Organisers of Batabano have moved to address public concerns over the behaviour of participants in the annual carnival.
A committee met on Monday, 6 May, following public complaints and decided to impose penalties on some of the bands involved. They declined to discuss specifics of which bands were sanctioned and the exact nature of the complaints. However, the annual street party is routinely blighted by concerns over public drunkenness and lewd behaviour.
While such antics are common in carnivals in other parts of the Caribbean, concern has been expressed that it is out of keeping with the Cayman Islands’ image.
Donna Myrie-Stephen, who leads the group of volunteer organisers, said they had been forced to clamp down this year after a succession of complaints.
“We do get concerns every year from the public,” she said. “Our committee does have a set of road and parade rules and we met with each group’s band leaders twice before the carnival this year to impart the importance of having the rules enforced and adhered to.
“We also hire security to walk the entire route and we have volunteers as marshals,” she added. “Each group has their own marshals for their bands as well.
“The marshal duties are outlined and each group’s band leader signs the rules agreeing to the terms and conditions.
“This year, our committee met and decided that because of the public concerns received already this year we will have no choice but to enforce penalties.”
A further statement from the organising committee said it would be “inappropriate” to say exactly what action it was taking in respect of “parade rule infringements.”
Ms Myrie-Stephen said efforts had been made over the years to keep the parade clean and promote it as a cultural and tourism product.
The statement added: “The committee has worked tirelessly over the years to raise the profile of ‘Batabano’ and our islands and continuingly strives to seek the participation of the entire community.
“As a direct result of public concerns the committee introduced junior Batabano as a family fun day which takes place the weekend prior to adult Batabano.
“Each band or independent wishing to participate in adult Batabano is required to complete a registration form confirming their acknowledgment and agreement to be bound by the parade rules and guidelines.”
The guidelines, posted on the Cayman Carnival web page, explicitly outlaw “any visible display of alcohol, public indecency or unlawful conduct”. There are further rules against “playing” with mud or bodypaint and spraying any form of liquid at the watching audience. The committee has also urged the public to assist police in their inquiries into an alleged sexual assault on the evening of 4 May – the day of the parade.
Police reported that the alleged victim has attended the carnival and a waterfront bar prior to the incident. They declined to specify whether she had been a participant in the parade or was a spectator. No information or descriptions were available for the alleged perpetrators.
The woman was discovered in a distressed state walking along Crewe Road between the MiniMart and Ryan’s Road at around 9.45pm.
The Cayman Carnival Batabano Committee said in its statement: “In respect of the alleged assault that took place on Saturday, 4 May, which has been reported in the local news, the committee does not encourage, condone or support any assault of any person in any circumstances and we encourage all members of our community to assist the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service in their enquiries into the matter.
“Daily reminders in the media as to the growing criminal elements, robberies and physical attacks within our society should not go unheeded and the committee strongly urges all citizens to take as many precautionary steps as possible to safeguard their wellbeing.”
Anyone with information about the alleged sexual assault can call the George Town police station at 949-4222, the RCIPS tip line at 949-7777 or Cayman Crime Stoppers at 800-8477 (TIPS).