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Matters Arising

By Terry Joseph
February 11, 2005

The High Court was terribly busy last weekend, not burdened this time by complex criminal matters but pondering Carnival-related issues from complainants whose common aim was to advance to the next rung of competition in their various artistic disciplines.

On occasion, the Law Lords burnt lanterns into the night, to ensure matters arising from internecine Carnival conflict were swiftly concluded, or at least resolved to the point of avoiding disruption of the national festival and for that, we all must be eternally grateful.

Within the paradigms of protocol, judges have every right to attend fetes and play mas but over the past few years, those on call during Carnival week must at best be tentative about making plans to join the pervading festivity, given increasing frequency of having to sit in judgment of matters that, left unresolved, may disturb the festival's flow.

Participants who feel aggrieved and can identify no ground-level remedies have every right to seek legal redress but attempting to have Milud stop events crucial to the Carnival configuration so the performer can enjoy ascendancy in the ranking, is quite another matter. In any event, no serious artiste should want to enter any level of competition purely on the basis of a loophole or technicality.

Frankly, one wonders whether any of the issues before the court really demanded judicial intervention. In the case involving the Potential Symphony steel orchestra, hearing of which delayed the start of the Panorama final, it really amounted to a nuisance, ironically perpetrated upon patrons by a senior official of Pan Trinbago.

The San Juan-based band sought to play at the final round, solely on the argument that another group, Parry's Pan School, should have been disqualified for playing out of turn at the semi-final. The trailer carrying Parry's band suffered a mechanical breakdown, that fact witnessed by Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold but was apparently not enough reason to play 14th instead of 13th, according to lawyers for Potential Symphony.

Citing a similar situation with Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, which was disqualified for refusing to play in first position at a Panorama of yore, Potential's officials filed an injunction demanding Parry's Pan School be struck down, which would elevate the complainant to eighth (from ninth) in the standings and secure a place in the finals. Perhaps because some critical details of the Fonclaire issue were not disclosed at first opportunity, Justice David Myers granted the injunction late Friday night.

On Saturday, Pan Trinbago filed a counter position, explaining the circumstances and the same Justice Myers found in the organisation's favour, that judgment coming at nightfall, making it impossible to start the show punctually since no moves in that direction could be made while the issue was still being heard and the order was yet to be delivered to Potential Symphony.

Managed by Pan Trinbago's eastern region chairman Vernon Morancie, Potential Symphony adamantly refused to accept the court order, defiantly proceeding onstage to render its selection, members dressed in motley street-clothes and put to the ignominy of a public announcement about the band's defiance of the court order. Microphones were also switched off, leaving them with no more music power than a single-pan aggregation in acoustic mode.

Abbi Blackman's case was somewhat different. An arithmetical error showed her as eliminated from the semi-final stage of the calypso contest. When the faux pas was discovered, the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) decided to include her but that agreement came too late to ensure proper rehearsal, leaving the singer to accompany herself on the guitar.

However, to extrapolate from that difficulty and reach the point of demanding to be in the competition final is at least a stretch of imagination that doesn't appear to take into consideration some other important factors in judging calypso. Whether the panel found her work substantial enough to secure inclusion in the final 11 should have been the primary consideration. Instead, it became an issue of whether those who had full orchestral backing suddenly had better calypsoes.

And while that was still cooking, the entire panel of judges for Sunday night's calypso final suddenly resigned, perhaps hoping to throw the show into confusion or indeed, scuttle it altogether. Upset over comments made by TUCO president Michael "Protector" Legerton, the adjudicators abandoned, sending National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Kenny de Silva on a late evening hunt for replacements.

That too was achieved and Dimanche Gras was able to start on time and proceed without operational hitch, rendering worthless the intended effect of their last-minute group resignation. Although not reaching court, it was easily the most ludicrous of matters arising. Calypso judges, whose function is to analyse the work of others, were peeved over their work becoming the subject of analysis.

But had none of these matters occurred we may have been left bereft of issues to discuss post-Carnival except, perhaps, we wished to make heavy weather out of Poison's Cherchez La Femme presentation taking three hours and 12 minutes to cross the Queen's Park Savannah stage.

After all, if we're going to spend time on non-issues, Poison's passage certainly fits the bill.

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