Michael Joseph - PRO of Pan Trinbago
Trinidad & Tobago, W.I. - The present impasse between Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C and the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts through the NCC, is very unfortunate given the kind of outstanding contributions that the Steelpan fraternity have been making towards the recognition and development of Trinidad and Tobago at home and abroad for over fifty years. Only people without a clear sense of history, and those who are deeply rooted in a slavish colonial mentality, will find satisfaction and pleasure in the destruction of an institution that have been able to raise itself from the dump heap of society to become world renowned, and received at home the Humming bird medal and the Trinity Cross. Yet, you hear calls from the misguided and uninformed few, to mash up Pan Trinbago and form something else.
The Steelpan fraternity is a family where no part is greater than the other. The pannist or the children cannot be the greatest component of the Steelpan family, as propagated by the detractors who may have never organized a marble pitching tournament in their lives, but are making pronouncements on how a Steel band is configured and managed. But, they are not my focus in this article. My focus is on the malicious information and allegations placed in the public domain with the intention to stigmatize and destroy the oldest grassroots organization in Trinidad and Tobago, to satisfy the desire and greed of a few desperate individuals, who is hell bent on devaluing the work of generations passed. (We see them for who they are. (Devils or de valuers.)
Let me start by saying that the President of Pan Trinbago is not now or ever was in receipt of a salary of $75,000,00 plus perks to the tune of $20,000,00.
The escalated cost of rental vehicles : some years ago, the NATIONAL CARNIVAL COMMISSION (NCC) used to rent vehicles for Pan Trinbago central and regional executive, knowing it to be an integral tool in the operation of the organization. It is very strange, when the organization evolved to the point of being able to rent vehicles for its operations, according to its needs, we are accused of squandering, by those who have not now or ever done an assessment of our needs.
Pan Trinbago, not now or ever had 18 accounts at First Citizens or any other banking institution. We always welcome good and sound financial advice. However, we take umbrage with none members trying to dictate the amount of baskets we choose, to put our eggs in.
Pan Trinbago Inc T.C, as was mentioned many times over, is not averse to any forensic financial audit. This is what we allow every year as a rule, for reporting to our membership, and follow with a copy to the line ministry and the NCC. However, we would prefer the auditor general to do this audit followed by a similar one on the National Carnival Commission. As a matter of fact, we believe that a commission of inquiry should be established, to look into the Carnival industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Such an inquiry would give a clear picture of those who really benefit financially from the Carnival. And, is certainly not the producers of Calypso Mas and Steelpan.
The Steelpan fraternity have spent years fighting for recognition, while developing the entertainment and performance aspect of our heritage and indigenous art form. As we became satisfied that this is a reality, we started focusing on the industrialization aspect, which includes the quality of materials used in making our National Instruments, that we extended to the world. We entered into the business of producing special quality steel drums, with the assistance of professor Brian Copeland and his research team from the University of the West Indies. This factory is up and running as we speak. The new and youthful line Minister is fully appraised, as she was invited and paid an early visit, and was given an extensive tour of the facilities.
Pan Trinbago have moved to understand the nature of the international markets that have embraced our indigenous art form, by inviting the world of Steel pan to the Mecca. Through this initiative, we have been able to measure the size of the market thereby, giving us the reason and the understanding of why we must globalize. Our industry is a potential billion dollars industry for which we have been working tirelessly to put together for the benefit of the practitioners and the country as a whole. We have been meeting stumbling blocks at every turn. Why? There is a plan to keep us as mendicants, beginning for patronage throughout our existence. The little people from the barracks yard, must not be allowed to control the commanding heights of this potential billion dollars industry.
Let’s look at the skeletal remains of what is supposed to be the head quarters off the custodians of the National instruments of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The truth is, Pan Trinbago was granted a parcel of land by the then Basdeo Panday regime to assist in our quest for self sufficiency and independence. We were told by him to bring the plan, and he will build the Head Quarters. Unfortunately, he was voted out of office shortly after, so that offer went ah begging, and the organization then became the victim of political jerry meandering. No money was given to Pan Trinbago by any government to build a Headquarters on the land and was wasted by, or stolen by them. The property is in the hands of UDECOTT who was given the mandate to complete. The Panday regime, was funding the Carnival interest groups for five years, with the intention to have them self-sufficient at the end of that period. As soon as we had a change of regime , that position was revoked. It was under the Panday regime, that the National Steel Orchestra was established, where young pannist were permanently employed by the government to play the Steelpan as a career.
The false notion that Pan Trinbago wasted, squandered and stole money given to them by the government is all blatant lies and innuendos used to carry out a bigger plan. All monies received from governments, was given to finance a particular show or event, in this case, the Panorama, and every cent was always accounted for through our yearly audited financial statements. If the cost of the show is twenty-five million dollars, and we have been hosting it for four years, no doubt we would have spent one hundred million dollors on the hosting of a show for the government, as agreed by both parties. Do the maths for about thirty years. All monies went into production of the events.
Pan Trinbago Inc T.C. have always enjoyed a close and cordial relationship with our line Ministry. What has happened to create the kind of adversarial position that now seems to exist between this new and youthful Minister and the organization? I see it as a lack of experience and understanding of the nature of the position, or an implementation of someone else’s agenda with a passion. Tanty Joan or big sister Marlene would have applied more class and style in their dealings with groups under their charge. Dialogue would have been the very first intervention. Not bacchanal and scandal in the public domain. Vilifying Pan Trinbago is not the answer. “Remember, those who steals my purse steal trash, but those who steal my good name, robs me of that which does not enriches him or her, but makes me poor indeed.” Pan Trinbago never had access to the public purse to the extent that it needed protection from them. That statement is quite misleading. The executive of Pan Trinbago, looked on in horror recently, as people holding high office, try to create mob rule in our organization, and waited with bated breath on their desired results. But they were disappointed by the outcome.
What can be done now to clear our good names that has been tarnished across the globe by all these false allegations? Who is going to compensate us for the stigmatization of individuals and organization? All the hard work that was done in our efforts at globalization. Can you help, madam minister, or Mr. chairman of NCC? Check your relationship with the service providers to see where the money gone, and only then the public will know that the interest groups that creates the Carnival, does not benefit from its hard work. It was always a labor of love. Where are the millionaires in Steelpan? Today, the Carnival Arts are under duress. Bring on a commission of inquiry into the Carnival industry and the operation of the NCC now.
Michael L. Joseph
PUBLIC Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C.
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