The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) seeks to bring clarity regarding the on-going issue in the public domain concerning the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) and TUCO Tobago. The THA also regards the article printed in the Tobago Newsday on Tuesday February 19, 2019 with the headline, ‘THA Ordered to pay TUCO Tobago its Carnival Funds’ as misleading and a misrepresentation of the actual facts of the situation.
THA Senior State Counsel Lesley Gray, confirms that both the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) and the Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, Nadine Stewart-Phillips, attempted to meet with TUCO Tobago on separate occasions, to discuss and negotiate the budgetary allocation for the 2019 Carnival season, prior to the court order on February 14, 2019, which instructed both the THA and TUCO Tobago to meet.
According to Ms. Gray, “TUCO got nothing that they wanted on that day. So I do not understand how they are saying that they won the matter. What in fact happened, is that I would think her Ladyship in her wisdom, Madam Justice Wilson, understanding where we are presently in the Carnival season, sought it best to deal with the issue of the funds to be allocated to TUCO. The THA got what we were asking for all along, which was to meet with TUCO to discuss the budget.”
TUCO Tobago has requested TT$1.9 million to manage its 2019 Carnival season events, however, Ms. Gray says that the THA is not in a position to disburse that level of funding at this time.
In pursuant to the court order, it was agreed at the meeting held on Friday February 15, 2019, between the Tobago House of Assembly and TUCO, that a budgetary allocation of TT$800,000.00 will be provided on Tuesday February 19, 2019, for the calypso competitions and necessary infrastructure.
At today’s court hearing (February 20), the THA offered to provide TUCO with a further TT$120,000 on Thursday February 21, 2019 to fund the calypso tents. However, TUCO has indicated that they are not satisfied with this sum and proposed a budget of TT$400,000. Noting that six (6) weeks of the Carnival season have already gone, the court asked whether TUCO’s budget should not be adjusted downwards and as such, has directed the THA and TUCO to meet again on Thursday February 21, 2019 to come to an agreement. Ms. Gray notes that it is also the recommendation of the court that TUCO should take the TT$120,000 being provided by the THA tomorrow (February 21) and monies over and beyond this allocation, once agreed upon by the two entities, will be disbursed by the THA by February 26, 2019.
As regards questions raised about the legality of the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) operating as a legal entity, Ms. Gray says, “Even though the Tobago Festivals Commission is not a registered company, the Commission can act on behalf of the THA’s Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation. They are still acting on the instructions of the Tobago House of Assembly.”
THA Senior State Counsel Gray further states that Madam Justice Wilson asked all parties -TFC, TUCO Tobago and the THA, to meet and discuss the respective roles and responsibilities of each party. Ms. Gray confirms that today (February 20), both parties agreed to have further discussions about their relationship after the carnival season.