The government of Trinidad and Tobago has confirmed that there will be Carnival this year in spite of the grave ongoing covid threat. Chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), Winston “Gypsy” Peters of calypso fame, on Tuesday of this week made the confirmation, announcing that a scaled-down version of T&T’s famed Carnival, dubbed a “Taste of Carnival” will take place.
It is expected to begin with a virtual calypso show at the Queen’s Park Savannah, after which, Peters told the media, “the calypso tents are going to be open in full from the 11th”. Controversy had heightened recently, given the still high number of casualties from covid with an estimated 20,000 total as at the end of January. A Carnival programme, purporting to come from the NCC had been making the rounds on social media last week but this was denounced by the NCC as being a “fake”.
With the confirmation that Carnival will take place, at an estimated cost to stage of between TT$25 and $30 million, there has been immediate reaction by the Parliamentary Opposition. The daily NEWSDAY newspaper on Tuesday reported that the decision to hold the festival and to make the $30 million allocation to fund it, came in for heavy fire at a virtual meeting of the opposition United National Congress (UNC).
Opposition MP, Michelle Benjamin is reported as taking issue with the fact that since there was no initial plan to host Carnival this year, there was no budgetary allocation for it. She therefore questioned the source of the funding for the NCC.
“There was no plan. No plan at all”, said Benjamin, “therefore, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. She also questioned the feasibility of producing and presenting events, asking if they would attract tourists given the last-minute decision.
The Opposition MP argued that more time was needed to plan and execute a safe carnival, “not just a taste” to benefit a selected few. She criticised the decision to proceed with Carnival as ill-thought out and anticipates that it will be a (covid) super-spreader event.
“If the situation is as it is now”, NEWSDAY quotes Ms. Benjamin as saying, “what will happen after this taste? How many more will die in the tents of covid facilities? How many more will die awaiting an ambulance?” She said that Government must illustrate how the benefits of hosting Carnival can possibly outweigh the risk of future waves of the pandemic.
The T&T government is not the only one faced with the Carnival dilemma. There is huge pressure from not only those mas-makers, calypsonians, entertainment promoters and the thousands of others who benefit from the Carnival, but more so from tens of thousands of persons who have been confined and frustrated by covid restrictions.
Governments in the rest of the region will be anxiously looking to the outcome of the proposed T&T Carnival to judge their response.