PRESIDENT of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) David Lopez yesterday said there was an unprecedented level of political interference in this year’s Carnival and if this continues the “greatest show on earth” will be heading in the wrong direction.
Evidence of political interference, Lopez said, was a decision from Prakash Ramadhar, in his role as then acting prime minister, to have this year’s Carnival parade route changed despite consultations with stakeholder groups.
Because of the overstepping of bounds by politicians, Lopez said it was a “challenging” year.
Lopez made the statements yesterday as he spoke to the media at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain
The National Carnival Commission (NCC) proposed to have bands move clockwise into the Savannah as a means of addressing the perennial problem of congestion.
That plan has been deferred to Carnival celebrations next year, however, after stakeholders accepted the decision by Ramadhar to keep the Carnival parade route as is.
Lopez slammed Ramadhar’s interference in the issue.
“For me, for this year, for all my time in Carnival, this year was one of the most challenging years for me ... the reason for this is that I have witnessed political interference in Carnival before, so I am not going to stand here and say there was not political interference, but the level of political interference in this Carnival, I hope that it does not continue,” Lopez said.
“If this continues the Carnival ...well the Carnival would not die because it is for the people by the people, but it would go in a different direction the amount of political interference that made it very difficult to manage, because it was more managing political issues than the real issues of Carnival.”
Lopez said Ramadhar’s actions were unprecedented.
“It is the first time since I, as I indicated to you, that an acting prime minister would call to have a meeting to discuss to change back the route, where we had meetings with the band leaders, NCC had meetings, we agreed at board levels, we agreed with the police, everybody, and then an acting prime minister would call and say that you know this is not going to happen.
“I mean, come on, if that is the case well then you don’t need an NCC, let the acting prime minister and the Cabinet run Carnival,” he said.
Lopez said the State has a role to play in ensuring a safe Carnival, but the logistics should be left to the experts.
“The security aspect of Carnival is the business of the State, we will work with that, the policies ... there are bodies in place to deal with that. If you getting involved in the internal business of the people who want to make noise it would only continue to divide the Carnival, “ Lopez said.
“From where I sit that was the most challenging for me this year.”
Lopez slammed acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams for also being political.
“It is amazing, we have a commissioner of police, we for years, we know what is the rules to establish the route for the Carnival and we have been doing that for years. We have asked for an extension of the route for many years and we were told that they don’t have the manpower to do it, this year was the same thing you don’t have the manpower to do it, just so the commissioner find manpower to manage the Socadrome to create a next route,” Lopez said.
“What signals you sending, where are the rules and regulations governing ... is the commissioner of police a politician? This is the question we have to ask. Where are the rules and regulations, what signals we sending to the children ... these are some of the challenges I have faced.”
Lopez said too much emphasis is placed on the event of Carnival and not the industry of Carnival.
“We continue to focus on the event, the event will come and go and will always have challenges, we have to focus on Carnival as an industry, we should be exporting costumes not importing costumes ...we are losing the labour market gradually for these designers, wirebenders, seamstresses and the by-products of Carnival.
“If we continue to play politics with Carnival we will not continue to go anywhere,” he said.