Pan Trinbago is openly accusing the Government - via the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and the National Carnival Commission - of trying a hostile takeover of their organisation and other stakeholder bodies on the eve of Carnival 2017.
Pan Trinbago officials made the claim in a press release yesterday, hours after meeting to discuss an announcement by Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on Wednesday that Government plans to conduct a forensic audit of the body after Carnival. Pan Trinbago was said to be owing close to 31 million at the start of the year, according to NCC president Kenny De Silva.
In a strongly-worded release, Pan Trinbago PRO Michael Joseph said the Government and NCC were "hell bent on usurping the role of Pan Trinbago and the two other major interest groups (Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation and the National Carnival Bands Association) in the national festival and the authority given to them by acts of Parliament."
He said they are viewing "the move by the ministry and the NCC as a hostile takeover of the Carnival interest groups."
Pan Trinbago general secretary Richard Forteau said recently that the Government had failed to appoint members of the three stakeholder Carnival bodies to the NCC as was required under the law.
Yesterday, Joseph said the instrument and the steelband movement had come a long way over the many years. He said panmen were once labelled as "rouges, vagabonds and outcasts" but despite that and other struggles, the art form had been "nurtured and developed from nothing to a potential billion dollar industry."
He said the latest move by the Dr Keith Rowley administration was "an infringement of the right to enjoy the fullness of our heritage instrument that was carved out of the blood sweat and tears of our pioneers."
Joseph added: "Suddenly to them we are unable to manage anything and a forensic audit will be done on Pan Trinbago after the Carnival."
He said Pan Trinbago was "not averse to any audit" insisting that the steelband body has provided audited financial statements to the ministry and NCC over the past 25 years.
Joseph repeated a statement made by Forteau weeks ago that the NCC had not submitted an audited financial statement since 2004, alleging too it (NCC) was in debt to the tune of over $200 million.
Gadbsy-Dolly has repeatedly expressed concern about the management of Pan Trinbago by the executive, which is being led by president Keith Diaz, who is now on leave due to illness.
Joseph said the latest development could adversely affect the industry for years to come and ended the statement by saying: "Thanks in advance for your timely intervention to avert an unnecessary and volatile situation."
In recent weeks, pan players have been demanding the immediate resignation of the Pan Trinbago executive after several issues of mismanagement of funds, including for the purchase of a luxury car, and the lack of payment to players were raised.
In fact, the players had threatened to boycott this year's Panorama competition but at a specially convened meeting at City Hall recently it was agreed to suspend all protest to allow for the staging of the national competition.
Contacted for comment last night, however, Gadsby-Dolly denied there was anything hostile or sinister in the move.
"Neither the ministry nor NCC has been hostile towards Pan Trinbago. No attempts have been made to intervene in the affairs in Pan Trinbago other than those which involve the expenditure of public funds," she said.
"As custodians of the public purse, that is our responsibility. The taxpayers of this country deserve nothing less. Any organisation receiving public funds must be subject to reasonable levels of financial scrutiny. The present circumstances surrounding Pan Trinbago make this increasingly clear."
She added, "Far from wanting to take over the organisation, the Government and the NCC stand ready to support them and the wider pan fraternity as they undertake the institutional strengthening necessary to deliver on their very critical mandate."
Efforts to contact De Silva were unsuccessful. However, in an interview on CNC3's Morning Brew yesterday, he said he supported an audit of all Carnival stakeholders funded by Government.