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May 08 2013

A Push for Political Ethics in Trinidad & Tobago

However you want to define it – principles, a moral code, character – ethics boils down to doing the right thing. With Trinidad and Tobago falling to the number 80 ranking in Transparency International‘s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, a few local bloggers have been discussing the issue of integrity.

The Eternal Pantomime started the ball rolling by providing some legal context:

The Integrity in Public Life Act will turn 13 in November of this year. Most of us view the Act and the Integrity Commission as useless.

The opening sentences of the Act states that the Commission’s purpose is to provide “for public disclosure, to regulate the conduct of persons exercising public functions; to preserve and promote the integrity of public officials and institutions…” What many of us don’t know is that the Integrity Commission has real teeth. Their duties don’t just stop at publishing a list of miscreants and submitting a report to the Senate every year. Their power reaches far beyond financial disclosure.

The folks over at the Integrity Commission can scrutinise any person in public life or exercising public functions. This includes the Prime Minister, the AG, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of state boards, and persons working in the Public Service, Judicial and Legal Service, Police Service, Teaching service, Statutory Authorities’ Service Commission, Diplomatic Service and Advisers to the Government.

If you re-read that list slowly and digest its importance you will realise that the Integrity Commission has oversight of the activities of so many sectors of our country that if the Commission was properly staffed and working efficiently it should, theoretically, be able to root out a lot of the corruption and inefficiency prevalent in our society.

She then honed in on the relevance of the Act to Jack Warner, the recently-resigned Minister of National Security and former Vice President of FIFA who has been plagued with allegations of misconduct in public life:

Mr Warner has been serving in public life since November 5th, 2007. His activities as a member of the Caribbean Football Union, Concacaf and FIFA are public knowledge. Since becoming a member of government in 2010 there have been allegations and speculations hovering over Warner. We have an Integrity Commission in Trinidad and Tobago that is at least a decade old. Why did it take a report from Concacaf to unearth information that Warner has been less than forthcoming about his business interests and financial transactions dating back from 2006?

Back in November 2012 there was a local newspaper report indicating Warner was the subject of a probe by the IC. When questioned about the nature of the probe, Martin Farrell, the Registrar of the IC, responded saying: ‘The Integrity Commission is not in a position to comment on your request. As you will appreciate, having regard to the nature of its mandate under the Integrity in Public Life Act, the Commission is required to treat with all matters with the utmost confidentiality.’

Fast forward now to April, 2013, in the aftermath of the report from Concacaf’s Integrity Committee and there is still a deafening silence from the various bodies and authorities here. The last we heard from the DPP on the matter of Warner, the police had been instructed to look into whether Warner had breached Customs and Excise laws. The probe by the AG into Warner seems to have stalled. And the Integrity Commission remains as enigmatic as ever. Saying little, but alluding to an ongoing probe that has thus far yielded little satisfaction to the public.

Plain Talk, tongue firmly in cheek, added:

The acceptable definition of ethics is – ‘moral principles that governs a person's behavior.’ The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute…has made recommendation that Government should establish an ethical protocol for members of the Cabinet which includes an agreement that any Cabinet member facing serious allegations must step down, which was clearly a recommendation made without much understanding of the nature and culture of our local politics and politicians as they would have understood that a rule like this could ruin a government and empty the Cabinet overnight.

But The Eternal Pantomime wanted answers:

After reading the Concacaf Report you have to ask yourself what exactly is the problem with us here that we can have so many institutions and systems in place, and have them constantly fail us. Why is investigating Warner and making him answerable to the public so difficult? Why does an Integrity Commission, enacted with so much power on paper, often seem so weak? When exactly are these bodies responsible for public oversight actually going to start earning their keep? Or are we going to have to launch a probe not just into Warner, but into the integrity of our Commissions?

aka_lol couldn't provide answers, but referring to Jack Warner's bid to be re-elected as the candidate for the now vacant Chaguanas West seat (from which he voluntarily resigned), the blogger did take a shot at predicting more of the same:

The Prime Mister, unable to ignore credible evidence for a change, finally expressed shock and horror which angered or embarrassed Jack into resigning. Nobody knows. This report has probably worked in his favor as now no one can say they think Jack Warner was a dishonest man.

From the full page ads and reports reaching this blog, Mr. Warner, like the UNC [the United National Congress, the political party that comprises the majority of the ruling People's Partnership government] executives, will go down fighting. Jack has popularity among the poor and romantic as his weapon, and the UNC, it seems, has the ability to victimize anyone who is observed to be part of Jack’s motorcade and support. Both sides are wielding big sticks against each other with the end result favoring Jack over the pretentious but powerful. Jack’s secret weapon is well known and that is to go as an independent candidate thus leaving the seat open for the Opposition to grab. Let the games begin.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Ethics and Morals: Timeless and Universal?” is by stephenccwu, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit stephenccwu's flickr photostream.

