All is Not Well with St. Kitts’ Carnival

Earlier this year, it was rumoured that the Chairperson, Ms. Shannon Hawley, had resigned, but she and members of the Carnival Committee strenuously denied those charges, dismissing them as inaccurate. Perhaps they were, but….

Even then however, it was claimed that Hawley only delayed her resignation in order to oversee the prize-giving ceremony, to ensure that all service providers and winners were paid, before she made her move. As time would have it, it now seems that that was precisely the plan, and former Chairperson Hawley has now moved to give effect to what she wanted to do for some time now. However, all this remains as speculation, because both Hawley and Minister Liburd, have so far declined the opportunity to provide an explanation for the resignation.

The appointment of Hawley last year was hailed as a step in the right direction. She was described as a young energetic, competent, innovative leader who had great ideas that could lift the quality of the annual carnival. She was said to have made history as the first female appointee to the post of National Carnival Chairperson, in the festival’s 40 year history. Now, sadly, she is again making history, but as the shortest serving chairperson; being on the job for just about eight months. Her appointment was announced on 15thSeptember, 2011, during a press conference at Warner Park.franksogarro

She now joins the list of the top three shortest serving chairpersons. Stanley Franks also served for less than twelve months in 1996 while Hawley’s predecessor, Clement “Monarch” O’Garro, also had his appointment discontinued after less than a full twelve months; starting late 2010 and ending in early 2011. Hawley at the time was O’Garro’s Deputy Chair. This combination for many seemed to have worked, with the carnival being re-branded as “Sugar Mas” and turning out to be one of the most exciting celebrations in over 20 years.

When O’Garro left the position however, there were rumours that he was forced out and some are now speculating that some of the same factors and actors that caused his demise at the helm of the committee, have again raised their heads, causing Hawley to finally make up her mind and quit.

Whatever the reasons are, it is clear that Minister Liburd must take decisive action to demand an internal audit of the operations of the committee and especially how it relates and works with senior officials in her ministry. Many committee members have expressed concerns over the unprecedented direct involvement of the ministry. Charges have been levelled that the ministry has been too hands-on in the day to day operations and financial matters of the statutory body that was formally established by an Act of Parliament in 1971.

While speaking on local radio on Wednesday 18th April, Minister Liburd, when asked for an explanation for the resignation, she said, “Unfortunately we saw the letter of resignation yesterday (Tuesday 17th April, 2012), from her. It is unfortunate but we really appreciate the work Shannon did for carnival and also the other members of the committee.”

When asked if she knew the reason for Hawley’s resignation Liburd said that in various organisations one will not see eye to eye, on every issue, and the carnival committee is no exception.

From that answer therefore it is obvious that Chairperson Hawley and members of the committee and perhaps even the ministry were not “seeing eye to eye”. In other words one had to conclude that those differences were so serious that the chairperson felt obligated to resign. Liburd did say however that while she is not going to discuss such matters publicly, if Hawley wished to do so, then that would be her prerogative.

Minister Liburd however erred when she intimated that she would not be willing to disclose details about the reasons for the resignation because it is her view that committee matters ought to be kept within and not discussed in the public’s domain. Minister Liburd is wrong. Both carnival and the National Carnival Committee are creatures of the government and therefore they are the business of the public. It is the public’s tax dollars that pay for the celebrations, supplemented by private sector sponsorship. Thus it is the business of the public.

Liburd however was very supportive of Hawley saying, “Like I said, Shannon did an excellent job and I wish her all the best and we are still begging her to take back the resignation. We are still open to that, if she wants to, and if she does not, we understand.”

Liburd praised her for the hard work and dedication she demonstrated at the helm of the carnival committee.

Now there are ongoing claims that the Carnival Committee has still not been able to meet all its financial commitments from last year, with some service providers demanding that they be paid without further delay. A similar situation pertained after the 2010/11 carnival.
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