Trinidad and Tobago


Kuei Tung says no to NCC job

July 03, 2001

Former Finance Minister, Brian Kuei Tung, yesterday ended all speculation about his replacing National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Claude Clarke.

Culture Minister Ganga Singh, under whose aegis the NCC falls, on Saturday confirmed he had approached Kuei Tung to take the job and hoped he would bring to it “a more businesslike approach”.

In the short interim, confusion has erupted as NCC board members are incensed by remarks from Singh. Commissioner Arnim Smith resigned on Sunday and Clarke has offered his resignation.

But Kuei Tung said yesterday although excited about the prospect at first hearing, he was no longer interested in the position of NCC chairman.

“I was approached by Minister Singh and considered it seriously, but with the bacchanal that is now taking place there, I had to give even greater consideration as to whether I wish to be embroiled in that kind of thing. At this time, therefore, the answer is no,” Kuei Tung said.

“I don’t wish to get into that. I am not at all pleased with what is coming out and I don’t mean the spending. My own feeling is I can make a valuable contribution to the NCC, given my involvement in mas and pan over the years.

“About the spending, my own approach is not to think about a dollar here and a bad contract there, if the larger picture holds promise. Finite accounting has its place, but if you can identify with the vision outlined or the value of a long-term plan, you go with it.

“I have large concerns about Carnival and would honestly like to be in a position to address them with some sort of authority," he said. "It worries me that, apart from the one or two presentations that still try to make a difference, mas has been reduced to bikini top and bottom and there is no way of knowing who is from which band. Mas therefore needs some kind of incentive to give its producers some direction.

“I am also concerned about the diminishing role of steelbands in Carnival. I would like to see pan back on the road as an integral part of the festival. In fact, I am currently working on such a project,” Kuei Tung said.

The project involves the coming together of several steelbands in the Woodbrook area to present a joint Carnival Monday portrayal. Called the Western Union band, among the steel orchestras who already confirmed participation are BWIA Invaders, Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove and Woodbrook Playboyz. The band will be launched later this week.

“We are trying to pull all of the Woodbrook steelbands into one, to help revive the idea of pan on the road at least on Carnival Monday afternoon,” Kuei Tung said. “What happens now is that after the Panorama final on Carnival Saturday night, it’s difficult to get the steelbands back out on the road. We hope to change that.”

Minister Singh, meanwhile, is not taking responsibility for racking up a $180,000 liquor bill this year at the NCC’s VIP section in the Grand Stand of the Queen’s Park Savannah, as alleged by Smith.

A release from his Ministry said the guest list was the prerogative of the NCC and it had no control over what was served and how many guests were invited.

“The quoted figure for the VIP bar actually covers expenses for all VIP guests at Carnival functions during the entire Carnival season,” it added.

The Ministry also denied charges that the NCC only had approval to spend $1.9 million on Carnival projects and that there were delays in granting the approvals.

The Ministry said it delivered money on time to the NCC.

The Ministry also denied that it was Singh who instructed the NCC to increase the number of free tickets given to Cabinet Ministers. It said that the NCC commissioners received six complimentary tickets while Cabinet Ministers received two and “to ensure some measure of equality, as well as to meet proper protocol, it was decided that this figure be increased to six tickets per minister as well”.

Singh has cited over $3 million in unsanctioned expenses for unprofitable, unbudgeted, unplanned projects that yielded minimum return on investment.

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