Trinidad & Tobago: Smoking Ad Loophole

I don’t think this cigarette newspaper ad was necessary and it was in very poor taste.

aka_lol takes issue with a cigarette advertisement, which apparently found loopholes around the prohibitions applied to such advertising under the Tobacco Control Act.

Sponsored post

May 04 2013

May 03 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Warner's Future History

Like all urban legends, Jack will linger on minds of both the mindful and mindless.

Tongue firmly in cheek, aka_lol predicts Jack Warner's legacy.

April 22 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Jack Fell Down and Broke His Crown

Years of accusations against former FIFA Vice-President turned Trinidad and Tobago's Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, came to a head yesterday as the country's Prime Minister accepted his resignation from Cabinet.

The resignation came on the heels of pressure surrounding the release of this report by the CONCACAF Integrity Committee. (Warner had been president of CONCACAF for about two decades.) The report was written by former Chief Justice and Attorney General of Barbados, David Simmons: in it, Warner was accused of various acts of graft and the misappropriation of funds. A few hours after tendering the resignation from his ministerial portfolio, Warner also resigned from his post as chairman of the United National Congress, the largest political party of the ruling coalition People's Partnership government.

Writing on Friday, two days before the resignation, Trini World Views chided the government for initially closing ranks around Warner instead of acting quickly:

The latest in this string of consistent 'spit in the eye’ politics is the CONCACAF reports on Jack Warner, who is the Minister of National Security and at this point seen as the untouchable Minister of Everything. What is more troubling however is the response from the Government, which is no different than before except perhaps with an extra inflating of their PR work with the Cabinet encircling to defend the wrong.

Interestingly, the blogger also felt that dismissing Warner would not, at this juncture, make a difference to the fortunes of the government:

At this point just as at any, he should be fired as Minister of National Security, there is no doubt about that. What however will that accomplish overall? With his influence and the Government's way of running Ministries for their own gain, who is to say that they won't just put someone there to further his agenda as well. Also where does this leave the others who should in the same manner have been rooted out long ago?

The post continued:

The more we cry out, the quicker we are brushed off. At this point it is too late just to fire a rouge Minister. The rot that the Government has inflicted upon the state is too severe for a turn around short of a total cleansing of corruption to the extent of [half] of the Ministers ending up in jail, and the other half ending up on the breadline, with not even the PM being left standing when the ethical dust settles. For the Government, opportunities to do the right thing pass daily, and and chance of redemption has passed.

At Wired868, Lasana Liburd noted that the seeds of Warner's destruction were planted long ago:

Three years ago, then Integrity Commission chairman Eric St Cyr recommended that Warner chose between his government portfolio and FIFA position. Had he left football, the Chaguanas West MP might have avoided the fall-out with Blazer and FIFA president Sepp Blatter and lasted the term as a Cabinet member.

If Warner gave up his government post, he might have continued to benefit from the lax scrutiny afforded to most sporting administrators.

But, like Icarus, Warner was intoxicated with his own power and it was a matter of time before he would fly too close to the sun.

Liburd pondered what the Warner controversy revealed about the Trinbagonian psyche:

Trinidad and Tobago, despite over 50 years as an independent nation, still appears too politically immature as a people to see the link between corruption and hardship; unable to grasp that millions pocketed and wasted by politicians and their cohorts might have a direct relation to ill-equipped hospitals, unsafe roads, the loss of our gas subsidy, inadequate basic services like water and, of course, the booming crime scourge.

Warner knew a population inclined more to self-preservation than communal love would turn a blind eye to its neighbour’s suffering once someone felt there was a dollar in it for him. And he preyed on Trinidad and Tobago’s selfish streak for decades.

Philip Edward Alexander noted that many of the public figures now condemning Warner have been accused of improprieties before:

Perhaps it is time to scrutinize every member of Parliament, align earnings with possessions and [apply] the strictest standards of the Integrity in Public Life Act to all across the board.

Meanwhile, Dervedia Thomas compiled a Storify post about reaction to Warner's resignation on Twitter.

The Global Voices Caribbean team will continue to monitor reactions to and further developments of the story.

April 18 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Caribbean Digital Expo, V2.0

This was an event for people in the private and public sector tasked with making sense of fast moving changes in the digital realm.

BitDepth reports on the second Caribbean Digital Expo conference.

