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Bands on the run
Battling to save the local mas manufacturing industry from stiff Asian competition, while convincing the state and private sector to pool their finances and bolster the purse for mas competitors are but two of the challenges presently facing the executive of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA). The perennial wrangling as to the best solution towards a near permanent fix regarding the issue of congestion during the annual Parade of Bands competition on Carnival Tuesday is another.
But the latest threat for the NCBA relates to widespread reports about bandleaders and mas builders—who are not its members—fleecing the mas-loving consumer of thousands of dollars in undelivered costumes.
David Lopez, president of the NCBA, made the disclosure during a T&T Guardian interview. He said: “We had that challenge this year, again. A lot of new bands coming on (the) scene and when time to deliver their costumes, there is no delivery of costumes. “A lot of people are being duped. It’s something that we in the organisation have to look into: bands coming and register and say they (are) bringing a band. Sometimes you don’t even see the band cross the stage.” Newcomers to the mas circuit over the last two Carnivals include: YUMA, K2K Alliance, Woi Mas, Xplosion, Fantasy Carnival, Gems, Oasis, Harvard Revellers, Bliss, Mink Entertainment and The Word and Associates. Lopez said there was now official correspondence between aggrieved masqueraders and the NCBA following this year’s festival, both oral and written, similar to post-Carnival 2011. While the situation was alarming for the NCBA as it threatens to hurt the entire fraternity, Lopez has admitted that the organisation’s authority on this issue was limited.
The NCBA had no investigative powers, he said, and now needed to enlist the services of local law enforcement to deal with the matter. “We have a lot of issues to deal with in an effort to put the Carnival on the right track in terms of honesty in Carnival. “If you posing as a bandleader, coming and registering for a competition and you are giving people information that they going to be given costumes, and then when the times comes, you didn’t get your costumes, I think you have been duped. They have done something illegal. I think that’s where the Fraud Squad has to be called in and we will work together with them to ensure that these things are corrected. A lot of masqueraders, a lot of kings and queens, get robbed from people promising to do their costumes,” Lopez revealed.
Even with documents in hand, the NCBA wants to approach the matter cautiously to help build an effective case.
“So we will get the people to correspond and get everything in place before we could say we have a good case to move forward. “We, at the NCBA, as you know, we could deal with the competition. Once you break the rules of the competition, we could deal with the competition. As a person registering with a band and not getting the costume, that individual has that right to go and make a report and go and deal with the thing, and we could only act a back-up.” He called on potential masqueraders to be more discerning when conducting financial transactions bandleader/mas makers. He went as far as to suggest that they conduct background checks on them. Lopez said: “The mas business is a different business to the pan and the calypso. People pay to play mas. Once you start as a bandleader, you starting with an overhead. You have to look for a place to rent for your mas camp. It is a challenge which the NCBA understands. The mas playing people cannot pay that penalty for you not organising your things properly.”
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