THE EDITOR: OVER THE two days of our Carnival, I have read many interesting comments on the state and direction in which the Trinidad Carnival is being taken.
I was intending to discuss much of this feedback from the children’s mas to the Dimanche Gras to the Carnival days until I heard National Security Minister Stuart Young at last week’s post-Cabinet media conference speaking in support of the proposal by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith about cutting the hours of the Carnival.
The minister elaborated on the “plan to disrupt” the Carnival which amounted to “certain criminal elements” who went to Ariapita Avenue throwing bottles and robbing people and pickpocketing. The music was shut down by the CoP. No one was arrested, according to the minister, because it was too dark to identify the perpetrators.
This “disruption” of the Carnival at a particular location in a single part of the country has been escalated into a suggestion by the CoP for “reasonable shut-off times for future Carnival celebrations” and now a proposal by the minister for a “shortening of the Carnival proclamation.”
The minister’s argument is all about “national security” which considers there is “no need to go all the way to midnight on a Carnival Tuesday.”
The minister then proceeded to cite “the national security forces” who claim that “in no other country in the world, including in Rio…across Europe etc do you have such an extended period of operations from Carnival Thursday…”
So, what he and his national security forces are seeking is that the Carnival Proclamation should end the Carnival at 9 pm on a Tuesday from 2020.
Well, before I examine this argument further, let me remind the minister that according to the Public Festivals (Carnival) Order, 2019, Carnival commenced at 4 am on Monday, March 4 and ceased at midnight on Tuesday, March 5. This is pretty much the same as it has been since the birth of Carnival back in the colonial days following the Canboulay.
But the minister went on to explain that, despite the proclamation, the national security “locked down” the arteries into Port of Spain and stopped and searched people while the sun was “already up.” So, the police delayed the start of Carnival and then “shut down” the Carnival, practically shortening the Carnival contrary to the law – the President’s proclamation.
Now they want to officially codify this action by cutting down the Carnival.
This sounds like the last lap for las’ lap, the last jump for mas players and participants in the Carnival to the hour of midnight on Carnival Tuesday.
I well remember my father and his friends, after playing mas in town (PoS), enjoying returning to Tunapuna for a hometown las’ lap jump-up to end off the rule of the Merry Monarch. I also had the experience of playing pan “till the police stop we” at midnight, giving revellers the full extent of the Carnival enjoyment on the Eastern Main Road in Tunapuna.
If Young and Griffith and the Cabinet have their way, this aspect, like so many that have already been gutted from the Carnival, will also be a thing of the past.
After all the gun talk about not letting a small handful of criminal elements “run things” and not negotiating with terrorists, gang leaders etc, after all the “cockroach” talk, are we now being asked to surrender another aspect of our greatest national festival and our culture and way of life to the miscreant minority of criminality?
The hours of the Carnival is not a matter of national security, nor are we to define our Carnival by what they do in Rio or in Europe or, as some radio callers argued, by when “they does shut down” the Parkway in New York.
The Trinidad Carnival, what we once called the greatest show on Earth, is our unique creation, our unique contribution to world culture about which we boast and which we declare has spawned Trinidad-style carnivals the world over.
Now, because of social decay, criminal activity and “national security” considerations, are we, as a nation, to complete the emasculation of our Carnival and turn it completely into just another carnival in Trinidad?
The people of this country have fought against “national security” law and order directives to defend and preserve the right to beat drums and play pans in the Carnival. From the Canboulay Riots in 1884 this Carnival has had to be defended by the people.
In 2019, it looks like if this Carnival is to last beyond 2020, the people must resist this latest attempt to make this the las’ lap for the Carnival using “national security” to denigrate our socio-cultural identifier as a nation.
CLYDE WEATHERHEAD via e-mail