March 26 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: The Golden Globe

It’s another piece of our history that may disappear from our landscape because we lack the interest in preserving things of value.

Tillah Willah thinks that the Globe cinema is worth preserving for another generation of Trinbagonians, adding: “I would pay good money to go and see that and make plenty noise for heroes and sheroes who look, sound, act and feel like me.”

March 20 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Crime & Punishment

Right now the war is on for the soul of our country and if we’re not, every last one of us, actively engaged and prepared to battle, then what is the point?

A must-read post by Tillah Willah about crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

March 14 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Soldiers as Police?

The soldier will have all of the powers of a police officer…but he doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Police.

The Eternal Pantomime thinks that “this precepting of soldiers…is about something deeper and far sinister. It is about controlling the State.”

March 06 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Anything But “Nothing”

Tillah Willah takes issue with Nicki Minaj's “going on American television and describing her country, my country as ‘nothing’.”

February 26 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Tensions High after Fatal Car Crash

On Sunday morning, a traffic accident in one of Port of Spain's most disadvantaged areas led to rioting because of rumours that the car involved in the crash was allegedly driven by an off-duty police officer…and allegations by residents of the area (which have yet to be corroborated) that the driver may have been drinking.

Netizens from Trinidad and Tobago posted updates on Twitter and Facebook very soon after the incident, which took place near the Central Market in the nation's capital. A mother and her two young children were killed.

On Facebook, C News Live‘s page reported that the vehicular accident allegedly involved a police vehicle, although the car involved in the crash appeared to be unmarked:

The incident caused rioting and police officers, who were called in to quell the disturbance, had to fire several shots in the air.

Ccn Tvnews’ Facebook page also carried the report, stating:

There has been tension between Sealots residents and the police in the two hours since the vehicular accident occurred around 9am. Police have cordoned off the scene of the accident.

East-bound traffic being diverted off Wrightson Road in the vicinity of the lighthouse as police cordon off Sealots accident scene.

One of the TV network's journalists, @MarlanHopkinson, who appeared to be covering developments, tweeted regular updates in which the number of fatalities was reported as three, not four, as some claimed. He posted this photograph of the mangled car involved in the accident and later tweeted:

‏@MarlanHopkinson: Laventille MPs Marlene McDonald and Nileung Hypolite heading to Sea Lots to meet with relatives of accident victims

The neighbourhood in which the accident occurred, Sea Lots, is one of the city's most impoverished. Sharon Millar, who blogs at My Chutney Garden and gave permission for her Facebook status updates to be quoted, happened to pass by the area after the incident:

Helicopters everywhere roads blocked off.

Residents came out to aTtack the driver, the place is cordoned off and there are police everywhere. Talk is also that the woman killed is the sister of the man who opens and closes the market gates. The situation down there was very tense and we had to come through Barataria to leave. Very very tragic. Pray for the souls of the ones killed. RIP

In the commentary, fellow blogger Rhoda Bharath, who writes at The Eternal Pantomime, and also gave her permission to be quoted, described the scene as:

Helicopter and riot squad police like ants on sweetbread.

What apparently exacerbated tensions were reports that the driver may have been under the influence of alcohol. Though this still has not been confirmed, this tweet claimed there was substance to the accusation. One Twitter user, @aabida_allaham, posted this comment:

@aabida_allaham: Looks like people begging for another state of emergency….#SeaLots #Protest #Murders #Crime #Trinidad vigilante citizens being born

Rhoda Bharath, in a Facebook conversation, noted:

I getting pics on twitter and a pardner down in the mix….if police ain't move with sense it could flare up bad….but I hoping by now the crowd starts to thin.

What struck Sharon Millar the most, though, was that:

Everyone [in the market area] was devastated by the loss of life.

Online, however, tensions of another kind were heating up after a journalist posted a private Facebook status update about the incident – and subsequent rioting – that was racially derogatory. Somehow, the status was shared and soon went viral. The Eternal Pantomime wasted no time in writing a post:

The thing is, Heeralal vented an opinion that many people, of all races and ethnicities believe : that poor people, especially poor black people are sub-human and don’t deserve to be treated with dignity. It is this attitude that makes us blind to their plight. It is also an attitude that is linked to both race and class. And if you went through all of Heeralal’s comments yesterday, you’d see he was really focussed on class discrimination than race discrimination.

She delved further into the discrimination issue…

Class discrimination is rampant in Trinidad and Tobago. When it comes to poor people, especially poor black people, we are incredibly put out. How dare they be all up in our faces while we trying to be upwardly mobile? How dare they remind us that state wealth isnt distributed adequately and that some people have access to all of the resources; but most people have access to none.

