Sunday, January 21, 2018

Carnival of questions

Express editorial logo350

Mark Fraser

The very many questions raised by the judging of this year’s Carnival parade competitions must not be allowed to go unanswered and linger to bedevil Carnival 2015. As a key stakeholder in Carnival, the bands that feel aggrieved by the judging process should not be left to nurse their wounds in silence. The significant number that have raised valid questions deserve the respect of being answered.

In the absence of adequate responses from the National Carnival Bandleaders Association, the National Carnival Commission (NCC), as the official custodian of Carnival, should exercise its authority to ensure that the bandleaders’ demand for transparency and accountability are met.

The Carnival band sector could be spared a lot of time and legal fees if the NCC assumed the responsibility for calling the parties together to hammer out a framework for investigating not only the marking process but all the elements that go into the judging of Carnival bands. Given the high public investment involved, both financially and emotionally, the NCC must not evade this responsibility.

Senior voices within the bandleaders fraternity have complained about arbitrary decisions and drastic changes in competition rules which were implemented mere weeks before Carnival and publicised via the Internet. Some are so mystified by the results that they are inclined to believe they were disqualified without being informed.

If this is indeed so, these bands would have good grounds for complaints. Major changes would have needed wide, advance consultation in order to secure consensus and, if accepted, would have necessitated extensive promotion to ensure that everyone would know the precise criteria by which they were being judged.

The perennial complaints about the judging process continue to raise questions about the expertise of judges, the clarity and transparency of the process and the quality of representation provided by the leadership of the various agencies involved in Carnival.

A lot needs to be changed well before Carnival 2015.

The time has come for incorporating professional standards of competition throughout the entire Carnival chain. If the various organisations do not have the capacity to deliver such, then it will be up to the NCC to ensure that this is done as a condition for future financing.

As a state agency, holding the public trust and utilising public funding, the NCC cannot be allowed to divest itself of the responsibility for the integrity of Carnival, financial and otherwise.

What is needed is a clear timeline for action that carries the process smoothly, from one point to the other, to achieve the objective of a successful Carnival. To do this, the NCC will have to take the public into its confidence at every stage of the process. No group would be able to hold the Carnival to ransom at the last minute if the public were kept in the know.

However, the fact that nothing has yet been heard about a comprehensive and broad-based review of the contentious Carnival 2014 gives little reason to hope for a more proactive NCC.