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Douglas: I misspoke on $$

Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas yesterday admitted that he "misspoke" when he announced a $2.2 million increase for the winner of the Carnival Band of the Year competition.

Douglas made the announcement at a post-Cabinet press briefing two weeks ago where he revealed an additional $1.6 million would be added to the King and Queen winnings and that the Government allocated a further $2.2 million for the Band of the Year prize.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Douglas said it was "possible" that he misspoke.

"It is possible that I misread what the documents or that I made a mistake," he said, adding that he would revisit the relevant documents to be sure.

But when the National Carnival Commission (NCC) published the detailed listing of the increased prizemoney last week, the $2.2 for Band of the Year was notably absent which prompted several bandleaders to raise questions on the increased prizemoney.

National Carnival Bands Association chairman David Lopez yesterday confirmed that there was no increase in prizemoney for the bandleaders. The prize for capturing Band of the Year is $300,000 while the King and Queen of Carnival take home $250,000 each.

Speaking to the media at the drawing of Kings and Queens preliminary competition yesterday at the Queen's Park Savannah VIP room, in Port of Spain, Lopez said he was glad the Minister clarified that mistake, but that the NCBA never negotiated for an increase in the prize money for the Band of the Year competition. Lopez added that the group picked out "what was important" and chose the Junior Kings and Queens and the Senior Kings and Queens to receive the bulk of the increases.

But the bandleaders associations and representative bodies have declared that this is just more evidence of the disrespect meted out to them by the Ministry and the NCBA.

National Carnival Development Foundation chairman Mahindra Satram-Maharaj said he was not surprised by the turn of events. He said while there was a promised disbursement for all the categories, once again the bands would suffer.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association head Gerard Weekes said he too understood that there was no additional prize money for Band of the Year competition but said he was in constant dialogue with the NCC to see if anything can be done.

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