“Queen Ivena” gets ready for battle

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As one calypsonian squares up for a legal battle against the county’s Prime Minister, the Festival Commission will be seeking indemnity from calypsonians.
The nation’s first female Calypso Monarch, Lena “Queen Ivena” Phillip, is adamant that she will not be conceding to Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s threat of a lawsuit if she does not change a line in her song.
The PM has said there are lyrics in the song titled “Nastiness” which are defamatory.
Queen Ivena maintains that there were “no slanderous lines whatsoever” in the song, therefore neither she nor her team would be “frightened by anyone in authority”.
She said her attorney Ralph Francis is standing behind her in the matter.
The calypsonian was speaking to OBSERVER media in an interview on Sunday after she sang the song in the Calypso Monarch quarter finals on Saturday night with the original lyrics.
While there were many who were there to support the singer, there were also those who booed after her performance.
The singer was emotional backstage, when OBSERVER media sought to interview her on the controversial lyrics.
She said that she would not be stopped from representing God, the people of Antigua & Barbuda, the spirit of calypsonians who came before her, and individuals who have fought for free speech in the country.
Queen Ivena said it is in this spirit that she has decided to sing her song “with pride and dignity”.
She is also calling on the public to remember the role that the artform plays in society.
“Remember, long before any electronic media, it was calypso that expressed the wrong in society, broke down the details so that the ordinary man in the street can understand,” she added.
She is calling for Antiguans & Barbudans to stand up with her.
Minister with responsibility for National Festivals, Paul “Chet” Greene said the Festival Commission’s legal counsel has been asked to look into protecting the body from legal action over the lyrics of calypsonians.
“Our inhouse lawyer, Ryan Johnson, has been so instructed to work this thing through to ensure that any legal action taken against any of the artistes, not just the artiste in question, but any for that matter, that the festival committee through which the lyrics are being promoted… that we are no way involved in any legal actions,” he said.
Greene said while the Commission will not be banning any songs from the Calypso monarch, they will be seeking the “legal comfort of indemnity”.
Indemnity provides a party protection against legal responsibility for another’s actions if pursued in the courts.
While no lawsuit has been filed against Queen Ivena, the prime minister is taking action against the Observer Media Group and Opposition senator, Damani Tabor.
The suits are in connection with supposed slanderous statements that Tabor made about the PM on Observer Radio in January.
Greene is, however warning that Carnival and Culture does not give anyone the right to defame another.
He said, while he is not a lawyer, if an individual’s song is proven to be in contravention  of the law, they should be changed.
The minister is hoping the spat will be resolved soon so that the carnival festivities will not be “marred”.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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