KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Minister of Tourism Saboto Caesar on Thursday told Parliament that that CEO of the Tourism Authority, Glen Beache “did not state in his press conference that the sum of $75,000 was paid to anyone”.
The issue generated as much controversy in Parliament as it did among the public and several legislators contributed to the debate.
Caesar was responding to a question from Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace regarding payment for a Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle music video used as part of the country’s tourism marketing efforts.
Eustace had first asked about the video in a July 18 press statement in which he raised questions about the monies, in addition to other tourism-related matters.
“And in addition to all of this Former Minister of Tourism now CEO Glen Beache and present Minister of Tourism Saboto Ceasar tell this country whether the St. Vincent Tourism Authority paid $75,000.00 following the Referendum in January 2010 to an artist management company in Barbados? Tell us whether this money was indeed paid and what this money was paid for and who was to benefit from this payment,” Eustace said in the statement.
Cesar issued a statement saying that Eustace should ask his question in Parliament.
However, Beache, a former tourism minister, also issued a press statement saying that the EC$75,000 was for the Skinny Fabulous video.
“Finally, the last question raised by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition concerning the sum of $75,000.00 to an artist management company in Barbados had to do with the sponsorship of the music video for the “Beast Let Go” performed by Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle,” Beache said in his statement.
However, the company in Barbados later issued a press statement saying that it only received US$15,000 for producing the video.
“Mr. Speaker, I am going to place this issue to rest finally,” Caesar remarked on Thursday before announcing that he has documents to prove that US$15,000 (EC$40,000) and not EC$40,000 was paid for the music video.
Eustace, responding to Caesar’s comments, pointed out that Beache did not deny that EC$75,000 was paid for the video.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves also joined into the discussion calling attention to the verbs that Beache and Eustace used, respectively.
The Speaker of the House had vacated the chair when the next set of questions regarding the video was to be asked.
Opposition Senator Anesia Baptiste was scheduled to ask Question 25 – regarding, among other things, whether the board of the Tourism authority had approved the filing and use of the video as part of its promotional strategy.
The Deputy Speaker apologized for not calling for Question 25 and late said that part of the question was answered already.
In his response to Baptiste’s question, Caesar said the opposition was “playing politics” and making “heavy weather” over the US$15,000 “for a young man” who has “attempted to take the soca art form to a different level”.
Baptiste then rose on a point of order, saying that Caesar’s “ranting” was “imputing improper motive to me as a member of the opposition” and asked the Deputy Speaker to rule on the point of order.
The Deputy Speaker said that he knew the question “would have created a stir in the House”. He said that House comprises politicians and not footballers and MPs should not be so “thin skinned”.
Caesar, continuing his response, repeated that he had receipt for the US$15,000, adding that $75,000 was “only in somebody’s mind and imagination”.
There was much crosstalk as eh Deputy Speaker attempted to maintain control of the House.
The voice of MP for Central, opposition legislator Senator Leacock’s voice rose above the fracas.
Caesar said that the Tourism Authority’s promotional plan for 2010 made provisions for marketing and promotion. He said that the video must at all times be seen as a marketing tool.
He however noted that the board said that some of the procedures followed were unclear.