Performer hits late-pay THA: 'Gross disrespect' to Tobago Heritage Festival

Tobago Heritage Festival calypso monarch 2023 Garve Sandy. -
Tobago Heritage Festival calypso monarch 2023 Garve Sandy. -

DESPITE the promise by Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris that all outstanding payments for the Tobago Heritage Festival 2023 would have been paid by the end of January, performers and service providers are still without their money.

For the past few months, several performers and service providers have complained that they have not been paid for last year's festival, which ran from July 21-August 1.

Last Wednesday, reigning Tobago Heritage Festival calypso monarch Garve Sandy, in a Facebook post, shared a photo of her holding the ceremonial winner's cheque for $40,000. In the post, she said, "Today marks seven months since I was crowned the Tobago Heritage Calypso Monarch 2023 on July 21, 2023. Seven months later, I'm still waiting on my prize money. I need fact-based updates."

In an interview with Newsday, a Tobago Heritage performer, who wished to stay anonymous, described the situation as disrespectful.

“I feel like it’s a gross disrespect not only to me but to the artform and our heritage, because our culture deserves more than this,” the performer said.

“It’s not just a matter of delay in payments but the lack of communication for persons – no sort of updates forthcoming so that we might understand. The last promise was for January 31 all outstanding monies would have been paid, and after that, nothing official was said until the Facebook live where she (Burris) hinted (at) people not doing their jobs – but nothing official from that office was disseminated via social media or otherwise.”

The performer said the lengthy delay is surprising.

“I don’t know if is I curse the people competition as it is the first time I am entering and then this is happening. I would have inquired from previous competitors and they would have told me that usually within a month to one month and a half, they are paid.”

The performer added: “Previously the payment was under the Tobago Festivals (Commission), but now they have the THA Division of Tourism doing the payments, so I guess that is where the big difference is, because with the Tobago Festivals – no later than mid-August to September all bills including prize monies are paid. I know that as a fact.”

The performer is unsure about participating in this year's festival.

“I am not going to be taking part knowing that I did not receive my prize monies from last year. I am not doing that. So once I am paid within the ample time, then I would consider.”

Singer and pannist Gerard Balfour said late payments have become somewhat of a norm to him.

“I have been lobbying for faster payment plans for Tobagonians, even with the last administration. Seeing that this issue is now becoming a more widespread problem, it is being highlighted on a wider scale.

“I am actually happy to see it is happening; more people are talking out because I have been speaking about it and people like they weren’t understanding what I was saying before. The lengthy process that Tobagonians does have to endure after they provide services is very unfair.

"We can see, evidently, people from up the region, people from Trinidad, international persons who come to provide services are being paid half up front and the other half when they are finished. I am happy that more light is being shed on this situation and I hope we get some kind of good results going forward.”

At last month's plenary sitting, Burris said $3.2 million was owed to service providers for national Carnival 2023 ($135,469), Tobago Jazz Experience 2023 ($503,561.46), Blue Food Festival 2023 ($48,202) and October Tobago Carnival 2023 ($2,545,967.43). She did not include Tobago Heritage Festival 2023 service providers among the THA's debts.

Neither Burris nor Assistant Secretary of the division Megan Morrison responded to Newsday's calls for a comment.

PNM Tobago political leader and former chief secretary Ancil Dennis said he was disappointed with the situation.


"Performer hits late-pay THA: ‘Gross disrespect’ to Tobago Heritage Festival"

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