Press Release: Wednesday, March 31, 2010
REPLY TO THE RUMBLINGS OF HONOURABLE MINISTER MARLENE MACDONALD
In the last 3 weeks the Minister and the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs has:
- been caught misleading the public over fraudulent consultations that did not take place;
- been caught engaging in a cover-up of multi-million dollar flaws in a badly conceived building;
- been caught attempting to silence a holder of our nation’s highest honour- the Trinity Cross from speaking at a public function;
- been caught attempting to manipulate the words and image of artists to perpetrate a fraudulent agenda on the nation whilst wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-payers money in this fraudulent ad campaign.
- All whilst the same Honourable Minister was sanctioned for her un-Ministerial conduct in dealing with stakeholders, Elders and citizens.
Despite being caught out in the slips on several occasions on all these counts, the Minister still continues to voop wildly. The Minister should meditate for a while and understand that the first words that should have come out her mouth- given the Ministry’s open debacle in the last 3 weeks- should have been: “I am sorry. I apologise for the mistakes of the past, let us work together and move forward.” This apology should first have been addressed to the Honourable Ms. Pat Bishop who was wronged so venally. And for which the Minister has been castigated openly by many senior people in the nation.
The second apology should have been addressed to the artistic community for the betrayal of their dream for NAPA, which could have been a real masterpiece- if only the government had listened to stakeholders and not squandered $600 Million on a facility that nearly every senior artist in the diaspora has declared flawed. The third apology should have been to the nation for squandering their oil and gas wealth and not getting value for money.
Instead the Honourable Minister seems to be going mad right in front the entire population. The letter that the Minister refers to in her ramblings actually called for broad-based stakeholder consultation with the Minister, cultural stakeholders and communities. A message she obviously has not heard. This is not about Rubadiri Victor and ACTT, this is about government learning that it must sit down with the broadest based quorum of stakeholders before it makes multi-million dollar decisions.
Now to deal quickly with all of the Minister’s ravings:
- Not for the first time the Minister has tried to raise the laughable distraction that myself and my executive are in some way politically aligned. I will tell her exactly what I told Ms. Persard Bissessar- I am not interested in the PNM, I am not interested in the UNC, I am not interested in the COP. I am interested in representing my sector, the cultural sector. I am interested in something the Minister should read up about- it is calledTHE NATION OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO. As for me having political ambitions and being a politician I have this to say- my Mother and Father raise me up too good for me to become one ah dat! The Artist Coalition is defending a sector that has been disrespected.
- The Minister claims that the Artist Coalition is trying to stop the government’s Community Centre building program. Little does this Minister know that it was WE that lobbied government for the creation of this self-same Community Centre building programme- and in fact it was her government that fought against it for years. Community groups In Laventille and Morvant would recall me and my organisation battling with them for the building of a number of community centres in the area right through the late 90s and the 2000s- and the government shooting down all the dreams of the community.
- The first betrayal of the people of Morvant, Beetham and Laventille by the government happened with the turning over of the massive PTSC depot over to VEMCOTT in 1999/2000. Dozens of community groups had battled for that site to have community Primary and Secondary Schools, a Sporting complex, a cultural centre and trade school all based on African and Trinidadian cultural principles which would have served the greater Laventille area.
- The community groups then attempted to get the same facilities to be constructed in the abandoned Rum Bond building on Eastern Main Road. This was also betrayed. Then myself and the community turned our attentions to the abandoned Nestle building opposite the Spree Simon Centre. This was also betrayed.
- ACTT continues to say: A badly built building is worse than none at all. A building with the wrong specifications can destroy the very thing it is supposed to protect and facilitate. There are minimum specifications for the building of proper community centres and government’s centres fail the test.
- Communities need to be intimately consulted on the needs of their community centres- a community centre in Matelot has different needs than one in San Juan and one in the Amerindian community in Arima. Consult with People. Respect their views and their lives. This failure to meaningfully consult and follow advice has led to numerous pretty and ugly sub-standard community centres across the land.
- And finally we are pleased to inform the Honourable Minister that the ‘unknown’ called Rubadiri Victor and his ‘defunct organisation’- the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago- have just won the Commonwealth Grant for 2010 administered by the Commonwealth Foundation in London. She would recall that organisation was just here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting… The Grant is to create an exhibition on The History of the Arts and Culture of Trinidad and Tobago– hopefully for display in the new National Museum soon to be re-opened.
So in closing I shall say this: The Artist Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago and myself will continue our defence of the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and in our representation of the sector with integrity. We will do so without fear or favour. We know already that thousands of artists and cultural workers stand with us- although many may now be doing so silently out of fear of victimisation. We also know that we do this on behalf of cultural ancestors whose Legacy we are battling for and whose sacrifice pays that Minister’s salary- ancestors whose work has given us everything beautiful that we know of ourselves as Trinbagonians.
WE STAND IN DEFENSE OF THEIR HONOUR.
Whether or not the present Minister remains in office we re-iterate our previous call:
- An immediate freeze on work on the San Fernando NAPA
- A discontinuation of the construction schedule of the John D Academy & the Savannah Carnival Centre
- An immediate freeze also on community centre sites nationwide (which are not being built to minimum specifications or with community consultation and participation) which must be seen as incubator and feeder sites into these large national centres
- This freeze must exist until a full expert analysis & inspection is done of NAPA on Princes Building grounds by stakeholders & experts. This analysis would allow lessons to be learnt & a rationalising of proper Academy specs throughout the national complexes
- The re-instatement of Pat Bishop as Principal of the NAPAs so she can oversee the Legacy Restoration Project, and
- Finally stakeholders must have full inclusion in the planning of all other cultural facilities.