We never see how daily they are oppressed and how it then results into a spill over of rage that leads to blocked roads, burnt tyres and police intervention.

…and put it into the context of what happened at Sea Lots on Sunday:

A man lost his entire family in seconds. Seconds. We can’t return them to him. In the midst of wrenching grief, this man knows that the person responsible for killing his family may never be brought to justice. The community of Sea Lots responded angrily, impulsively and violently. The police and armed services responded back.

The blogger explained how the Facebook status update spread, then said:

None of these people [who liked and commented on the update in question] think there is anything wrong with Heeralal belittling the magnitude of the tragedy, or with him decrying vigilante style justice and then endorsing it with his own brand of vigilante justice.

On Monday morning, residents continued to block the roadway (a main access route into Port of Spain) in protest. Facebook was filled with status updates about the gridlock and many were advised not to venture into the capital – at least not at rush hour. Riot police were again on the scene as residents burned car tyres and lit candles in protest and remembrance.

February 25 2013

Caribbean: One Billion Rising

On February 14th, various groups throughout the Caribbean participated in the global “One Billion Rising”campaign. The campaign called for women across the world to dance together in protest of violence against women (the “one billion” is in reference to a statistic that one in three women will be assaulted or raped in their lifetime):

When One Billion bodies rise and dance on 14 February 2013, we will join in solidarity, purpose and energy and shake the world into a new consciousness. Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It's dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It's free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It's contagious and it spreads quickly. It's of the body. It's transcendent.

The feminist collective Code Red highlighted some of the events on its blog and compiled a photoset from various events all over the region.

Barbados hosted two One Billion Rising events. One event was held at Heroes Square in Bridgetown and was organized by the One Billion Rising Barbados Planning Committee, which is an umbrella organization for the SAVE Foundation, the National Organisation of Women, and UN Women.

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

One Billion Rising, Heroes Square, Bridgetown, Barbados

Another event was held at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill campus, inside the Guild of Students Union. This event was organized by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies.

One Billion Rising, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados

Women of Antigua (WOA) organized the One Billion Rising event there; it took place at Lower Redcliffe Street, St. John's.

One Billion Rising in St. John's, Antigua.

One Billion Rising in Lower Redcliffe Street, St. John's, Antigua.

The event in Grenada was organized by the students at St. George's University. There was also a spinoff yoga event hosted by Groundation Grenada at Camerhogne Park.


One Billion Rising, St. George's University, Grenada

In Guyana, Stella's Sisterhood of Support and Service Foundation (S4) organized the event, which took place at the Promenade Gardens in Georgetown. The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination also participated.

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

One Billion Rising, Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

In Saint Lucia, the One Billion Rising event was organized by the victim's advocacy group PROSAF and was supported by the  They Often Cry Out (TOCO) Foundation, which continued its annual Clothesline Project.

One Billion Rising, Derek Walcott Square, Castries, Saint Lucia

One Billion Rising, Derek Walcott Square, Castries, Saint Lucia


There were also gatherings at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and in downtown Nassau in the Bahamas.

Code Red shared a comment which questioned the use of dance as a critical component of the One Billion Rising campaign:

I wish every Feminist initiative, everywhere around the globe, wholehearted success. But… I have a seeeerious problem with the ‘Let’s All Dance!’ focus for the
‘One Billion Rising’ event. Could someone tell me WHY – and in a way that makes pellucid sense to me, WHY Women, in their seemingly chronic male-designation as Abuse Fodder, would choose the carefree, spontaneous, *celebratory* act of …dance: to (somehow?!?) symbolize the One Billion Rising initiative?

Code Red continued:

The whole things seems miscued, somehow; it appears – at least to me, like some desperate psychological ‘buffer’ being enacted by Women globally, to try to distance themselves emotionally from what I have NO FEAR in stating as The Harsh REALITY: i.e., WOMEN’S RIGHTS IS ON A STEADILY DOWNWARD CURVE!

Patrice disagreed with this position instead arguing that “…not every action, event, initiative or strategy is designed to have the same impact or achieve the same goals”:

One Billion Rising is meant to raise awareness. In talking about One Billion Rising, I have had the opportunity to share information and statistics which have startled, alarmed and disgusted people. People are more aware and this awareness can impact the conversations they have and entertain, the political candidates they endorse, the demands they make of their leaders and the overarching climate of the country.

