The scent of violence and fear hung thick in the air on the “Gaza Strip” in Enterprise last Friday. “They does call here the Gaza Strip.
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Pan Trinbago owes pannists $2m for Pan is Beautiful XII
Pan Trinbago still owes $2.1 million in prize money and trophies to steel orchestras and participants of the Pan is Beautiful XII national steelband festival, held in November 2013. Now five months since the competition, the participating steel bands intend to meet on Thursday 24 April 2014 to decide on what action they should take against festival organisers. The meeting will be hosted at the pan yard of third-place winners in the Single Pan Bands category, ‘D’ Original Woodbrook Modernaires, who are owed TT$70,000.
Pan Trinbago’s other creditors from the competition include first place winners in the Orchestras’ category, Codrington Pan Family; Golden Hands, winners of the Ensembles category and solo pannist Joshua Jabari Bedeau, who won the Soloists finals. Emond Berkeley, an executive member of the ‘D’ Original Woodbrook Modernaires, explained that it was only after the festival had ended, that “Pan Trinbago people told us that they did not get the money from the ministry.”
“They are telling us that the Minister reneged on his promise to give them the money,” he continued, “but our point is that the funding should have been secured before they had any competition.” Contacted for comment, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr Lincoln Douglas would not respond to a question of whether his ministry had, in fact, committed money to Pan is Beautiful XII. He said he would need to speak to Pan Trinbago to find out what they are saying about the ministry, after which he may need to issue a press release.
“I don’t want to speak,” he said, “until I have spoken to Pan Trinbago and to my staff.” But Berkeley said that a month before Carnival, participants were told by Pan Trinbago officials that meetings had been arranged with the minister who was in the process of going to Cabinet for approval for the funds.
“It doesn’t seem that any money is forthcoming,” said Berkeley, adding that Pan Trinbago “should have been able to pay the money from the profit from The Greens,” their 2014 Carnival initiative designed to attract a younger audience by hosting a pool party and DJ music alongside the steel pan finals. “They are only depending on the government and that cannot be the way forward,” he said.
Reflecting on the fact that the theme of last year’s Pan is Beautiful XII was Respect the Steelpan—Play it with Pride, Berkeley said that Pan Trinbago’s failure to pay prize money has been “totally disrespectful to us.” “We had to buy uniforms, provide food for band members every night during practice… now we just want our money.”
Originally scheduled for October 2011, Pan is Beautiful XII was postponed, among other reasons, because of “limited funding” and recently at a prize-giving ceremony held in Port-of-Spain, Gerard Mendez, Chairman of the Pan Trinbago Northern region, under which the Modernaires fall, spoke of the challenges of dwindling corporate sponsorship. He said that one corporate sponsor had cut its commitment from $100,000 to just $10,000.
Asked for comment on the non-payment of participating bands in last year’s Pan is Beautiful XII festival, Mendez said that as the chairman of the northern region he was not responsible for the payment of prize money for the competition. He said he sympathized with bands who have not been paid.
He suggested that questions be directed at the Pan Trinbago executive, but neither Pan Trinbago President Keith Diaz nor Vice President Byron Serrette, could be reached for comment. Calls to Pan Trinbago Secretary Richard Forteau also went unanswered.