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Desmond Chase speaks on WIADCA and NY Steelband Panorama Issues

Open letter to the Caribbean Community from Desmond Chase

New York, USA

Thus far, I have endeavored to stay clear of the controversy which has engulfed the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) since the mass resignation of its president, Ms. Yolanda-Clarke, followed by a bunch of misfits who have over the years abused the talents and dedication of Mas makers, Steelbands and Mas players. I was relieved for a while thinking that here at last this, most important cultural event would be rescued from the brink of demise.

I am forced at this time to respond to Mr. Thomas Bailey, President of the new WIADCA or as I would prefer to rename - OWINB - “Old Wine In New Bottle.”  His hypocritical statements in the New York Carib News-Online Edition recently, regarding his ascension to the presidency begs for clarification for the uninformed and unsuspecting members of the public, and affected victims of historical mismanagement. From his appealing tone one would think that he has emerged from a place far away from the feeding trough of this Association.

He spoke so innocently about a transition from the “Former Administration" of which he was an active contributor for so many years. My immediate question to Mr. Bailey: did you ask the Treasurer to submit a financial report as part of this transition?  Is Mr. Bailey aware that any member of the public having an interest in how public funds are dispensed, is free to request this information as a condition of its 501(c)(3) status?  Nowhere within Mr. Bailey’s statement did he attempt to convey any sense of serious leadership, but rather, to inject more venomous contention by attacking the same media whose doors were being opened to assist. By encouraging his ‘peripheral pit bulls’ to join in this unwarranted assault on the goodwill of those who sought to lend a hand, he has disregarded the collateral damage which their unprofessional behavior may cause.

Desmond Chase
Desmond Chase

Mr. Bailey needs to tell us exactly how they found themselves in the financial straight jacket now strangling this organization. I am certain that he will be able to give an accounting after his so-called transition as he will be able to account for the fees collected from the hundreds of vendors on Eastern Parkway, fees collected from the participating bands, sponsorship, and ticket sales. I am certain that after 40 years in the position, the organization’s treasurer should be able to count by now, even though at a meeting in Trinidad in 2001, at the Holiday Inn at a press conference on Ash Wednesday, in the presence of deceased Mr. Carlos Lezama and the president of the ICCA (International Caribbean Carnival Association), Mr. Henry Antoine, she [the treasurer] openly admitted that for the thirty years she was treasurer, she had never seen a financial statement.  Are we to believe that as of this date, this situation is still the same? I refuse to think that Mr. Bailey would continue such a situation as he pursues the transition.

The bone of contention now prevailing is the staging of 2012 Panorama. I can easily understand the passion and fear which is confounding WIADCA. It vividly brings to mind the reason Panorama came into being; back in 1962 when - as a member of Dr. Eric Williams’ (Founding Father and then-Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago) committee to uplift the status of the Steelbands - we had to deal with two institutions that were exploiting this serious art form and utilizing them as their cash-cows. They were the CDC (Carnival Development Committee) and the T&T Music Festival.   After negotiations the Steelbands were able to sponsor their own Music Festival. We requested a day for the Steelbands and “Panorama” was born.

I am recalling this situation to state that WIADCA should respect the Steelbands, and stop using them to pay bills incurred without their consent, and without their involvement in the management of their participation. In other words, the Steelbands are instituted to function all year-round and should be treated with the due respect they deserve.

It is my most sincere wish that all parties will come down off their high horses and arrive at the conclusion, that no group of self-appointed individuals are entitles to hold the cultural treasury of our people for their own personal benefits. The time has come for change.  The time has come to let all those in the business community who have benefited by way of this major cash cow provided by our people on Labor Day, know that payment in kind is expected in return - for our contribution to the coffers of the city, state and beyond. Unfortunately for those whose special interest is personal, they will have to give way to the transition of which Mr. Bailey has so vociferously spoken about -  so that competence, efficiency, dedication and professionalism will come into being with early dispatch.

Desmond M. Chase
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