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Slaved, Slain but Standing Tall

In 15 months I slaved for it, I was slain for it, but today I am standing tall because of it, I have learned some tough lessons because of Pan. From this vantage point my view can only be considered a “panorama”.

Fellow Grenadians, I have taken the time to construct this correspondence, and chose to send it out to all media, especially at this time because I believe in my heart that the time for the end of my affiliation with the Grenada Steel band Association has come.

When I was voted in as President of the Grenada Steel Bands Association on October 14th 2017, I accepted the responsibility filled with enthusiasm and passion to make a positive difference with pan; not just in Grenada, but to ensure that our positive attitudes would affect associations across the Caribbean.

Today I am convinced that many of the folks who have for years been involved in heading the organisation, and who have been given State recognition couldn’t care less about Pan, but more about their personal financial benefit at the expense of Pan.

An executive loaded with mainly new leaders, and two former Executive members from years ago, comprised our team. We immediately had to deal with the attitude of “not so we does do it”; disregarding the fact we promised ourselves and the general membership to do things differently for the benefit of Pan.

After only three months in existence, an attempt was made to dismantle the Executive Committee, led by a group of selfish, greedy, and obnoxious band leaders, many of whom were former leaders in the association. This move was not supported by the bands and it was unsuccessful.

The articles which appeared in the press had genuine truth to it, even though much of the fat was trimmed to save time; and if many of those details were to surface (and I am sure they will) Grenada and the region will look at some of our leaders differently, and with far less credibility than they have been receiving.

For decades, the Steelband Association was operating in a highly unprofessional manner.

– The new Executive Committee quickly moved to establish some much needed structure and organisation in a number of areas:

– The Association never had an official letter head – we rectified that in one week.

– No email address, so folks were doing business from their personal mail boxes. That too was rectified in one week.

– There was no General Council; folks were attending meetings for years with the bands not knowing who their reps were. Again, rectified in one month.

– There were no financial statements from the former executives; and even though these were requested in writing from the former Treasurer Mr. Stephen Greenidge; none was forthcoming.

– There were no records of minutes of meetings containing decisions made; we requested same from the former Secretary Mrs. Karie Fortune – that too did not materialise.

In essence we found that the former Leaders of the Grenada Steel Band Association were at the helm of an Association with:

No operable rules (Statutes/Constitution)

No accountability (Financial and Decision-making) to Members.

No record-keeping (Minutes/Official Communication/Band-member List)

This was the catastrophic situation the new Executive encountered amidst the then existing atmosphere that one of our own was allegedly caught up in a corruption net.

2018 came, and went, and that remains one of the most successful year for Pan in Grenada a testimony to the hard work and drive by the new Executive.

– We established a new M.O.U with the Government – one which involved a series of meetings with Mr. Mathew and Ms. Jones in the Ministry of Culture.

– A code of ethics was signed unto by the Association, particularly as it relates to the operations of the School Pan program – main reason being there has been much talk about inappropriate behaviour emanating from that program.

– Assertive representation for Pan on the SMC board, representation that took the concerns of Pan and had them addressed.

– No member of the Jason Skeete led executive collected any money for the construction of a stage – we ensured that the SMC maintained its responsibility by doing what it needed to do, so as to avoid a repeat of 2017.

  We negotiated so that bands receive payments for the long hours spent on the road serenading as they entertained the people around Christmas time. – the first time this has ever happened in Grenada.

– This executive met with every band one-on-one to hear their concerns and to conclude how best we can address them in the interest of pan – First time in the history of Pan in Grenada something like this was done (that was a shocker to me)

– The reintroduction of two bands into the Association. Pan Lovers of Grand Anse and Melodic Symphony of Springs were brought back into the association after years of victimisation from previous executives.

– We have also been in constant dialogue with the operators of the Band in St. David, and Carriacou, in an effort to have them come on board; something that was not done in the past, due to discrimination by leaders of the bigger bands who were only interested in their own band’s growth, and therefore not including other bands as part of the Association.

– A symposium “The Business of Pan” was hosted, getting views from Players, managers, Business people, and the SMC. We ensured it was recorded, so viewing can take place anytime.

– A constant presence in the media promoting Pan, leading up to Panorama 2018, the Media was supportive and was involved in everything we were doing.

– An advertising and Marketing campaign for Panorama that took Grenada and Grenadians abroad by surprise.

– We worked daily with the SMC to ensure a SOLID, and above standard STAGE WAS CONSTRUCTED for Panorama 2018.

– The layout and production of Panorama 2018 was the absolute best patrons experienced in decades.

– Monthly reports to all bands from the Executive Committee – another first.

– All subventions were paid to all steel bands before the end of July, a highly unusual gesture. (steel bands got paid before everyone else).

– All the Bands receiving ALL the money, and signing for receiving it, and not being short paid and blaming the SMC when the SMC paid in full.

