By Latrishka Thomas
July 26, 2021 marked two years since the last Queen of Carnival competition was held and according to one of the participants, they are yet to receive monies earned in the contest.
The six contestants — Shannakisha Francis, Rudelle Morrison, Maurisa Carbon, Francesca Southwell, Sania Paul, and Azariah Moore — participated in the Harney Motors Ltd Queen of Carnival competition, entitled “I am Woman”.
Francis emerged the winner, while second place was awarded to Morrison and Carbon copped the third-place spot.
The delegates were reportedly told from the beginning that the top three winners will receive $10,000, $8,000 and $5,000 respectively, and the unplaced delegates were to get $3,500. Participants were also be provided with a Prime Minister’s scholarship, but this has reportedly not been honoured to date.
One delegate told Observer that she spoke to the Minister of Festivals Daryll Matthew about the matter on the three separate occasions in 2020 but still not did not receive an answer as to when they would be paid.
She said that in January the pandemic was cited as the reason for the delay.
“He told me about the pandemic, so I was trying to be very understanding about it but I explained to him that my biggest issue with this entire situation is communication because no one is reaching out to us He told me to call the festivals department because they are in charge of it,” she said.
Then in June, “I told him that I contacted the festivals department and they said to me that the government put a hold on all payments with the exception of wages and salaries and he told me that they are experiencing some severe financial issues and that’s the reason behind it,” she continued to recount.
The contestant said that when she called him in December, she was again directed to the Festivals Department but “every time I contact the festivals department, they send me to a specific person who I wish not to name at this time but when I contact that person, that person is always in a meeting,” she stated.
Furthermore, she said that she was once told that the cheques merely needed a final signature.
“I remember getting a phone call from someone who said that they spoke to someone from the festivals department and they said that they saw our names and they were supposed to have them ready for us they are just waiting on a signature,” she added.
But that did not materialise.
Thereafter, the contestants wrote a letter to Maurice Merchant, Director-General of Communications in the Office of the Prime Minister.
In the later dated August 10, 2020, the girls politely asked for a “speedy solution” to the matter but they reportedly have not received a response.
Then, on November 25, the chairperson of the 2019 Queen of Carnival Sub-Committee penned a missive with the ladies to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
It stated that “unfortunately, other than the accolades presented on stage that night, the vehicle handed over to the queen a few months after, absolutely nothing else has been given to the delegates.
“We seek your assistance in making theses wrongs right,” it added.
However, the disgruntled contestant said “we never got a response so we decided that we were going to come together and go to his office to see him but when we got there, they won’t allow us to see him. They said its covid and we can’t go to the Prime Minister”.
Finally, in June this year, they had a meeting with Lionel Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister and “he explained that they don’t have money but he was going to bring it up in Cabinet and give us and update,” she said.
“The update was that they are going to take some funds from X, Y and Z to pay us but they don’t have a time frame. The matter is now in the hands of Minister Matthew,” she revealed.
She said that Hurst also disclosed that “the virtual shows they had last year…even the show with Koffee, these artistes got their money. And Mr Hurst said it’s because they said they would not participate without the money. To me that was just a slap in the face.”
The delegate said she is convinced that “there’s no sense of urgency [and] they are not taking us seriously”.
Attempts made to contact the Minister of Festivals of the matter have proven futile.