THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has responded to criticisms of a video showing a jab molassie character performing at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
In the video, which went viral on social media, the character is seen shouting and staring at delegates. The performer is said to be a member of the Tobago Performing Arts Company (TPAC), which was part of the Tobago WTM delegation.
Tobago's presentation at the WTM also featured steelpan music, traditional Tobago folk dancers and conventional mas costumes.
Augustine spoke with reporters on Friday after the launch of the Tobago Day Celebrations at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.
He said the TPAC team pushed Tobago Carnival 2024, and several other elements of carnival were shared.
“I may not be the best person to ask about carnival characters," he admitted. "I’ve looked at it, I’ve looked at the criticisms...I’ve asked myself whether or not maybe we can also pull that character from our local carnival celebrations, if it is that people have an issue with it there."
He said he saw a world of opportunities coming out of it and had asked the tourism secretary and team to invite the Minority Leader to learn about the post-colonial sort of protest that is part of the character.
Minority Leader Kelvon Morris was among those who criticised the performance at the WTM.
But Augustine said, “Really and truly, that character represents protestation (of) the enslavement of people of African descent. That is a much more complex and nuanced conversation that I am not sure that I am the most equipped – I have not studied carnival studies, that is not my field and I would really prefer a bigger and much more nuanced conversation held with those who really understand and appreciate it.”
Questioned over Morris's call for the tourism secretary’s resignation as a result, Augustine said: “When I checked the THA Act, there is only one person with the authority to reshuffle and to consider reshuffles, and that is the chief secretary. Unfortunately, Tobagonians did not entrust such a privilege in the minority leader. So thank you for the concern, Mr Minority Leader, love you very much, thank you for the concern – but leave the concern up to the person that the island trusts with that issue.”