Update the Laws Governing Carnival


by Caribupdate Weekly

In every country, the various groups that comprise the national community must compromise with one another – even suffer some inconvenience from time to time – in each group’s celebration of cultural and social life.

So, for example, we bear the noise when some religious group organises a week-long crusade in the playing field near us.

In countries with multiple religious faiths, such as in nearby Trinidad, the nation allows for state holidays and celebrations for Christian, Muslim and Hindu adherents. No one is forced to attend or to observe the other’s celebration. They just accept it for it is and get on with their lives. Caribupdate Weekly suggests that we, here in Grenada, should adopt a similar attitude when it comes to Spicemas, our annual carnival festival.

Carnival in Grenada, like carnival in other countries and cities, admittedly has a lot of work to do in terms of its organising, financing, revenue-generating, and in creating a smooth and effective blend between the traditional and the modern. But, frankly, it’s becoming a bit annoying listening to the annual complaining and self-righteousness pronouncements from some Grenadians, whose sensibilities are offended because carnival does not meet their measurement of culture. We take no issue with anyone who will prefer to attend the ballet or a jazz festival or stand-up comedy show, instead of going to a carnival show or spectating at a carnival street parade.

But, the continuous barraging of carnival — blaming it for many of the ills of society, or calling for censorship of calypso and soca songs, and virtually advocating for a dress code — could only lead to the emasculation of carnival, and its transformation into a theme park circus show, with ponies and ferris wheels.

Instead of heading down that road, the powers-that-be, especially the Grenada Government and the Spicemas Corporation, must sit together and determine if we do need and want carnival. If we don’t, let just scratch it from the annual calendar of events. If we do, let’s fund it at an adequate level; and all must be prepared to witness greasy oil-daubed Jab Jabs and gyrating masqueraders on the streets; listen to a few excellent soca and calypso songs — and many awful ones — and be inconvenienced with later-than-normal shows; and more frequent and even longer and louder-than-normal public music events.

In this regard, our parliamentarians must act with haste to update the laws governing carnival in Grenada. Some of the existing legislation is nothing but ‘dotish’ laws that anger true masqueraders, and put police in the untenable position of trying to enforce them.

The skin drum is an original instrument of carnival, used by our African ancestors in the early celebration of carnival. Yet, one can still be arrested by officers of the Royal Grenada Police Force for beating a drum at carnival. Masking is an integral part of many carnival portrayals. But, we still have laws prohibiting the wearing of masks.

That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t areas where effective legislation and law enforcement are needed. For instance, carnival ought not to be a time for Jab Jabs and other masqueraders to deliberately deface private and public buildings; or to use Grand Anse, or any other beach, as refuse dumps to discard ragged and soiled clothing.

Senator Chester Humphrey, in remarks in the Upper House this week, also was unhappy about Jab Jabs bathing at Grand Anse and leaving residue of oil in the water. We are not sure how Senator Humphrey will fix that problem, if he had a chance to do so. For our part, we don’t believe anyone can stop a Grenadian — Jab Jab or no Jab Jab — from bathing on any of our beaches at carnival, or at any other time.

One area where action can, and should be taken, is in the sale and use of alcohol by minors. This practice is very prevalent at carnival. And, the overwhelming number of incidents that necessitate police intervention at carnival involves minors and young adults.

Already, there are laws dealing with the sale of alcohol to minors. These laws must be dusted off and enforced. But, new measures must be adopted to tackle the situation where adults purchase alcohol for, and pass it on to, minors. Laws need to be put in place to punish adults who engage in such behaviour.

Another concern of this newspaper is the large quantity of beverages that is sold — in breakable containers — at carnival events and at other shows throughout the year; sold by the promoters of the shows and events and also by vendors outside and around the venues of these activities.

Breakables can be, and often are used as, missiles by misbehaving patrons. There is a simple way to stop this.

Prohibit the sale of alcohol beverages in breakables; or, at least, one of the conditions for a promoter receiving a licence for any massive event, such as those at carnival, should be the stipulation that alcohol ought not to be sold in breakables. A ban, too, should be placed on vendors selling drinks in breakable containers.

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