News about the scrapping of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival has come as a surprise to most members of the country’s main opposition party, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP).
Castries South Member of Parliament (MP) Ernest Hilaire has called it “bizarre,” stating that it took Saint Lucia 25 years to build a brand to where it is, and to be dubbed the premier jazz festival in the Caribbean.
“You are going to introduce a reggae festival? Who is number one in reggae in the world, who is number two in reggae in the world? You are going to pass Jamaica and become number one?” he questioned.
Hilaire also had questions about the plans to extend carnival celebrations.
“You said we are going to have carnival. We already have carnival. But who is number one in carnival in the Caribbean? Who is number two, three, four and five? You are at the back of the line.”
The SLP front-man also doubts that Saint Lucia could rake in substantial revenues through the introduction of a Rhythm and Blues (R&B) Music Festival.
“You are going to introduce R&B. Saint Kitts Music Festival is already acknowledged as the number one R&B festival in the Eastern Caribbean. And Jamaica also have an R&B festival,” he added.
Hilaire said, “You are scrapping something where you are number one and took you 25 to build and instead have a number of other festivals none of which you are number in. Explain the logic in that to me.
However, when asked to respond to claims made by the government that over $14 million is spent on the event, despite a lower revenue, the MP said that it has to be explained in detail.
“How much revenue was earned and what was the net expenditure on the Jazz Festival? Give us the details. Do not just say things. And that is my difficulty. Things are being said and not enough evidence is not provided.”
Opposition Leader and MP for Castries East Phillip J. Pierre said he cannot comment on the issue as he does not have the full details and was not on island at the time when the announcement was made.
“The prime minister is very famous in experimenting with tourism like boxing in paradise,” he said.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had announced that the a new event dubbed the ‘Summer Festival’ will replace the country’s most popular tourism event, the annual Jazz and Arts Festival.
According to Chastanet, the new event will include carnival, different genres of music and the Creole and Heritage Festival in November. There will also be different events and concerts every two weeks between May to November.
Carnival celebrations in July will also be expanded to three weeks during the new Summer Festival.
The government has said millions is spent on the event and the returns is far less.