By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis met Junkanoo leaders at his office yesterday to express his “pain and disappointment” at their decision to postpone the Boxing Day Parade, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard confirmed yesterday.
Mr Pintard, who arranged the sit down, described the mood and tenor of the meeting as “serious” and said Dr Minnis emphasised unless something catastrophic happens, dates for the parade should not be changed.
He said Dr Minnis encouraged the leaders to consider whether they want the parade to be for an international audience as opposed to just a national one.
The change of the Boxing Day Parade from Monday night to Tuesday evening attracted widespread criticism, even though Tuesday’s event attracted a typical crowd size. While many blamed forecasts from the Department of Meteorology for the postponement of the festival, officials have said Junkanoo leaders agreed to postpone the festival even after it was determined bad weather would not interrupt proceedings.
Mr Pintard said despite Dr Minnis’ serious message, the tone of the meeting was “cordial” and the parties experienced “some lighthearted moments after the main business was taken care of”.
He said once the meeting concluded, leaders of the Junkanoo Corporation of New Providence (JNCP) acknowledged “some work has to be done” and they “committed to making sure” the parades are international events.
“The prime minister requested a meeting with the Junkanoo leaders which I organised in conjunction with the JCNP,” Mr Pintard said. “The prime minister wanted to express the pain and disappointment he experienced as a result of the decisions taken by the Junkanoo leaders and wanted to pose the question to them as to whether they have an interest in ensuring that Junkanoo is a national parade or an international parade; in either case the government intends to support them but depending on what they decide they have to appreciate there are certain decisions that must be made to make sure it’s a success either way.
“One thing they have to do is ensure that only catastrophic events or exceptional, unusual events could interrupt a date that is designed for the parades. Obviously this would allow careful planning by persons who wish to visit, who apply for vacation, etc. He wanted to reaffirm that the government is committed to Junkanoo. It has been his passion all his life. He was not going to be preoccupied with the sequence of events, how the decision was arrived at, just how it impacted him and the goal was really to get all stakeholders to see that if this is going to be an international expression of our culture, then we have to do some things that would improve the chance of its success. One thing I have mentioned is there has to be predictability in the process.”
Mr Pintard also revealed next month the government will host a Junkanoo conclave. He said it will be the largest event of its kind ever held in the country.
“In January, there’s going to be some meetings between the leadership of my ministry, the JCNP and the National Junkanoo Committee (NJC), followed by an in-depth conclave,” he said. “We are going to look at all things Junkanoo, including the number of parades to be held, the possibility of the implementation of a festival structure, the tens of thousands in the stands, a lot of whom would like to be in the streets, and whether Bay Street is the most suitable location to have the parades. One thing we will deal with is the fact that we’ve ceded a tremendous amount of influence and decision making to Junkanoo leaders by way of the JCNP; we have to look at how we execute our relationship with the the NJC and the JCNP and we are going to take a hard look to ensure that while we give tremendous weight to the opinions of Junkanoo leaders, we do not disadvantage all other stakeholders, and that includes members of the public, the corporate and business community such as taxi drivers, hoteliers, etc. We are going to take a hard look at how that is being done.”
Mr Pintard said the vast majority of Junkanoo groups, including representatives from A and B groups, were represented during yesterday’s meeting.