She added:

As for the dancing, I do not see the dance as a dance of ignorance and distraction. The dance is not to make mockery or to make light. Indeed, many of the dancers will be the women who are still burning. The originator of the movement herself burned physically and sexually at the hands of her father for years. I see dancing, especially as woman, as rebellious. So many political wars are fought on and around women’s bodies that, as a woman, taking control over your body and bucking tradition by moving it, wiggling it, shaking it, bouncing it and simply owning, embracing and enjoying its movements in that moment, can be a powerful experience.

Damali and Karen Robinson also discussed One Billion Rising on their podcast “Ennufff.”


February 23 2013

Trinidad & Tobago's Take on The Harlem Shake

The latest Internet meme craze, the Harlem Shake, in which people dance to this song, has now taken Trinidad and Tobago – the other side of the world from where the meme began, in Queensland, Australia – by storm.

Not to be confused with the original Harlem Shake dance, the meme's version basically involves a lead character dancing on his or her own for a bit, to be followed by the rest of the “cast” joining in with ebullient dance moves. Of course, for a video meme, it is easily reproduced, as it involves just one camera angle and a jump cut – practically anyone can do it and they certainly have been – in all parts of the country. The trend has become so popular that even local mainstream media are covering it.

The blog mekmilaugh, which put together a quick playlist of some of the videos, noted that:

Even with Carnival just concluding, Trinidadians have found time to get into the internet mania being generated by Baauer's Harlem Shake where people across the World have been making crazy short videos to the song.

Here is a look at some of the videos…a Trinbagonian take on the Harlem shake!

There is one from Synergy TV

…another from social/entertainment website which goes all out, complete with confetti…

…and one from Macoya Gardens – the “street edition”:

Sandwich Media posted this one, which has a definite Carnival feel. They dubbed it “the waterfront edition”, since it was filmed at the Hyatt Regency hotel, which has a view of the Gulf of Paria:

Even the vagrants who populate the streets of the capital, Port of Spain, seemed to be getting in on the act:

Finally, the most artistic approach came from jtography, whose stop motion version is both clever and entertaining:

February 21 2013

February 15 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Dr. Kim Mallalieu on ICT

ICT Pulse launches its “Caribbean Tech Movers and Shakers” series by profiling Dr. Kim Mallalieu, an educator who has influenced telecoms regulation, mobile applications development and Open Data initiatives.

Who owns the Copyright for Trinidad and Tobago Carnival?

It has been popular in recent years for photographers (professional and amateur alike) to publish their pictures of Trinidad and Tobago's various Carnival activities online, especially on social media sites like Facebook. But now, the Trinidad & Tobago Copyright Collection Organization (TTCO) considers this to be a possible copyright infringement:

‘If you take those photos and post them on Facebook, what you have done is give someone the option of graphics,’ TTCO president Richard Cornwall told the Trinidad Newsday. ‘They can pull these images and compile them in a magazine which could then be used for commercial gain.

‘If that could be traced to your website page, you can be held accountable as the source for the act of infringement.’

However, Wired 868 doesn't consider such threats to be serious:

Whether anyone takes seriously a threat from an organisation that, in 2013, does not have an official website or Facebook page is another matter entirely. And even the Newsday got its name and acronym wrong as the body was incorrectly referred to as the “Trinidad and Tobago Copyright Collection Organisation (TTCCO).”

The Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad & Tobago (COTT) stated that it has no connection to the TTCO, which according to news reports is serving the interests of the National Carnival Development Foundation.

Kejan JJ Haynes, former multimedia journalist at Caribbean Communications Network in Trinidad  and currently a student at Columbia University in New York, explored the legality of the issue:

The streets of Trinidad and Tobago definitely constitute ‘public space.’

Remember, the issue raised isn’t you posting your pictures online. It’s if your pictures are taken without permission and then used for financial gain. That’s why so many photographers place their watermark on their photos before posting them. It’s to keep people from stealing them. So unless you willingly gave someone flagrantly copyrighted material knowing fully well that they were going to cash in, you’re fine.

That being said, if you can prove that someone else has used your pictures for financial gain you have a better chance of getting remuneration because your intellectual property was stolen.

Philip Edward Alexander criticized the position taken by Cornwall and TTCO

 Hogwash! Any bush lawyer would love to face this ‘organization’ in a court of law where rules of evidence applies and challenge their authority or his claim. The fact of the matter is Trinidad Carnival takes place in the public space OWNED by the taxpayers and cannot be constricted as rigorously as these people want it to be. The Carnival is part of the culture of Trinidad & Tobago, and any monetizing must be shared with the people from whom the largess flows or none at all. Perhaps a day can come when bandleaders, in exchange for securing their art, are forced to pay a hefty ransom to enjoy the public space on which their art is transformed into cold hard cash. To quote a legal luminary and doctor friend of mine – ‘If band leaders want to enjoy copyright protection, let them fund the entire festival and utilize private venues for their presentation. As long as I am funding carnival as a taxpayer, and my road is being used for the parade, all rights to images are surrendered by the band leaders and masqueraders.’

