ELECTION CHARADE, PANORAMA BANKRUPT.
Keith Diaz (Photo by Trini Talks)
Keith Diaz, having busted through almost every loophole in the Pan Trinbago constitution as he powered his way like a raging bull, is now the biggest shadow over the hastily-convened 2018 elections for a new executive of the “world governing steel pan body”.
Under the glare of the spotlight of the international steel pan diaspora, the incumbents and the aspirants have represented themselves as nothing short of an embarrassment.
And while they campaigned far and wide they have only opened up the gap between the so-called administrators of pan and the growing movement of players who will be the ones to determine whether Panorama 2019 comes off as planned.
As it stands, some bands may not be able to make it to competition.
Players who are owed money may just take a back seat if they are not paid.
If money from the National Carnival Commission’s (NCC) 2019 allocation is used to pay prize money and players’ remittance for 2018, then what becomes of 2019?
That is one of the numerous questions which no one on the campaign trail has dared to ask and for which no one has an answer.
Granted the aspirants and the incumbents are walking into Diaz’s track, heading into the darkness without even a flambeau, far more a flashlight, they are hoping that the NCC is the light at the end of the tunnel.
NCC, however, through the candidate which it is backing in the race is only promising to pay money due to steel bands and saying that Panorama 2019 will be on, as scheduled.
So here's the scenario. There was a significant shortfall in the disbursement of the 2018 allocation to NCC from the Ministry of Finance which was TT$147 million. But in fact, it was only TT$90.4 million which was actually disbursed and that represents a 40 percent reduction in the actual allocation which means the NCC has payables to the tune of more than TT$30 million which will have to be financed from the 2019 allocation.
The 2019 allocation, however, has been further reduced to TT$139 million.
Apart from having to make do with less for 2019, the NCC also has to meet a significant part of the 2018 commitments.
Pan Trinbago's incumbents and aspirants who were hoping to a get a “bligh” from the NCC, after the incumbents recklessly dipped into the 2018 allocation without regards to their overall commitment, are now on very tenuous ground as the NCC is clearly under pressure.
All they are likely to get from the NCC will be the TT$8 million even while the Pan Trinbago executive says the amount outstanding is TT$16 million.
Nobody knows where that money is coming from and as it stands, given current trends, there is little or no hope of getting the money from the government.
The NCC, therefore, is also complicit as it kept on disbursing the money to Diaz’s Pan Trinbago without any notion of what were Pan Trinbago’s overall commitments.
Diaz made commitments to the bands for the prize money without being supported by the resources that he knew were available from the NCC.
Sadly no one has been asking the questions and the aspirants for office have been carrying on the charade hoping that money will materialize out of thin air, as it always has.
Panorama, therefore, which is the sole annual event on the national steel band calendar, is bankrupt.
When the delegates from 190 steel bands gather at the Mucurapo East Secondary School to vote in a new executive, after less than a month of heavy campaigning, mostly on social media, they will be like ‘gouti ready to run on the track that Keith and his cohorts made.
It will be a hard road to travel in guava season
And you can expect nothing different from a new executive. For the very meeting after which this election date was announced was gerrymandered to simply ratify the election date.
It was endorsed by all. Obviously endorsed by all the candidates contesting the polls, the meeting on Tuesday, September 18th, which was a continuation of a previous meeting that did not have quorum was clearly a “ratchify”.
Even Richard Forteau, who claims to be the guardian of the Pan Trinbago Constitution looked on and did not challenge what was happening in front of him.
If the outcome is unfavorable would Forteau then trigger further court action?
There is no record of what transpired in that meeting except for the notes taken by one woman on the request of Keith Diaz.
Granted the sound man, who usually recorded the meeting, was not present, Diaz asked her to take notes of the meeting which she agreed to even while the beleaguered Secretary Forteau sat and looked on.
And then when the President moved a motion for elections, there was a vote but no vote count on the record.
Instead, people put up their hands and it appeared to be in the majority and no one knew whether those with their hands up in the air were observers, genuine members or whatever.
And so the date for the elections was announced and accepted. Keith Diaz was in control. This meeting was a follow-through of the chaotic, messy encounter on August 23rd, which one of the aspirants in Sunday’s elections described as the worst meeting he ever attended.
There will be an election on Sunday, but there will be no Annual General Meeting (AGM) at which the President should have given an account of his stewardship like the Treasurer and the Secretary.
The auditors PKF have refused to do any more work for Pan Trinbago because they are among the numerous creditors.
With Diaz opening the door, the horses, some of which had been chomping on the bit since they started, ironically enough the campaign to get rid of Diaz on January 1st 2017, all bolted from the stable.
Those who were once united in the “Get rid of Diaz” camp, are now ferociously cutting each other’s throats.
The election machinery cranked up.
