Randall Mitchell
Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell

One year later, winners of the 2020 Downtown Carnival competitions have not received their prizes.

So said president of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bandleaders’ Association, Rosalind Gabriel, as she registered her angst and called upon Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez to honour the masqueraders’ prizes.

In a news release yesterday, Gabriel, who is also a National Carnival Commission (NCC) commissioner, said: “The administrator of the Downtown Carnival Competition has a moral obligation to pay prize monies to winners of Carnival 2020 competitions.

“It is an entire year since masqueraders paraded across the South Quay stage. It is distasteful to not pay what is owed to bandleaders and masqueraders.

“We are calling upon the relevant line minister (Randall Mitchell) to get involved as we have already seen hardship as members of the mas fraternity by the cancellation of Carnival 2020 due to the pandemic and the non-payment of prizes can be deemed as cruel and unusual punishment. Pay the 2020 prizes to those who won them.”

Martinez: A misunderstanding

In a telephone interview yesterday, Martinez said he had requested a meeting with Mitchell for early March. He said the corporation can only pay 40 per cent prizes, and he needs assistance with the 60 per cent from NCC.

“We have not paid out the prizes for 2020 Carnival. We normally get a subvention from NCC but in 2020 we did not receive a subvention. We pay out about 40 per cent prizes.

When advertisers approached the corporation to put up advertising in the city, it was not an issue. They used the city for Carnival displays, and parade of bands. They used city parks and squares. NCC said they would approach sponsors to earn some additional revenue and package Carnival as a product. They approached T&TEC to erect banners.

“There was a brand by Campari. NCC had approached Carib or Angostura and they indicated they would promote their advertising. NCC made that arrangement. We were not involved.

"We continued doing traditional stuff. NCC decided they would invite me to a meeting. NCC made a decision to not pay the sponsorship since we were getting advertising money. There appears to be a misunderstanding, that I told them to keep their money.”

Willing to pay prizes, Martinez said the PoS corporation wrote NCC requesting the subvention.

“Whether we would have additional funds, comes from advertising or vending. NCC gets millions, and the corporation gets a few thousands. NCC operated without good faith. It’s a dilemma we have found ourselves in,” he said.

Martinez added: “ We had a conversation with NCC. They indicated to us they have no money. They have destroyed the cheque that was written to us. In order for us to pay the prizes, we will require 60 per cent of prize money. We will come up with 40 per cent.”

On the way forward, Martinez said he “thought NCC in their dealings needed to respect the corporation’s position, and they did not.

“I asked the Culture minister (Mitchell) for a meeting. He indicated we will see what happens by early March. I would have loved to pay the prizes to everyone. I think NCC has to some extent held the corporation to ransom knowing fully well we need to pay prizes.”

Lucas: Consider using the Mayor’s Fund

In a telephone interview yesterday, NCC CEO Colin Lucas said he did not wish to get into a fight with the mayor. “We reminded him the full story will soon come to light. He may wish to consider some proceeds from the mayor’s fund.”

Efforts to contact Mitchell proved futile.