Unlike previous years the Subventions were paid directly to the account of the Grenada Steel Band Association, and the association paid all the bands, and then submitted a report to the CEO of the SMC. Note that the SMC did not make payment to any INDIVIDUAL but to the Pan Organisation thereby ensuring that Bands got what was rightfully theirs.

Who would have thought we would have seen the day again when all the stands were filled – the stage perfect – the players playing to perfection – the event ending before midnight and everyone leaving totally satisfied with Panorama.

It happened in 2018, thank you Grenada you did yourself proud.

– With this current Executive committee hosting the most successful year for Pan in decades, a group of FOUR decided to ignore the Constitution and brought forward a motion that was unconstitutional.

– The FOUR further went about it in a despicable and disrespectful manner by launching personal attacks on me and my wife’s character.

– The seven remaining bands stood up against it and today there is a clear divide in the association (something which we all wanted to avert, because we always saw one association not big bands and small bands).

– The bands that placed in the top 5 in both competitions NEVER paid their annual subscriptions, but the smaller bands all paid

– The members of these four bands continue to be relentless in doing wrong, eroding the constitution, even going so far as to attempt to register the Steel Band Association as an incorporated company, unknown to the Executive and the General Membership. We were always operating above board and in the knowledge of all members, so they knew fully well that the documents were completed for the registration of the Association.

– The CEO of the Cultural Foundation inadvertently or otherwise attempted to further disrupt the association. She called a meeting of bands unknown to the Executive and without the knowledge of her superiors. A letter was sent to her on this expressing our disgust, copied to all her superiors including the Minister and the P. S. and up until this point no one had the respect to even respond.

  The current P.S in the Ministry of Culture went ahead and did the same thing a few months later, this time asking the band managers to basically, suspend the constitution, and put an interim executive in place, and undermine the President because they were more interested in securing corporate dollars instead of doing what is legally correct to save pan.

The Minister also had the nerve to say to me in a phone conversation that he is prepared to engage bands directly to play for panorama, and that I as President should consider suspending the constitution and give-in to the rogue group. The Minister clearly understands that this rogue group also has corporate sponsorship which he is not prepared to compromise hence his political decision to allow the legally formed Grenada Steel band Association, the way we have known it for thirty years, to be dismantled.

A letter was also sent to the Prime Minister informing him of these developments and asking for a meeting, he too has not responded. Not surprising, as the Minister also indicated he received a draft letter from the PM on how to approach the steel band issue.

Even though, the Attorney General was called in to a meeting with the Executive and the disruptive group, and he told them that there is no way they can be successful in defending this action in the courts, and urged that they do what is in the best interest of Pan; no one listened to him, and here we are today.

– Not one show of public support from the SMC board, but they were happy to take the credit for the successes of 2018 Panorama

– Not One Cent was received by me while serving as the President of the Association, for use of my personal office, my stationary, my electricity, my Phone, my Internet, my fuel and the intense advertising and promotion we all saw.

According to our constitution managers cannot vote on issues of the Association, only members of the Council and the Executive Committee have voting power save and except the manager is a member of the council. Moreover the voting CAN ONLY TAKE PLACE AT A MEETING CONSTITUTED BY THE ASSOCIATION. Therefore, another breach of the constitution is being facilitated by those in authority, but I guess Grenada voted for more of that.

We have seen once again the high handed approach of this present administration to continue along these divisive lines, that anything outside of democratic electoral process is futile.

Because of all these factors, I had a long conversation with my Father God, I prayed, fasted, and lifted this whole situation and placed it at the mercy of God. I had a conversation with my family as well.

I never bothered with the antics of those who play political hopscotch to satisfy their own personal needs, and placed articles in the papers in the name of culture, when it is truly only about self.

I never bothered with those who are good at criticising and not offering any solutions to problems.

I listed to the voice of God because I have a personal relationship with Him, and while I am not the type to run away from a challenge, God also tells us when it is time to move on, and allow Him to show off His Power.

I will respect and honor the efforts of Mr. Victor Philip, a lecturer at the Grenada National College for his commitment and dedication to pan and all he has done.

Mr. Alister James for his loyalty – Mr. Brian Lindsay Campbell for his support, dedication and steadfastness in this process – Ms. Shermella Lee, for her commitment to pan especially in her village – the former CEO of the SMC Mr. Kirk Seethahal – your hard work and support to ensure 2018 was successful will always be on record, the members of the media who worked along with us all the way to ensure that Grenada is kept in the loop from the time we took office.

The mention of these names is in no way intended to slight the efforts of all those who worked tirelessly, because there are many of you.

I say a heartfelt Thank You, and may the blessing of Almighty God continue to umbrella you along life’s journey.

In light of all these issues a decision has been made and as such, effective April 16th 2019, I have tendered my resignation as President of the Grenada Steel Band Association.

Jason Skeete