Interview By Michelle Loubon
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) chairman Gerard Weekes says his members are not in favour of the proposed new route for masqueraders during Carnival Monday and Tuesday on March 3 and 4.
He said the deadline for the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to decide on the final route for the parade of bands is January 31.
Weekes joined a chorus of bandleaders who have recently voiced their concerns about the alternative clockwise route for Carnival 2014.
They are rejecting the change from an anti-clockwise route to a clockwise flow to the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
Among those who share a similar sentiment about the new route is National Carnival Development Foundation chairman Mahindra Satram-Maharaj.
In a telephone interview with the Sunday Express recently Weekes said: “We are not in favour of NCC’s clockwise route. We feel it will create mass confusion in the mas. We are not opposed to change. But it must be made with proper consultation with bandleaders and stakeholders. It must be made in a timely manner to allow us to adjust our management programmes to suit the route. All the logistical questions need to be answered. We are going to lay out the reasons and the solutions to solving the problem. We are giving NCC until January 31 to come back to an agreement in our favour. I am not in a position to hold back a mass protest or a boycott. The bands are not to accede to the wishes of the NCC.”
Weekes said security remained a perennial problem throughout the route.
“We are asking for a proper manning of the route. There are marshals that are given a job for one day. They put them at Green Corner or at Adam Smith Square. They are put there to stand up and watch. Bandleaders are often left wondering where there is someone from NCC or the (National Carnival Bands Association) whenever there is a problem. They have to wonder where to go or whom to go to address any concerns along the route. If the band wants to divert, there is no one in authority to assist in giving permission or directional change. Ninety-nine per cent of the time there is no one like a marshal, parade of the bands executives or even engineers to give a responsible suggestion.”
Weekes said the bands were impeded because the police were hindered by a lack of manpower to support a route extension.
“We believe if proper consultation was taken, steps could have been taken to support such a move. We are willing to go to the court and pay for about 20, 50 or 120 police. We are prepared to pay them for their services. The police see it as a regular Monday and Tuesday. The officers just don’t show up. There is no increased manpower. The police on vacation leave are not called out. If they are paid extra they will find themselves on the route. All we are left with is they are saying they are short-staffed.”
Weekes said the Piccadilly venue will be totally left out by bandleaders due to security issues.
“It is the birthplace. We try to respect that by taking mas back to its origins. We know it is a depressed and underdeveloped area. We ensure there is enough security given the fact once it gets dark, no band is going in the back there. Bandleaders are concerned their bands will find themselves in East Port of Spain late on Tuesday afternoon resulting in a security risk to their masqueraders and spectators.”
Weekes also said they have been calling for the bands to be zoned.
“You can start at Adam Smith and at the Savannah. By zoning the big bands they are nowhere close to each other. They can move in a stop and start environment, rather than all trying to get to the Queen’s Park Savannah.”
He also said there were no arrangements in the event of a disaster.
Weekes said: “What happens if a truck is on fire? Where do bands muster or take off? What happens if someone throws a scratch bomb? If there is any type of national emergency. What happens if gunshots are fired? Any kind of disaster can take place. Bandleaders are not aware of the alternative routes.”
Bandleaders’ Route suggestions
Weekes said all bands in Woodbrook have alternative routes.
They can head down Ariapita Avenue and enter the city in an anti-clockwise direction. They can move to various judging points at the same time.
He said: “If a band is leaving Woodbrook, it can head down Adam Smith Square first. Then it can move downtown or towards the Savannah. There are optional alternatives including Piccadilly Greens. It allows bands to move freely. Then each band can enter the Queen’s Park Savannah. That is another option.
Bands can have alternatives. They can go to QPS first or head straight to downtown (South Quay) City Gate, Port of Spain. It means bands will be in different directions. It will allow for free movement of bands in different directions.”
Weekes said the present route which is being proposed by NCC provides for all bands to head into a West to East direction.
He said: “All bands that want to get to the Savannah must enter from Tragarete Road. From Tragarete Road, they have to make a left turn and head North along Victoria Avenue into the Savannah. Tragarete Road provides a one way in and a one route option for all bands. It limits the free movement of bands to access all the other venues. Based on the NCC route, if a Woodbrook band wants to go downtown first and then head to the Savannah, where will they go? They have not answered that salient question? If a band from Belmont wants to enter QPS first before proceeding to downtown, that pertinent question has not been answered by NCC?”
He said there are going to be problems for bands entering the downtown venue at Broadway and South Quay, Port of Spain.
He said: “The truck is on the left. It has to turn left to go up on the normal route. On the reverse route, it is coming from North to South along Broadway. It has to make a sharp right turn to the judging competition. The minute it makes the turn it is right in front of the judges so there is no space to perform. It is a logistical issue that has to be addressed. We are still awaiting answers.”