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posted 21 Jan 2015, 11:36 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Jan 2015, 18:17 ]


                                                     AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

His Excellency

Mr. Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona SC

The President

Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you as a citizen who has been involved in the Steelband art form for over fifty years. Those who have been involved in this art form for this length of time and more have struggled and made great sacrifices against great odds to bring the Steelpan to what it is today.

Today, it is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. I must say thanks to those who gave blood sweat and tears before my time; those who went to jail and lost their families and were considered outcasts by this very society, only for the love of the Steelpan. Today, the national instrument is still considered a noisy instrument by many in the country of its origin after all it has done to put this nation on the world stage.

This Steelpan instrument, has done more to improve the lives of more citizens and to promote the brand T&T, than anything else this country has produced and is still contributing towards holding the social fabric together. Why is this not being recognized for what it’s worth? It confirms the saying, a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.

I say all this to identify some challenges facing Steelbands in the South, especially during the Carnival season. Suddenly, some people find that the Steelbands are making too much noise in their communities, while practicing to represent the said communities at Panorama and the national festival.

So, the police is taking time off from crime fighting, to visit Pan Theaters to let the many young people gathered there practicing their culture know that they have to be EMA-compliant to continue making themselves useful. To me, this was the same thing the pioneers fought against and went to jail for. Is it that those times are coming back again? Are we to, once again, prepare ourselves for a battle with the police, in order to maintain and preserve our culture that is now sweeping the world? 

One would have thought that the police would have seen the Pan Theaters as a welcome aid in its fight against crime; pan theaters where hundreds of young people, are engaged in meaningful pursuits, and not out on the streets creating problems for them.

 Are we still in colonial mode? Are some of us still trying to understand what is our own, and what is imported? Please Mr. President, give us some clarity on this serious issue. Another very serious and sensitive issue that must be addressed by your good self, sir, is the carnival proclamation signed by you, giving citizens the right to play mas and parade the streets from 4:00 am on Carnival Monday to midnight on Carnival Tuesday.

 This right is being infringed upon by the police, giving all sorts of frivolous reasons for their infringement. The Carnival is what it is and is adding much needed revenue to our treasure, but the police seem to feel overworked and unable to manage our national festival effectively. The solution is not in disrupting the people's celebration. The solution is added manpower. This is not rocket science. Let us call on our Caribbean neighbors for the much needed assistance. It was successfully done in recent times for something that was of less interest to the people.

But, the stopping of Carnival in the City of San Fernando at 2:00 am on Monday night,  and 10:00 pm on the Tuesday night could lead to serious confrontation at some point in time. We certainly don't want such a situation exacerbated. There are people who live for this art form, and they invest a lot of money to make it happen.  Please Mr. President, clear the air on these matters of national importance. All we want to do is play our part in the national festival without harassment and interruption.

Thanking you in advance for an early and positive intervention.

 Respectfully submitted,

Yours in Culture

Michael Joseph