Two weeks ago there was a preliminary list of 300 bands, stamped and approved by both the Secretary and Treasurer of Pan Trinbago, that were financial members.
Most of them did not actually pay the membership fee. They just signed the waiver forms made available by the incumbents. Pan Trinbago, as it is now configured, contends, on the basis of a court judgment, that once the organization is owing a band, that band remains a financial member.
The list, padded with bands that are nonfunctioning, was eventually whittled down to 190 by the time the comprehensive list of delegates was released.
Every candidate is a delegate and every delegate is a voter.
Of the 190 bands on the final list there are twelve large bands who, by failing to come together as the group with the largest stake in the steel band movement, have given up their rights to an overgrown cadre of small and single pan bands that everyone knows were created to ensure Keith Diaz remained in office.
The Single Pan registration almost rivals the combined Conventional categories.
The padding occurred under the eyes of the Regional Chairmen two of whom are back in the race seeking higher office.
“From an annual subvention of $240,000 prior to the famed Cabinet Minute of 1998, by 2015 over $46Mn of taxpayer’s money was flowing through the organization’s coffers and the administrative structure of Pan Trinbago never did evolve to adequately accommodate this startling new reality.
“Fit-for-purpose professionals were never engaged on its administrative staff.
“The 1998 Cabinet Minute effectively challenged the steelband movement to take control of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
“Nevertheless, Pan Trinbago continued to man the bridge with a fishing boat crew,” a document that emerged at the end of the large band caucus earlier this year, noted. The big question is whether any of the contenders are ready for the challenge.
AND WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
“In recent years mistrust has developed over the Secretary’s handling of the Election. Therefore, there should be an independent Election Commission/Committee to oversee the process right through to completion.
All aspirants to office should agree that their term of office shall be one year, during which an independent constitution review commission must be established to draft a new Constitution with monthly consultations towards that completion. They must also develop a plan to manage, reduce and eventually eliminate the debt while managing the day-to-day affairs of the association.
Failing that there remains this option:
“Under the provisions of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, with a debt of close to $40Mn, Pan Trinbago seems to satisfy the legal definition of insolvency.
“Creditors may petition the court for a receiving order which places the organization in the hands of a receiver.
“Given the little prospect of a bail-out by either public or private benefactor or itself generating the cash flow to liquidate its liabilities, a petition by its creditors is highly likely to trigger its ultimate liquidation.
“A replacement organization will thus be unburdened by the host of negative legacy issues that currently “hamstrings” the organization,” [according to] the document, which has been pushed aside in favour of the Pan Trinbago eat-ah-food politics.
THINGS THEY ALSO WILL NOT CONSIDER.
The National Carnival Commission (NCC) is actively engaged in campaigning by placing candidates on the various slates and lobbying for their votes.
It is rather an underhand way of trying to implement changes that have already been discussed for Panorama 2019-2021 in a bid to make better use of the money and implement changes for the better administration of steel band.
Even though that document has been prepared several months ago complete with a financial plan to make the transition, there was no attempt to allow for a discussion on the proposed changes.
Pending for 2019 was an immediate merger of large and medium bands with small bands getting a two-year period to transition, so eventually, there will be one category for competition.
There will be small bands in 2019 and 2020 after which small bands will merge into one category. Medium bands would immediately merge into the large band category with appropriate adjustment in numbers.
Everyone should be merged by 2021 if all plans go ahead. Included in this new plan is another leg of competition carded for the Wednesday before the Panorama final.
It’s part of a bigger plan that envisages two active weeks of competition through the various stages. It will be pan almost nightly, a steel band festival helping to energize the carnival. After all steel band is almost on the fringes of the festival.
The single pan will revert to their natural environment which is pan on the road and therefore re-engage a broader audience in the peak pre-carnival period.
A Journalist/Editor based in Trinidad and Tobago, with 35 years experience in print, broadcast and digital media. As a founding member of the T&T Mirror Newspaper, I served as photo journalist, columnist and editor over 23 years.
My experience in broadcast journalism started and ended at the now defunct National Broadcasting Service (Radio 610 AM and Radio 100 FM). I honed my skills in broadcast journalism at the Radio Netherland Training Centre (RNTC) and I am a certified media trainer.
Single-handedly, I established a small but effective News Department at Trinidad and Tobago Radio Network Limited (TTRN). As a seasoned news woman I am skilled in photojournalism, parliament and court reporting, writing and producing for print, electronic (radio and video) as well as digital media and promotions. I have mentored and trained a few younger writers and producers along the way. For this and more I earned a National Award in 2012, the Humming Bird Medal (Gold). I am the mother of a young scholar, an undergrad at Columbia University in New York, and a lover of steelpan music.
contact Sharmain Baboolal at: firstname.lastname@example.org