T&T Chutney Soca Monarch contest in jeopardy

(Trinidad Express) THE hosting of the 2014 Lotto Plus Chutney Soca Monarch competition is in jeopardy as Government has failed to deliver on its financial commitments.

This is according to Southex Promotions chief executive officer, George Singh.

Singh said funding for the 2013 edition of the competition was not paid in full, resulting in winners receiving only part of their prize money.

And the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism has not yet allocated funding for this year’s edition, he said.

However, Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Lincoln Douglas yesterday denied that Government owes Southex or any other promoter money.

Douglas said Government had fulfilled its obligations to the 2013 Chutney Soca competition.

Singh said he was disappointed that chutney soca was not being given equal attention to the International Soca Monarch, hosted by Caribbean Prestige Foundation.

“Give us the respect that we deserve,” he said.

Singh was speaking to the media during a press conference at Southex Promotions’ office at Independence Avenue, San Fernando yesterday. He was accompanied by reigning Chutney Soca Monarch Raymond Ramnarine, chutney singers Rikki Jai and Lalchan “Hunter” Babwah and leader of the band 3Veni and father of singer KI Persad, Virendra Persad.

Ramnarine, who won the $1 million first prize, received $800,000.

Singh said: “The Chutney Soca Monarch and International Soca Monarch have grown to be so large that it has now become part of the national landscape and impossible to run without Government’s input.”

Singh said he entered into a verbal agreement with Minister Douglas for $5 million funding to cover prize money in the 2013 competition. He received $1.8 million, which was distributed among the artistes.

Singh said there were no guarantees he would receive the outstanding $3.2 million. “It was a verbal promise by the Minister. We went ahead and did what we had to do. We later found out that Cabinet did not approve the funding. What we got in 2013 did not even cover the prize money for Chutney Soca Monarch. I have asked artistes to bear with me.”

Singh said to date he has no confirmation on how much funding would be allocated to the Chutney Soca Monarch this year.

He did not release the names of the 35 semi-finalists yesterday, as was expected. “We are two weeks away from the semi-finals. This morning I was supposed to release the 35 names of the semi-finalists and I deliberately not released it because I would like to know what is going on with funding for Chutney Soca Monarch,” he said.

The semi-final round of the competition is scheduled for February 1, while the finals will take place at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on February 15.


…Minister responds

Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas said last evening that no money was owed to Southex Promotions or any other promoter.

Douglas said his Ministry had fulfilled its obligations for the 2013 Chutney Soca Monarch.

“I am against the idea where these organisations like Southex and others who talk as if the Ministry owes them something. The Ministry owes none of these organisations any money. We decide who we are funding based on a developmental agenda for the arts industry,” he said.

Douglas said Southex Promotions was given money to pay artistes. And if prizes were not paid, Douglas said, that was not the responsibility of the Ministry.

“It has to do with what Southex chose to do with the money that we gave to them.” Douglas said funding for this year’s competition was not yet determined.

“We are in the process of deciding on what funding will be for this year. We have given a commitment that we will give them some funding, as to what exactly we are in the process of making that decision. It is not the Minister who makes that decision, it goes to the Cabinet,” he said.


…Chutney artistes respond

Chutney Soca Monarch Raymond Ramnarine said he was disappointed that he was not paid his full $1 million first prize.

Ramnarine received $800,000 and is yet to confirm whether he would defend his title this year.

“Winning Chutney Soca Monarch and not receiving my total amount is very sad. When I look at Soca Monarch and other Carnival competitions where everybody else collect their (prize money)…where is our worth? What makes us so different from the rest, why can’t we receive our prize money” he said.

Ramnarine said artistes investing thousands of dollars of a production for Chutney Soca Monarch. “It is not right when you sacrifice so much physically, mentally, spiritually all that time to put out this presentation and then ask yourself why I went through all this and so much expenses? I paid off everybody, from dancers to Tan Tan and Saga Boy. And to this date, a year later, I can’t see myself collecting my full amount,” he said.

Rikki Jai, a veteran chutney singer, said there was no price for culture. “And when you have something as big as Chutney Soca Monarch, that if it were to fall off the grid there will be a void that will be very hard to fill,” he said.

Jai said in countries across the globe, Governments continue to pump money into cultural activities. He called on the Government to assist artistes and institutions promoting the artform.



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