Residents of Knysna line the streets
during the 2008 Pink Loerie festival.

Questions have been posed about the motivation behind the Knysna Municipality’s decision to do a survey about the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras.

According to the municipality, the “public perception” poll aims to “determine the opinion of residents, home owners and visitors on the festival”.

The survey, found here on the municipality’s website, asks questions about the participants’ objections, if any, to the town hosting the annual gay and lesbian festival.

A number of options, linked to possible objections, are listed including: “Behaviour of the participants, Costumes of participants, Alcohol abuse of participants, Nudity of participants, Exposure to under aged children.”

This list has been criticised as it makes assumptions that suggest that alcohol abuse, nudity and inappropriate behaviour actually take place during the event; thus possibly influencing the results.

“I have no problem with a survey as such,” said Juan Lerm, originator and organiser of the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, “But my problem with it is that the survey is negative and leading – the questions lead people to be negative.”

Mr R Smit, Knysna’s Acting Municipal Manager, told Mambaonline in an e-mail that the survey was being undertaken “in terms of a Council decision after a petition was handed by members of the community to the Executive Mayor Eleanor Bouw-Spies”.

Mambaonline questioned Smit on the survey’s methodology and how the council would know that if the poll results would be representative of the citizens of Knysna as it requires people to actively make the effort to take the survey.

It is not inconceivable that people that are strongly opposed to the event will be more motivated than others to participate, we suggested.

Smit admitted that “we will not know for sure,” adding that “we hope that those who are old enough to form their own opinion will respond”.

When asked how the results might influence the municipality’s future support of the festival, Smit was unable to answer, saying only that the council had made no decisions in this regard and it had only committed itself to a survey.

He said however, “council will not take a decision which clashes or negatively affects in (sic) person’s constitutional rights,” adding that the council’s support for any festival in Knysna is “without discrimination”.

The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, which was created in part to generate tourism in Knysna during the off-peak season, was launched in 2000. It has throughout the years been opposed by a vocal element of the town’s citizens who see it as immoral or inappropriate.

Last year, Pastor Jerome Nel of the Garden Route Christian Centre, who has headed local opposition to the event, led a group of around 300 people in delivering a petition to the town authorities in a bid to stop the festival from taking place. A Facebook group was also set up to oppose the Pink Loerie.

While Lerm is determined to ensure that the Pink Loerie continues to go ahead he admits that the constant opposition could take its toll. “I’m scared this will have a negative reaction among the town’s citizens. The constant negativity that certain people are creating could leave a negative perception in people’s minds.”

All interested persons have been invited to submit the questionnaire by not later than Friday, 27 March. The 2009 Pink Loerie Mardi Gras takes place from 30 April to 3 May.

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