123 total votes.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
LESS than a week after officials announced the event’s line-up, Prime Minister Perry Christie confirmed yesterday that the 2017 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival has been postponed until after the general election.
The news has “blindsided” key stakeholders and vendors, who decried the confusion, likely damage to brand and reputation and potential financial losses resulting from the date change.
The Tribune understands the event has been pushed back from May 4-6 to May 18-20 in Nassau. The new date was also circulated in a flyer by Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival’s Instagram account last night.
It is unclear whether the Grand Bahama-leg of the festival, slated for April 28 and 29, has also been pushed back.
Mr Christie was asked about the postponement on the sidelines of a ceremony to rename thoroughfares at the University of the Bahamas, after a report published in The Nassau Guardian indicated that the government had decided to delay the event.
Mr Christie said: “I’m advised that the Carnival Commission has met and agreed that because of the impending possibilities, to suspend or extend the date of (Junkanoo) Carnival. I don’t know the dates they had chosen but it is my understanding that that has been done.”
Up to press time, the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) had not released a new date for the event, or an official statement on the postponement.
When The Tribune contacted BNFC Chairman Paul Major, he said: “What we know is that we’re not going to conflict with the final say of Cabinet - once an official election date is set, then our dates are subject to change.”
Last Thursday, the BNFC announced Trinidadian singing stars Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin as event headliners. It was also confirmed that the event will be streamlined compared to past years because of financial constraints.
The government will reduce its subsidy to the festival by as much as 50 per cent over last year, when taxpayers contributed about $8 million, officials said. The 2016 event brought in $578,342 in revenue, costing more than $9.8m overall.
In 2015, the government spent $11.3m on the inaugural festival, going over its initial budget of $9m, with the rest covered by sponsors. The first Junkanoo Carnival cost $12.9m overall.
Mr Major and BNFC CEO Roscoe Dames declined further questions, and advised that the commission would release further information today.
The Office of the Prime Minister, in a press statement on Sunday, announced that Parliament will be dissolved on April 11.
According to the Parliamentary Elections Act, an election must be held 21 to 30 days after election writs are issued, meaning the next vote will likely be held in early May.
The last election was held on May 7, 2012.
In 2015, the inaugural festival took place on May 7-9 in New Providence, and the 2016 Junkanoo Carnival kicked off on April 15-16 in Grand Bahama and on May 5-7 in New Providence.
In February, Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader K Peter Turnquest called for the government to postpone or delay the festival until after the general election, warning that the event could only be perceived as “vote buying” if staged during the election cycle.
The Tribune reached out to Bahamas Carnival Band Owners Association (BCBOA) President Dario Tirelli for comment on the matter; however, Mr Tirelli declined comment until an official government statement was released.
Mr Tirelli told The Tribune that the news had “blindsided” his association.
Stephan Rolle, owner of Bluemonkey Bahamas, told reporters that any date change would negatively impact his business, the Bahamas Carnival Cruise, which has booked more than 100 carnival-goers on an all-inclusive weekend cruise from Miami to Nassau.
He challenged Mr Christie to give the festival the same level of respect as the annual Junkanoo parades.