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Pan in danger

... bobol killing steelband movement

PAN Trinbago’s scandalous accounting practices have taken its toll on the organisation, with the executive split down the middle and no immediate end in sight.

With the next executive elections not due until 2006, Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold and vice-president Keith Byer have been slugging it out behind the scenes, and the rift between the two now appears beyond reconciliation.

Last month, the executive agreed to a meeting at the Paddock, Queen’s Park Savannah, but the meeting lasted no more than a couple of minutes with both sides hurling nasty accusations at each other.

“This is nothing more than a disgrace, all pannists should be hanging their heads in shame,” one noted panman confided to TnT Mirror.

“You know, the pan movement has come a long way in the last couple of decades.

“There are even professors of pan now.

“Pan is our national instrument.

“It is being taught in universities in the United States and Canada and there is a growing cadre of orchestras based in Europe and Japan.

“When you go to the panyards now, you see all sorts of people playing pan, people who are professionals, people working in the banks, executives, all sorts of people.

“It is no longer the instrument of rough necks and ‘badjohns’, so you would have thought that, at the very least, the administration of pan would have tried to move in step with the growth and development on the foundation level.

“In this day and age, we don’t have basic checks and balances and these people at Pan Trinbago talking about staging a World Steelband Festival.

“This is an organisation that is several decades old, spending millions of dollars in public funds and they can’t provide an audit of their books.

“These shortcomings should be exposed to public scrutiny and the minister involved should act now.

“It is a disgrace and an insult to the steelband men and women of this country that this current executive has brought the organisation to this state.

“We are appalled at the observations of the auditors (Pannell Kerr Forster) and we have to thank the Mirror for exposing this executive’s nefarious operations.

“Had it not been for your newspaper, the auditors’ report would have remained hidden from the stakeholders, that is, the pan players and the citizens who love their national instrument.”

With the Pan Trinbago executive basically cast into non-functional role, Arnold has established an “events committee” to bypass the executive and keep the business of the organisation going.

“This is so dishonest, there is no Pan Trinbago operating at this time,” one insider confided to this newspaper.

“It’s all a sham.

“Arnold decided he wanted to stage the World Steelband Festival in London but that did not work out, so he decided to move it to New York.

“Pan Trinbago paid $180,000 to consultants British Association of Steel in England and when the festival collapsed, most of that money was lost.

“So, the festival moved to New York.

“At first, everyone was optimistic, but then all the bands from Europe blanked the festival. Eventually, it was held at the Madison Square Garden in June with only four local bands, one from Canada, one from Grenada, and one from New York.

“Exodus won the festival, but the organisation also lost money on the venture.

“It could be anywhere between $1 million to $3 million in losses.

“Later, it was revealed that a promoter was paid $20,000 for services but the executive knew nothing about that.”

At the centre of the controversy is a dispute over executive vehicles.

According to one key player, Arnold hatched a plan to purchase sports utility vehicles for all the zonal chairmen, with Arnold putting up his own SUV to be purchased by Pan Trinbago.

In fact, Arnold went ahead with the plan and gave $150,000 to a popular San Juan car dealer without the approval of the executive.

The deal fell through with strong opposition from members of the executive, and eventually, Arnold had to sell his CRV on the domestic market, and then he had to accept three cars at $50,000 each for the zonal chairmen.

Naturally, in TnT’s true “gimme-gimme” style, the chairmen were left disappointed they did not get their SUVs, and Arnold took it out on those executive members who stood up against the purchase of the vehicles.

Amid the turmoil, a group of concerned zonal administrators have made an attempt to meet with Culture Minister Joan Yuille-Williams to try and persuade the minister to intervene and bring some sanity to the operations of Pan Trinbago.

However, because of the Culture Minister’s packed schedule leading up to the 2005/2006 Budget Presentation, the meeting did not take place.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Pan Trinbago executive insisted that Arnold is doing whatever he wants and dismisses any opposition from other members of the executive.

One member of the group of concerned administrators is adamant that the time has come for change.

“The general membership is of the view that if the executive cannot perform its duty or work together, then there should be early elections,” the insider declared.

The veteran panman also added that the executive has already written to the Pan Trinbago president on numerous occasions to address Pannell Kerr Forster’s report but, to date, Arnold has refused to meet and discuss the report.

Efforts to get a comment from the Pan Trinbago president proved futile up to Press time.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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