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'A serious issue'

...NCBA head questions bands' private hiring of State police

By Renuka Singh

National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) president David Lopez is calling for several answers despite the "successful" Carnival 2013.

Chief among Lopez's concerns is the private hiring of State police in Carnival bands, which he said he intended to address as soon as possible.

Lopez held a media conference yesterday at the NCBA's office at Picton Street, Newtown, to critique the Carnival season.

He said he spoke with the relevant police authorities.

"They use their personal badges while they are privately contracted to these bands. They use their police badges to intimidate the NCBA marshals. This is a serious issue. This has been going on for very long," he said.

Lopez said the contracted police officers "flash their badge" and the NCBA marshal would have to give way to the seniority of the police, even though they were working in a private capacity.

He said he raised it at pre-Carnival meetings, but was unable to get any information on whether that was allowed.

Lopez said he even tried to get police assistance on the Queen's Park Savannah, stage but was promptly told the police "were not there for that".

"We will take that up," he added.

Lopez admitted "plenty" bands were disqualified for overstaying their allotted 30 minutes on the Savannah stage, but still claimed everyone "loved" that new time change and he had no complaints about it. He said he would carry that new reduced performance time into next year's Carnival.

"As a matter of fact, they loved it. It only affected some of the large bands that really do not take part in the competition," he said.

Seven-time Band of the Year winner Brian MacFarlane was among the disqualified bands.

"If you give them an hour, they found an hour was not enough.

"It's a parade of the bands. If you want to have a display, work it into that half an hour," he said.

Despite the shortened performance time from one hour to 30 minutes, several large bands, including Yuma and Fantasy, complained they were stuck on Charlotte Street en route to the Savannah for more than six hours.

"I understand that there were some issues with Fantasy and Yuma and some other bands. I am yet to get the full extent of that report. The NCBA cannot be held accountable for bands that break away from each band and have their personal vendetta and want to display it on Carnival Monday and Tuesday," he said.

Lopez said more changes were coming as Carnival evolved, including an expansion to the parade route and possibly a separate route for non-competing "party bands".

"We cannot continue to manage Carnival like that. We understand that we are responsible for a competition and we have to look seriously at non-competing bands that want to come on the stage. Why must they be allowed to come on the stage and block up the Savannah stage? You are a party band," he said.

He said the National Carnival Commission (NCC) had failed in the past to accommodate Carnival and Carnival has "outgrown" Port of Spain, and the changes are necessary to bring about improvements.

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