Alexander felt that the TTCO was trying to dominate what should be a public event:

This is a brazen attempt to tax the people for the enjoyment of their own culture in their own country after the fact and should be resisted with all patriotism and national pride. The legislation under which this organization TTCO wants to strong-arm the people needs to be repealed, the organization disbanded, and Cornwall and the rest of the supporting cast who attempted this cultural pickpocketing sent on their way.

Nigel A. Campbell responded to Alexander by stating that the situation iss more complicated than it seems:

As defined by our laws, ‘work of mas is an original production intended to be performed by a person or a group of persons in which an artistic work in the form of an adornment or image presented by the person or persons is the primary element of the production, and in which such adornment or image may be accompanied by words, music, choreography or other works, regardless of whether the production is intended to be performed on stage, platform, street or other venue.’

It is irrelevant to imply that because the mas is played on the public street, ‘any monetizing must be shared with the people from whom the largess flows or none at all.’ The law is specific in the definition of a work of mas, and public display and performance is a right enshrined by law. However, there is a lack of specificity in the law as to further details on copyright infringement with regards to works of mas as opposed to audio-visual works, sound recordings and literature. Beyond the statements that a work of mas can't be reproduced and that the producer of the work of mas is the owner, there is a vagueness that muddles interpretation as you have begun to do.

Campbell continued:

This lack of specificity is made clear in Sec 8(1) which prohibits certain acts of reproduction, but does not identify if a photographic reproduction is the same, taking into consideration that a work of mas is an object (‘adornment or image presented by the person or persons') called a costume! I guess it's like taking a photo of the playable side a CD as opposed to the artwork side and cover which is copyrightable! And, certainly, the law seems more interested in the knowing commercial exploitation without license than mundane reproduction on social media.

Journalist and Cultural Historian Kim Johnson felt that the debate was “surrealistic”, considering the wider challenges facing Carnival:

The ship is sinking and people are sitting at the dinner table arguing over who should have the last slice of cake. Are they mad? This country is dying from the greed of many people, one aspect of which is the stupid, childish idea that there's a dollar to be claimed from anyone who draws from the public well of images. You all should be glad if someone produces books and magazines of Carnival photos, and if they could make that a profitable thing to do they should be given national awards. All you really believe there is original art in the bikini and beads costumes? Or the tired old traditional masqueraders dragged out every year for the tourists? Or that Carnival is the ‘greatest show on earth'? Can't you see in those ideas a delusion that is psychotic in its dimensions?

Taran Rampersad thought that overly stringent copyright restrictions would hurt Carnival:

The present Copyright system has taken most of the relevant bad for T&T from the U.S. without taking the relevant good. The gatekeepers are stoned with their own power. The people who do art in the genre of Carnival do deserve protection, but draconian protection makes the candle cost more than the funeral – and there WILL be a funeral.

Jacqueline Morris thought more emphasis should be placed on the cultural value of creations as opposed to merely the monetary value:

The implementation now with TTCO getting involved sucks. But the principles remain. Better implementation is not that difficult if we agree that all artistic work has value that should provide monetary benefits to the creators. But we don't. Here, the argument is often about the value in the context of a national economic space, not of the intrinsic value of the artistic creation or product itself.

Taran Rampersad quibbled with this assertion:

There we go with ‘value’ again. We don't agree that artistic work has value; we can agree that some artistic work is seen to have monetary value as demonstrated in the pseudo-free market related to ‘mas'. The underlying principle is that if something has *value*, it should have a cost associated with it and protections available to it. That sort of thinking leads to the Copyright system T&T has now. However, not everything created at cost has value. Therefore, one cannot protect everything that has a cost because not everything that has a cost has a value. This tethering to the government seems an extension of colonial law in enactment. We all know Carnival is a lot of money for a few people, and they've been making it regardless of alleged infringements, from petty to severe. They, it seems, understand that when people share works it adds to their *brand*. And brand, by itself, has value but is not directly protected by Law other than through trademarks, copyright and patents. ‘Mas’ is probably one of the most interesting examples of Open Culture – Free Culture, its very ROOTS! – becoming closed by very close-minded people.

