MASMEN walked out of the National Carnival Commission's Carnival Stakeholders consultation yesterday, saying they were displeased with the structure of the forum.
"We thought that the consultation would have taken the form of an open forum like how it was done in Port of Spain where many ministers were there to hear the aggrieved people on their points," Stephen Joseph of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) said yesterday.
He said they expected the consultation would have been about San Fernando and development of mas in the city.
Had it been an open forum, Joseph said they intended to raise the issues of supervision during the mas, police stopping the Carnival festivities when an altercation took place and also of police officers driving through mas bands.
"The issue is the disrespect of the mas in San Fernando. ... These things don't happen in Port of Spain. For years we have been petitioning NCC to have a competition in San Fernando run like how it is done in Port of Spain," Joseph said.
About seven band leaders, some of whom have been involved in the artform for over 30 years, gathered on the steps of the National Academy for Performing Arts in San Fernando yesterday while the consultation was in progress.
Joseph said they left during a break in the programme.
He said when they arrived at the NAPA South they registered and were given the agenda for the day which, he said, included discussions in a classroom from which points would have been relayed during a later session called "group reports".
Joseph said after yesterday's action, their next step would be to hold a meeting with the NCC.
He said the group is hoping to keep the artform in San Fernando alive.
"We are still producing mas in San Fernando. We are asking for competition to keep that artform ... wire bending, costume designing and producing a band in San Fernando to have a chance to be seen, recognised and understood."
Public Administration Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, in her address to the gathering earlier in the programme, said, "The focus of the consultation will be on regional carnivals in south and central Trinidad and will cover areas such as regional carnivals, product development and funding, marketing and promotions and logistics and infrastructure."
She encouraged stakeholders to speak freely during the session even as she complimented the NCC on demonstrating its "commitment to exploring other views and listening to other voices".
She said the Joint Select Committee of Parliament, of which she is a member, was told the administration and operations of the NCC for 2011/2012 reflected an income of $1.4 million and expenditure of $46 million.
"I appreciate that the NCC faces unique and difficult challenges," Seepersad-Bachan said.