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Ah found the chief

By Terry Joseph
March 22, 2003

Up to quite recently, I routinely blamed Robert Giuseppi anytime things went awry at the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA), if only for his disinterest in holding the reins when that opportunity arose back in 1991.

During my second consecutive term as NCBA chairman, principle demanded I step down to avoid the possibility of my new job compromising both responsibilities. I urged Giuseppi to run for the post.

After all, it was the very Giuseppi who, some five years earlier, demanded I become involved in mas' administration at national level, rousing me early that Sunday morning to go to a meeting at Edmond Hart's mas camp. By lunch, we (and others) had founded the NCBA.

Hart and Stephen Lee Heung, the prime movers, became the NCBA's first chairman and treasurer (respectively). Hart was subsequently replaced by Dr Max Awon who, on grounds of ill-health, relinquished the post at the end of that term, ushering in my stewardship.

It was a struggle (as Giuseppi -now president of the National Trade Union Congress-would say), getting recognition for an unknown and penniless NCBA and in fact, a real fight to get a seat alongside pan and calypso representatives on the inaugural Board of the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

But with these accomplishments secured, I had to retire. A special general meeting was called at the Port of Spain City Hall to elect the new chief. In addition to being friends since schooldays and adult contemporaries in the industrial relations arena, I had years earlier teamed with Giuseppi and other Belmont comrades to found the mas band Rabs Immortelle. Easily equal to the task, he was my first choice.

But Giuseppi declined, explaining that his trade union responsibilities would not allow enough time for the NCBA. As it happened, a groundswell motion at the meeting reposed in me sole authority to name an interim successor, someone who would, in the first instance, act as chairman until the May 1992 election. I had to find a new chief at short notice. I found him-a relatively recent member-Richard Afong.

Years later, in recognition of my efforts at helping to put NCBA on the map, I was named its first honorary lifetime member, replete with plaque and outpourings of gratitude.

It is against this backdrop as co-founder, past chairman, award-recipient, lifetime-honouree and subsequent advisor to the Association that I strongly condemn the antics of current NCBA leaders, especially last Wednesday's attempt to scuttle the NCC Awards function at Hilton Trinidad.

Let me declare upfront that, as producer of the Awards function, I had a strong interest in seeing the show proceed without hitch. In addition, it must be conceded that the aggrieved bandleaders have good reason, given the NCC's changing of results albeit in three categories of the hundreds in Carnival competitions held under its aegis.

Upon discovery of errata in original tabulation, a few bandleaders who were-just ten days earlier-told they had won top honours, suddenly found themselves relegated. And if you understand the plight of leaders of small bands like I do there is a good possibility that, at first announcement, debt was incurred or credit reconciled; those sums matching prize money expectations.

A red-faced NCC offered to make good the money bandleaders theoretically stood to lose by revised placings. That proposal was rejected. In addition to the cash settlements, the losers still wanted to be deemed champions (complete with inscribed trophies); although the new arithmetic clearly showed otherwise.

Of course, the NCC has no monopoly on bungling results. Last year, the very NCBA was embroiled in a brouhaha on much the same plateau, after invoking a long-dormant rule that allowed it to deduct points from bands guilty of Carnival day transgressions; altering the judges' decision to eventually award Afong's Barbarossa outfit the top prize.

It should have been cash-deductions, the bandleaders argued then. This time, with the cash issue settled, they demanded as punishment for the mistakes that NCC tamper with scores as well, rendering even third placed bands victorious. Clearly, last year's argument about "the judging was strictly for art" no longer applied.

But to file injunctions at showtime in the hope of stopping handing over of the awards, 33 of which were earmarked for NCBA members (including the already seated King and Queen of Carnival) and by the same opportunity, embarrass Mrs Mac Copeland, there to collect an award the very NCBA asked to be conferred posthumously on the veteran mas man; showed a spectacular lack of taste.

Even after being forced to delete from the night's programme all references to mas and scramble to make it work, the show went well-and I do say so myself.

But long-standing NCBA members like Matthew Alexis, Assignor "Senor" Gomez and Noel Aming were put to great embarrassment, not unlike reigning mas monarchs Curtis Eustace and Alana Ward, the former risking an extension of leave from his Toronto job and the latter interrupting a well-deserved post-Carnival Tobago vacation to fly back that afternoon for the event.

Evidently, the NCBA intended this weapon of mas' destruction for the NCC, only to have it backfire and wreak collateral damage on respected seniors in its own fraternity and prize-winners like Legends, Funtasia/Masquerade and Trini Revellers; all of whom were at Hilton Trinidad, expecting to enjoy their moment of glory on St Joseph's night.

No longer can Giuseppi be held singularly responsible for these outrageous shenanigans. In fact, yours truly may be even more culpable for, as he and others have repeatedly said, I found the chief.

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