Friday, February 23, 2018

Pan, police, pain


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PAN TRINBAGO, after the fracas at the pan semi-finals, may want to walk away from its advertised boast that it has organised 50 years of steelband competitions.

The incident has proven to be a multi-faceted embarrassment for the organisation, with every discussion revealing a new dimension —but worse is the obvious reminder that there is still no strategic direction for pan

As allegations against the police continue, Pan Trinbago's management may find that it may be included in that not-too-pleasant list some cynics cite as they assess what are our real achievements in the post-Independence period.

At its request, I have worked in the belly of that organisation twice. Sometime in the nineties I was seconded to assist with its Carnival preparations, and later the Community Development Ministry, at Pan Trinbago's urgings, requested that I serve as a member, and later as vice chairman of the unit formed to lead the organisation's attempt to stage the first World Steelband Festival.

In both instances, I rolled up my sleeves, and was transported to the other world of the pannist, the pannist as an artiste.

Today, that period is logged among my instructive and cherished experiences. My role in both instances evolved from communications consultant to being that on-hand factor required in every aspect of planning.

So when one official last Monday described the fracas on the "Greens" as "an event waiting to happen" I was not surprised. Over the years, every Pan Trinbago executive team has failed to recognise the body's fundamental flaw i.e. it is incapable of managing itself or rather, pan players—with much respect—are just what they are—pan players, not managers.

The Pan Trinbago's management model has been dysfunctional for years; its management appears unaware of what to do, as its members hold to their individual interests, not knowing which road to take to achieve real pan excellence.

The system of pan players electing the people, most popular among themselves, then handing that executive team, headed by a president, full-time jobs to run a multi-million dollar organisation is workable only in the world ruled by the pan player's logic.

Its tradition has been that its executive team languishes in office, year round. In hasty afterthought, it prepares a few steelband shows— most poorly-promoted, badly-organised, patronised by only an ever-dwindling faithful—then every October it wakes up to squabble over its standard multi-million-dollar request to the ministry for its one showpiece, Panorama.

The cynics will argue that the Pan Trinbago model is just another example of life in our chaotic state. The performance of the police in the face of an unruly crowd last Sunday is another example of that chaos. It is only after the public's outrage that the Police Service appeared to conduct refresher exercises in crowd control.

But the Police Service should be responding to the larger question—its credibility, as an institution, in the public's eye. Institutions carry a society's formal rules, also providing its informal constraints and codes of conduct.

So if, on that Sunday, a large body of people saw a police barrier at the Savannah, chose not to recognise the police's authority to establish a cordon, and instead launched a concerted mob attack to have it removed, on Monday morning the police executive should be seeking the reasons why their authority is not being respected.

Further, that credibility is undermined by its own officers daily. Travel on our highways, north to south, and the only police vehicle one sees are those going at speed on a "mission".

Its officers see traffic jams, turn on their vehicle's siren, demanding other vehicles make way, and leave the mess behind, and at police stations people are greeted generally with officers' arrogance and disrespect.

I must admit that, in this context, I have always had a special regard, or is it sympathy, for the task Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs faces. Trinbago is a dynamic, but chaotic and increasingly unruly society. Our institutions, with their clear rules, were intended to reduce uncertainty, but increasingly we see them under stress, undermined further by the "modernising" elite of the new hierarchy.

So CoP Gibbs, after last Sunday's incident, is called to account for his officers' action; and as if this were not enough, he has to account for his officers' raid on the Newsday newspaper.

The raid demands sweeping condemnation because it may be a chilling harbinger things to come— nightmare scenarios akin to the notorious extreme of Goebbels's Editor's Law in Nazi Germany.

The Attorney General, in attempting to appease public concern, expressed his displeasure, but slipped in the disclaimer that "no one in the Government authorised it".

So is it that in the future all police raids must be authorised by politicians?

Why am I stuck worrying about pan?

* Keith Subero, a former

Express news editor,

has since followed a career in

communication and management.