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Woodbrook residents are planning to protest the National Carnival Commission’s (NCC) decision to allow four large Carnival bands to parade through their streets on Carnival Tuesday, as well as the decision to host the Kiddies’ Carnival at Adam Smith Square tomorrow. The route for the large bands will take masqueraders through Woodbrook and to the Socadrome at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
On Tuesday, Woodbrook residents met with Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee in the hope that he could dissuade the NCC from agreeing to the Socadrome proposal. They said Carnival activities should stay in Port-of-Spain and not be brought into their community. Tim Kee, however, told them it was not within his power to do so and on Thursday, the NCC announced that Harts, Tribe, Yuma and Bliss had been granted approval to parade along an extended route through Woodbrook and to the stadium.
In an interview yesterday, president of the Woodbrook Residents Association Lynette Dolly said residents were upset by the decisions. She said: “Nothing has been organised as yet and it is quite possible there will be a protest. “Why are they moving it (Children’s Carnival) from downtown and the majority of people come from the east, and where are they going to park? It (protest) could be possible.”
Councillor for Woodbrook June Durham said residents were objecting to the route because it posed a health and safety issue for them and in the case of the Kiddies Carnival, residents were concerned about accessing their homes freely. She said: “We want to know if there is an emergency route. One of the residents just had surgery. It is more of a health and safety situation. That street will be tightly packed.
“When they come off the stage they are going straight into somebody’s residence. There is no area to line up. Where these children going to line up? Is Adam Smith Square ready? Nobody says how the health and safety will be dealt with.” She said residents were still compiling signatures for a petition against the Socadrome initiative. “We are going to have an emergency meeting to plan things. I hear the residents will protest but we have heard nothing yet. We have over 300 signatures on the petition (against the routes).”
MP joins cause
Joining the residents’ cause yesterday was Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene Mc Donald. In a media release, McDonald said: “The approval given by the NCC to parade along this extended route on Carnival Tuesday without consultation with the residents is another slap in the face to the residents of Woodbrook.” She said what made matters worse was the fact that the bands reportedly made the proposal since January 30.
“No one sought to meet the residents to explain the plan or seek to understand the impact such a plan could have on them. “To make matters worse, it now seems Gary Griffith, National Security Minister, has bypassed the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and Woodbrook residents to cater for a select group of mas players,” McDonald said. She said while she supported moves to ease congestion for the masqueraders, it could not be at the expense of a residential community.
She added: “Some years ago, J’Ouvert celebrations were discontinued in St Clair after complaints from the residents,” she said. “Woodbrook residents have a right to be affronted by this latest incursion on their right to peace, quiet and the enjoyment of their property. The use by the bands of the proposed route can be expected to leave a trail of noise, vehicle exhaust, garbage and urine through the area.”
She said the plan to deploy police and soldiers to ensure the safety and security of masqueraders, spectators and residents was hardly comforting. “The time is long past for a more proactive discussion of the future direction of this important cultural festival. “The staging of Carnival cannot continue to be an annual bacchanal of reactive decisions for short-term impact that leave openings for solutions without consultation by omnipotent politicians.
"We need to look carefully at what might be all of the reasons these bandleaders have chosen to abandon the heart of Port-of-Spain and deprive the families who come from all over T&T to enjoy this free entertainment largely facilitated by the State.” Socadrome’s media relations director Danielle Hunte said yesterday that the four bands had pursued the initiative because of years of complaints from masqueraders about having to wait hours to cross the Queen’s Park Savannah stage due to congestion.
She said the main purpose of Socadrome was to ease traffic congestion and also bring relief to the masqueraders.