Cabinet has blanked the request by the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) for increased prize money for the winner of the National Calypso Monarch competition.
TUCO president Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba), on Monday, said it was an embarrassment to citizens and the People’s Partnership Government for the winner of the National Calypso Monarch crown to receive only $1 million in prize money.
He said further, there should be equity as he drew comparison to the $2 million prize money for the Chutney Soca Monarch and the Soca Monarch competitions.
Resistance officially wrote to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas, requesting Government increase the prize money for the Calypso Monarch competition.
That request was shot down yesterday by Cabinet.
In a telephone interview with the Express, Douglas confirmed the matter was discussed and rejected.
He said Government does not fix the prize money for these competitions and if TUCO wanted, the current $1 million prize could be increased using their own funding.
TUCO, he said, receives an annual subvention from the Government of close to $9 million which they use to run their affairs, such as putting on shows and allocating prize monies.
“As far as I know, well, since I have been there, Government has not decided on any prize money. All of the promoters have decided what their prize money is,” said Douglas.
Douglas said in addition to the $9 million subvention to TUCO, the State also bears the cost for all the stages and sound systems for their events.
“Calypso Fiesta, Kaiso Rama, Dimanche Gras, which are all paid events, all the infrastructure, the stages, the sound, are also put up by the State,” said Douglas.
Douglas said it was “unfair” for TUCO to compare the prize money for the Calypso Monarch competition to that of the Chutney and Soca Monarch competitions.
The minister said the Chutney and Soca Monarchs are private events in which the promoters invest heavily and bear all expenses, with respect to infrastructure and stage, etc.
“I think it’s unfair for them to make that kind of analysis and create a slightly inflammatory situation,” said Douglas.
Douglas said he does not have any issue with the winner of the Calypso Monarch taking home $2 million, but the increased sums should come from TUCO itself and not the State.
TUCO, he said, was technically the “union” for calypsonians, and it was reasonable to suggest they increase the prize monies from their own allocated sums.
He noted further, TUCO keeps revenues from ticket sales from all its events.
On another note, Douglas said Carnival was “shaping up very well”, and despite issues surrounding copyright and the Parade of the Bands route, everything was on stream to give Carnival enthusiasts the best opportunity to enjoy themselves.
Douglas said over the Carnival period, he will be busy hosting 50 dignitaries from around the world, including Ghana, Cameroon and Sierra Leone.
Questioned yesterday on Cabinet’s decision to blank his request for increased money for TUCO, Resistance said he did not want to comment until he was officially told this by the minister or the National Carnival Commission (NCC).
Asked if the Dimanche Gras show will still go on, in light of Cabinet’s decision to reject its request for more money, Resistance said, “It is not my decision to make. What is important is that Trinidad and Tobago presents the best show to the world; everybody should be on board, including the State.”
He said this country marks a significant milestone of 100 years of the calypso art form, and by that virtue, he reiterated everyone should be on the same page—including the Government.
The Dimanche Gras takes place at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain on Carnival Sunday and features the National Calypso Monarch competition.
In 2011, the winner of the Calypso Monarch competition, Karene Asche, took home a first prize of $2 million for her winning performance of her two selections—“Careful What Yuh Ask For” and “Uncle Jack”.
Brother Resistance told the Express this was the only time a $2 million prize was offered by the Prime Minister, and it was a “one-off” gesture as following that, the first prize went back to $1 million.
Prior to the May 2010 general election, Persad-Bissessar promised on the campaign trail the prize money for the major competitions—
Calypso Monarch, Chutney Soca Monarch, Soca Monarch and Panorama—would be increased to $2 million, but only for that year.