Engineer and steelpan innovator Professor Brian Copeland weighed in on the issue of “value”:

One can choose to measure that value in any manner. However, if you have to choose one single measure it would have to be financial. The mas ‘developed’ over time largely due to the prize monies awarded. Panorama helped mitigate a social problem, rivaled only today by gun toting gangs. There is a cost/benefit study somehwere in there! Nothing is free … you pay one way or the other. There is a challenge in managing this ‘cost’ that balances the potential of gaining returns to fuel yet another round of activity while protecting the chaos that is so essential to real creativity. I see GORTT's [the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago] role as that of using public resources to ensure the short and long term growth and development of the arts for the good of all the people — all of the arts. This is why it has to be valued.

Rampersad replied:

 in the context of Copyright, not all artistic output has value. You rightly point out that ‘Monetary value is based on what is saleable', and that's exactly what Copyright is about. Protecting the investment and derivative profits (and debts, mind you) of creators. The distinction between creators and artists is easy. This morning I made some poop, a derivative work of what I ate. It wasn't something I would call art, though some might disagree. When you start talking about artists, you start talking about the definition of art. That's a silly rabbithole to get trapped in. Lets talk about creators and copyright, the value that Copyright is meant to protect (monetary) and so on. Clouding the discussion does not make for better art.

Photographer and journalist Mark Lyndersay addressed some of the issues involved in using pictures for advertising:

Advertisers are traditionally expected to negotiate the rights to any identifiable person or property used in their projects. There are model rights as well as property rights that must be negotiated before such use. The works of mas issue adds a specific wrinkle to such limitations and it's one of the reasons why most agencies use ‘original’ pieces created for ads when they need a Carnival costume. Unless there's a co-branding exercise in play.

The online discussion surrounding this issue will no doubt continue.

February 14 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Calypso Music

Calypso dead? Not quite. Calypsonians and calypso shows being lazy and unoriginal? We have plenty of that.

The Eternal Pantomime explains.

Caribbean: Valentine's Day is for Bloggers

Think you know what love is all about? A few regional bloggers use Valentine's Day as an opportunity to figure it out…

From Jamaica, Nadine Tomlinson quotes a poem by Rumi to set the tone for the day, while Havana Times republished a post from the blog's inaugural year, which provided a glimpse into how February 14th is celebrated in Cuba.

Cuban diaspora blog Babalu, on the other hand, put a twist on the celebrations by offering some dictator love and criticizing the way in which New Zealanders are “celebrat[ing] the lovely bohemian ambience of the Castro Kingdom”.

Other posts from the regional diaspora included chookooloonks’ tips for a Valentine's Day craft activity “for kids with moms who are *completely* uncrafty”, while back in chookooloonks’ homeland, Trinidad and Tobago, Wuzdescene posted an image of a press advertisement that he thinks is perfect for Valentine's Day. The text reads:

Tabanca SALE!
Why buy chocolates for a person that will leave you when you can buy a computer that will stay with you?

(Tabanca, according to “Cote ci Cote la“, the Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary, is local parlance for “the forlorn feeling that one gets when a love affair is over”.)

Over in the U.S. Virgin Islands, News of St. John blogs about the eleventh annual celebration of “Celebration of Love”:

Last year, 72 couples repeated their vows in the beach ceremony organized by non-denominational minister Anne Marie Porter.

There is a practical post from the Bahamas’ Mainstream, who offers advice for men to impress the ladies “even if you're broke and clueless”, and another from Barbados’ Notes From A Small Rock, who writes about “the pillars of love and marriage” – at least according to a Barbadian pastor:

The first pillar is money. Yes money. You need money. I need money. Alicia, you must accept that Keshorn is in charge of the way the money going be handled. You must trust in he wisdom…accept that or mark my words, this marriage go be over before you could say macaroni pie.

The great temple of marriage has a second pillar and that is communication. I does meet a set of young people getting married and they don’t know how to talk to one another. They busy emailing and could spend the whole day on Facebook or texting.

The third pillar holding up the roof of the temple of marriage is sex. The adult male and adult female must have a good and regular sex life. By now you should have located her G spot. If you ain’t done your homework I promise you my friend: someone going do it for you.

The fourth pillar that you Alicia, and you Keshorn, must pay attention to is the one and only Lord God All Mighty.

Happy Valentine's Day!

A Fantastic Comeback for Trinidad & Tobago Carnival

The International Soca Monarch Competition in Trinidad and Tobago is a major highlight of the country's Carnival festivities  but this year it also served as a comeback for former winner Austin “SuperBlue” Lyons. Lyons, who had last won the title in 2000, had not competed for nearly a decade, perhaps in part because of his struggle with addiction. This year, however, he managed to tie defending champion Machel Montano for first place and a share of the International Soca Monarch title.

