FROM THE very start of his public life, Winston “Gypsy” Peters courted controversy by crossing the line. In 2000, after he was elected a UNC MP, he was subject to court action because he held dual citizenship. Mr Peters reportedly renounced his US citizenship, but the court case was never resolved.
More than two decades later, and having crossed to the PNM, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman seems to have a case to answer for participating in two Carnival contests: the Calypso Monarch, the finals of which is on Sunday, and the Extempo Monarch, which he has already won.
But the chairman is not the only official causing a stir for wearing many hats.
Beverly Ramsey-Moore, the Pan Trinbago president, fired back at critics after her band Katzenjammers won Sunday’s Panorama medium band final in Tobago.
From a purely technical vantage point, both are correct to suggest there is no explicit bar on their participation in contests their organisations are involved in.
Calypso matters are not run by the NCC, but rather the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO). And Ms Ramsey-Moore has cited Pan Trinbago’s rules, which arguably stipulate executive positions are chosen from a general membership comprising delegates of bands.
But how does it look?
Particularly, as Mr Peters must sit alongside TUCO officials at NCC board meetings and also has a role in funding disbursement.
Even if it is accepted that there are no bars that apply, the standard is certainly far higher than a mere review of legal rules.
Unfortunately, the Pan Trinbago president has dismissed critics as “fully dunce,” while Mr Peters, who last year also entered the extempo contest and who has in the past also run a calypso tent while being chairman, remains largely unapologetic.
Both should recognise times have changed. Stronger attitudes about the sensitivities of public office are heartening.
There is a good reason why, for instance, cabinet ministers must largely give up private endeavours while holding office, even while they enjoy rights and freedoms. The choice is clear.
Though in a different class, we can also ask questions about the historic participation of Helon Francis, the calypsonian turned independent senator, in Dimanche Gras, which is a state-funded event.
At the very least, Mr Peters and company would do well to remember the famous calypso by Mighty Spoiler, Magistrate Try Himself.
In that classic song, the absurd results of an official accused of speeding judging himself are laid bare, with the magistrate going so far as to penalise himself: “He said, ‘No sport!’/And he charged himself for contempt of court.”
That calypso, from 1958, resonates even more today in the court of public opinion.