was treating them and requested mediation.
The article said the commission will be hosting two calypso tents this season.
King was quoted in the article as saying that the commission and the Division of Culture were destabilising TUCO by “providing financial support to unrecognised entities, causing everybody and anybody to believe that they could wake-up and decide to open a calypso tent.”
The letter sent to Charles, dated February 1, also questions the legitimacy of the TFC.
Leacock, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, TUCO, and the executive committee of TUCO Tobago Zone were copied. The letter described the commission as a "non-entity", saying, “We mean no disrespect by employing such nomenclature to the Tobago Festivals Commission but howsoever, our searches thus far in the Companies Registry and the Register of Business Names, have revealed the existence of no legal entity named the Tobago Festivals Commission.
“Our client therefore challenges the validity and legality of thie (sic) entire organisation called the Tobago Festivals Commission, which handles and manages and dispenses and disburses millions of taxpayers’ dollars each and every year with apparently little or no oversight or statutory accountability.”
George, speaking with Newsday via phone yesterday said, “What our clients have complained of, it appears that there has been a gradual increase in the element of control which the Tobago House of Assembly and, by extension the Tobago Festivals Commission, is seeking to exercise over the management and organisation of calypso in Tobago.”
He added while TUCO is grateful for any collaboration, the collaboration “must not be so intrusive that it ends up being collaboration or cooperation disguised as an attempt to control or muzzle the artform in Tobago.”
Calypso, George said, has always been an expression of the will of the people and the calypsonian the voice of the people and in such circumstances, the organisation would not want to see that changed “whereby politicians are in control of it.”
He said once there is “financial manipulation and strangulation of an artform, you effectively have control because most of these art forms rely on Government subventions every year.”
He said TT is half way through the Carnival season and the zone is yet to receive its budgetary allocation.
He said this was something very concerning for the client and he would think for all of Tobago.
Asked if the THA and Leacock received the letter, George said Leacock has received it and the office was supposed to e-mail the letter to Charles but that it was also going to be hand delivered to him today.
He said the bigger issue for Tobago and Tobagonins is that they “must ensure in the expression of our freedom and culture artform we are not subject to political manipulation or control regardless of that the fact that they may be the conduit through which the financial arrangements are made.”
Calls to Leacock, King and Gadsby-Dolly went unanswered.