Ainsley King, the chairman of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) Tobago is pleading for someone to step in and save Tobago Carnival.
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday about the current impasse between TUCO Tobago and the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) concerning funding, King said Carnival in Tobago is at a standstill.
“Aside from the problems that we have expressed, with the announcement by the Chief Secretary earlier in the day (to resign), somebody needs to step in and save the Carnival. It's one more week to go and nothing hasn’t really happened in Tobago to date, well besides pan – and they did it under severe pressure…Somebody needs to save the Carnival,” he said.
Earlier in the day, King expressed optimism that TUCO and TFC would find common ground but by evening he was pessimistic.
“We have a grip on things and we are awaiting some kind of response but with this Kelvin Charles news revealed, this would throw off a lot of things.
“Yes, we have a grip on things but what is happening now with that Kelvin Charles announcement and (PNM Tobago Council leader) Tracy (Davidson-Celestine) supposed to take office soon, it is a messed up thing. We have a grip over things, we have done what needed to be done and so on, but no one is active at this time, people forget Carnival. People looking to get put out office, people have to move and all kind of thing, so I really don’t know what’s happening at this time.”
Last Wednesday during a news conference, acting chairman of the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) Penelope Williams said TUCO Tobago had requested an allocation of $1.3 million to manage its tents and competitions, however she said the $800,000 allocation this year was consistent with what was disbursed in 2019.
King said TFC is manipulating the figures to suit its agenda.
“The press conference called last week would have revealed that what we’re saying is true. Miss Williams referred to the $800,000 received last year but one has to remember that that year we were in court. When we went to court, there was an order to pay TUCO their money, the court did not decide how much.
“We have a budget of just a little over $2 million…The thing is that if a budget was sent to the Executive Council for $1.3 million, that budget was not TUCO’s budget. I am doubting that they actually sent a budget, it definitely means that TUCO budget did not go to the Executive Council and this is what I’ve been talking about… the undermining of our authority,” he said recalling that in 2005, TUCO received $1.5 million.
“So, you can see that when you compare then to now, that $800,000 was decided upon in a moment where there was acrimony, and because of the judgment of the court they just threw that on us.”
The organisation’s treasurer Kenneth Thomas echoed the president’s sentiments noting that the organisation is still seeking to get funding for Carnival.
“There have been proposals, we have sent proposals, that’s where we are at. We are on the table, we met with them up to Friday seeking to get to do the programmes planned by the Tobago executive of TUCO… We hope that good sense will prevail and in a short time we would get our releases,” Thomas said while senior TUCO member Opoku Ware said the organisation is prepared to take legal action again to get their just due.
“The statement by Miss Williams, the acting chairman is preposterous, nonsensical and is idiotic. When you have a calypso event, even though you have two calypsonians, you have expenses...This is the era of information and intelligence and you are going to come here to insult the integrity of an entire nation and an entire cultural fraternity and say $800,000,” he said.
To date, the TUCO Magnificent Glow tent has been halted while they are now in the planning stages for the Tobago Calypso Monarch, the Windward Monarch and the Junior Monarch.