On Facebook, Rubadiri Victor posted:

From the moment that skit appeared on the screen of the blue douen wandering lost to the strains of Ras Shorty I's immortal classic ‘Watch out my Children’ people began to cry- and we knew we were in a different type of performance. Blue and his team took it there… THERE!!! Into the bowels of the Hell Blue was clambering out of to deliver this gift. It was a remarkable soulful work of Art as it progressed because it located its origins in that honesty and that real wrestle with the Devil. Which is what real Art is supposed to do- take the raw material of the moment and fashion something sacred.

He continued:

Blue's team succeeded- they were able to take the context and history of the Soca Monarch competition, the crisis of Soca's direction, Blue's personal biography, national crisis, a real spiritual need of our people to believe in something real again- to fashion resurrection… I think we will look back on it as an emotional, epic moment in our nation's history, one that bought home to us the capacity of the human spirit and genius…

Comedienne Rachel Price posted a video blog (on YouTube) of her take on the competition:

But online discussion surrounding the contest soon reverted to Facebook. Nigel Campbell posted:

We have short memories to the history of comebacks, and the resultant din—some quieter that others—that keeps this place an isle full of noises at Carnival time. Soca Monarch 2013 saw the return to the top after 13 years of Superblue. An icon and, admittedly, a mentor to Machel, we know what the intervening years meant to this recovering avatar for Carnival and soca in the 21st century.

Campbell went on:

Our ageism bias creeps in unaware sometimes. When Superblue was rampant in the early 1980s and boasting Sparrow's time had passed, The Calypso King of the World came back in 1984 after 12 years and won a road march and stalled Super, and some say caused his first dive into hell. Speaking of hell, Shadow would have to wait 27 years before public accolade swept his tune ‘Stranger’ to another road march. Old men winning!

Playwright Tony Hall mused:

Super Blue has continually tried to ‘fly’ over the years. He climbed every speaker box in sight for years to accomplish this. Blue's offspring, in the ‘emancipation performance tradition', Machel Montano, achieved it last night in the International Soca Monarch Finals 2013. It was a glorious exchange of generational energy. And Super, seeing that it was good, proceeded to conjure up a healing balm for himself and all of us…it seems that competition is the best mechanism we have invented to facilitate this kind of necessary ritual in our festival culture. but even though it is necessary to do the analysis through the lens of our festival sensibility, it may also be necessary, at times, to go beyond the spectrum of that reality to plumb the complex forces and energies that commingle below the surface. i suspect therein lies a certain mastery.

He also took a more in-depth look at the competition aspect of the national festival:

it is only partially helpful to look at ‘competition’ as a whole. we need to look, specifically, at the impulse to ‘competition’ that lies within all festival cultures (or cultures driven by festivals) to better understand that impulse and to observe how and why it can be managed and manipulated by the politics and interests that do not care about, or see anything as, steel band aesthetics (or anything that can be described as an ‘aesthetic’ for that matter). this is really a long involved discussion that is not really suited to the ‘facebook’ format because it goes to the heart of how our version of ‘democracy’ functions or does not function, the steel band being a major institution or agent of community mobilization here in T&T. and even the internal and external mechanisms of how that works are changing rapidly. the music then is the crest of the wave on the sea and the steel band movement is the big ocean. aesthetics really involve the values embedded in the sea and the ocean not just the crests of the waves, the music. so when ‘competition’ is organized this way or that, the outcome, which involves and affects the whole movement, is the ‘aesthetic’ not just the music. but what the ‘impulse’ says to us is that we cannot dispense with ‘competition'.

Philip Edward Alexander also weighed in:

Ethel and Rebecca may have gotten lost on their way to the Soca Baptist Flag Party and may have needed a Signal to Get Something and Wave in the Bachannal Time, but there is no mistaking that Blue Boy/Super Blue still owns the stage even if the crowd he once commanded are now there to catch him should he fall. Coming back from the pit of hell (who didn't know about his addictions and substance abuse issues), Trinis showed again what compassionate and loving people they are at heart and welcomed him home as if he'd never been away. His Soca Monarch support was as much a gift to ourselves as it was to him, a thank you to him for coming back to remind us of a better time not that long ago, and instilling in us a hope that that time could come back again.

SuperBlue went on to win the coveted National Road March title – his song “Fantastic Friday” was played most often by DJs who provide music for revelers on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

February 07 2013

Trinidad & Tobago: Cyber Security

ICT Pulse wonders how serious the Caribbean really is about cybercrime and online security.

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