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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Stakeholders: Talks needed on shorter mas

Jus Wee and Friends masqueraders, in the band's portrayal, Imagine, dance past the judging point at Victoria Square, Port of Spain on Carnival Tuesday. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
Jus Wee and Friends masqueraders, in the band's portrayal, Imagine, dance past the judging point at Victoria Square, Port of Spain on Carnival Tuesday. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

There are mixed views on Government’s proposal to shorten Carnival so that it ends at 9 pm on Carnival Tuesday.

Some stakeholders said they had no problem with it while others felt there should be consultation.

One of those who don't object was Ronnie McIntosh, co-bandleader of the large band Ronnie and Caro. On Friday, he suggested amended hours would not affect the band, as: “We don’t be out there that late.”

On Carnival Tuesday, he said, “We do like 7 pm to 7.30 pm latest.”

He said, however, that National Security Minister Stuart Young’s point about “certain elements being out there around that time to cause little drama” was correct. McIntosh said if the proposed change was for safety he had no problem with it.

Similarly, Ann Marie Placide, leader of medium band Jus Wee and Friends, said shorter hours would not be a problem “if everything else moves smoothly,” because her band usually ends their parade before 9 pm.

But Placide believes Government would have to take into consideration that things don’t always go smoothly on Carnival days. Giving an example, she said her band finished all of its judging points by 3 pm, but was stuck for about three hours because bigger bands stopped for lunch and blocked part of the route.

She said if the band had not finished crossing the judging points, that would have hampered it from moving smoothly and ending on time.

“It is one thing to say it in theory that Carnival can finish at 9 pm, but in practice, I am not sure how that is going to work, if you have all of these other things with these big bands that would normally block a lot of the small bands

“I would hate to have it that someone’s band, or my band, through no fault of our own, is stuck on the road still and can’t get off until after 9 pm.”

Placide, like many others, said she really felt safe during this year’s Carnival, unlike other years, when one would usually see some kind of “altercation” – but she did not see any this year. “If that is it, I don’t see a reason to end it at 9 pm because everyone was safe. I am not sure this is something they should do without real consultation.”

She suggested Government might consider 11 pm, and felt 9 pm might be too early.

Chutney soca artiste Kris “KI” Persad said the festival should not have a time limit.

“I think we party until we can’t party anymore. That is what Trinis are made for. That is one thing that is signature to us,” he said.

Asked if the safety concerns were valid – even though both Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and National Security Minister Stuart Young said this was one of the safest carnivals in the last five years – Persad agreed and praised the CoP and police.

“It was one of the safest carnivals and once we continue to practise the law and we have law enforcement out there. It should be just as safe if not safer.”

Crystal Cunningham, who manages artistes including 5Star Akil, said whenever a national authority makes a decision in the interest of safety, citizens should respect it, because it is supposed to benefit them at the end of the day.

But she felt there were two sides to this coin, as small businesses and vendors looked forward to benefiting from las lap during the late hours, especially as many bands were all-inclusive. She said activities on Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook, usually attract people who don’t play mas and those were the ones who would spend money there. Taking away three hours would mean lost income to businesses, such as bars.

“From a masquerader perspective, some people really look forward to las lap because (of) the rules on the road Carnival Tuesday, when you have to be in your section, and the las lap is when you can really break way and be free. When those extra hours are taken away the people who traditionally enjoy that freeness have that taken away as well,” Cunningham added.

She said she understood why Government would want to shorten Carnival, because the last part of the jump-up “gets kind of risky." "Everyone comes into the band and it becomes so overcrowded.”

But then reducing it by three hours would make the overcrowding start earlier, she said.

Tribe bandleader Dean Akin said the safety and security of masqueraders, spectators and others taking part will always be “the number one priority,” but there must be a balance, as “people have a right to enjoy themselves and it's only once a year that the festival takes place.”

He added that tourists and other visitors also spend a lot of money to come to TT for Carnival.

“Hopefully there is some consultation with the bandleaders and other stakeholders before a final decision is made,” Akin said.

NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters commented, “Carnival in TT is not something that came about as a party, but something that came about because of human suffering, and the need for people to have self-expression.”

Peters said Young had said there would be consultation and he wanted to “give him that opportunity to have those consultations before I express my opinion.”

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