Government’s one-carnival plans for 2020 could be in jeopardy.
A division within the local carnival community has flared up again as CayMAS organisers rejected government’s carnival dates, maintaining that the Discovery Day (14-18 May) weekend is the best option for Cayman.
CayMAS director and Swanky International owner Craig Fredrick, speaking with the Cayman Compass from Miami Thursday morning, said the group has applied for police permission to hold its event on that weekend. To date, he said, there has been no response to the application.
“We have done everything that we legally should have. No one – the police, the government, the people of Cayman – can say we have not run an absolutely tight ship,” Fredrick said.
The Culture Ministry, in a statement to the Compass on Tuesday, said it was aware of CayMAS’s arguments on the dates for carnival, but it is sticking to its original date of 9 May.
“The government, with input from three ministries – those responsible for culture, for tourism and for commerce – looks forward to continued dialogue with all relevant stakeholders with an aim at streamlining the Cayman Carnival within the auspices of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation,” the ministry stated.
Fredrick said he is hopeful that the application will be granted, since there were no problems in the previous three years of the event.
However, he said, the CayMAS team is also preparing contingency plans.
“We are trying our best to avoid legal action. If we get rejected, which is if the commissioner of police says no, then the next step is to apply to the governor’s office. The governor has the ultimate say. We feel that we have everything on our side,” Fredrick said.
He said the ministry’s announcement of agreement earlier this year was “false news” and premature since CayMAS had made its proposal clear that Discovery Day was the ideal choice for carnival, not Mother’s Day weekend.
“Who would travel to the Cayman Islands for a boutique carnival like CayMAS or Batabano to leave their mothers, their wives, their children behind on Mother’s Day,” he argued.
He stressed that CayMAS is a registered non-profit and does not receive any government funding.
“Just like any other entity, we have the right to do what is best for our product, which is what is best for the experience and what is best for the community,” Fredrick said.
He added, “100 percent, we are determined to go ahead.”
Asked if it would go back to the negotiating table with CayMAS on the issue, the ministry responded in a statement that the dates have been “agreed upon by Cabinet”.
“Stakeholder meetings are expected to be held leading up to that date, in order to agree on the specific details surrounding Carnival activities,” the ministry statement noted.
Batabano organisers have already gone on the record endorsing government’s dates.
Batabano chairperson Donna Myrie-Stephen is standing with the government position on the issue.
She told the Cayman Compass Thursday that, internationally, there is no such situation with competing carnivals.
“There is no other island that has two carnivals like this,” Myrie-Stephen said.
In a media statement Tuesday, culture minister Dwayne Seymour echoed the same sentiments.
“Our larger Caribbean neighbours also have one Carnival,” he said.
He said the dates will remain as planned.
“At the same time, our position is that any developments must take place within the framework of one Cayman Carnival. The arrangements that all parties agreed following a year of discussions still offer the best way forward for all stakeholders. It also provides a sustainable foundation for the continued growth of local carnivals,” Seymour said.
But CayMAS directors, in a statement on their Facebook page, took aim at the ministry’s latest statement, calling it the “latest abuse of free enterprise and constitutional abuse of Section 19 of our Constitution.” (Under Section 19, it states: “All decisions and acts of public officials must be lawful, rational, proportionate and procedurally fair”; and “Every person whose interests have been adversely affected by such a decision or act has the right to request and be given written reasons for that decision or act.”)
In a recent statement, they argued, “The Ministry’s decision is not conducive to a successful outcome by placing the adult Carnival on Grand Cayman on the second weekend of May, which is Mother’s Day weekend.”
However, the ministry said on Tuesday, “after lengthy deliberations” it decided that the most suitable schedule for Cayman Islands carnivals would be “to hold junior carnival on the first weekend in May; Grand Cayman adult carnival (both Batabano and CayMas parades) to run over the second weekend in May; and Braccanal, the Cayman Brac carnival, on the third weekend in May 2020.”
But CayMAS leaders contended that the date change “will not be beneficial to the growth of the local carnival tourism product based on our research and discussions with outside potential patrons, as well as with influential international carnival media houses.”
It added that “after the premature press release of dates and the mass confusion that ensued, we reiterate that we remain focused on bringing a premium Carnival product that does not interfere with the Mother’s Day weekend of celebrations while also finding a Carnival date that is internationally identifiable as our own.”