Daly Bread: Laventille pan parade cancellation shows gap between nice words and real support

EPL Infrafred Sauna

From time to time, politicians say things with which we can agree in principle.  However, we are regularly disappointed when there is little or no implementation, or only a few moves are made for flash and for the glorification of the politicians and their satellites.

Last week I described the background leading up to the recent United Nations declaration of 11 August and annually thereafter as World Steelpan Day. I set out what the government must do to live up to what it represented internationally as the contribution of pan music to sustainable development goals.

At the United Nations, New York (from left) director of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra, Kareem Browne; renowned steelpan arranger, Dr Ray Holman; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Nations Dennis Francis; Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell and president of Pan Trinbago, Beverly Ramsey-Moore.
Photo: Pan Trinbago

At the time of writing last week’s column I heard, but did not quite believe, that the steelband parade along the Eastern Main Road had been cancelled. The parade, scheduled for yesterday afternoon, closely follows Emancipation Day and is treated as part of those celebrations and it is the opening event of Steelband Month.

I also heard that one of the reasons for the cancellation was lack of traditional corporate support for that event.

More than 20 years ago, in a column entitled Dorata Street, published on 15 August 2010, I wrote about the Laventille pan parade and enquired when the transformational work for communities in pan would begin.

Dorata Street was a reference to a location at the corner of that street and the Eastern Main Road where Panland Limited—the pan manufacturer and the business of Michael Cooper, entrepreneur—is located.

It occupies an area immediately adjacent to that part of the Eastern Main Road, opposite Angostura, where each band pauses in the course of its parade while playing its music.

A steelpan orchestra performs during the 2023 Panorama competition.
Photo: Pan Trinbago

The cancellation of the Laventille pan parade is a brutal example of the yawning gap between nice words about the contribution of pan music and the lack of any policy or incentives to support that contribution.

It is also a continuation of the lack of enlightenment of the wider community, which supports upper crust events but shuns the magnificent output of our cultural sector.

This letdown is evidence that much of what the government represented to the United Nations is an illusion.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley speaks at the opening of the Desperadoes Pan Theatre on Sunday 16 April 2023.
(via Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts)

Pearl Eintou Springer was quoted in the Trinidad Express newspaper as describing the Laventille parade as: “one of the biggest pan festivals outside of the Panorama”.

She remarked: “There is no real celebration of the steelpan. This is how they treat the steelpan at a time when it is being recognized by the world.”

The Laventille Steelband Festival Foundation is the promoter of the Laventille parade and it also gave us The 8 of Hearts concert, the innovative format of which was subsequently used by the Big 5 concert. It is not necessary to describe them again.

The Potential Symphony Steel Orchestra performs.
Photo: Pan Trinbago

However, in my column entitled Dorata Street I wrote: “many sectors of state activity, including the state enterprise and social development sectors must be fundamentally re-examined and re-constructed.

“Simply putting different persons into place in unnecessary or dangerous special purpose companies will be a continuation of the same old abuse of public funds.

“Into the reconstructed sectors a wide variety of activities including pan, food crop farming and drainage maintenance will find their appropriate places.”

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC at the funeral of late South Africa president Nelson Mandela.
Their political roles were reversed at the time.
(Copyright Power102fm)

I closed that column inquiring whether we would soon get down to doing the transformational work required.

Well, we did not do the transformational work while the two main political blocs merely blamed and abused each other. They do so with intensity, now that we are in a period of local government electioneering for polls to be held in two weeks’ time.

As bad as the choices are, the local government election has one important relevance. It keeps alive the practice of putting our representatives into office by a scheduled voting process.

UNC and PNM supporters.

Sadly however, the majority of citizens know that after we have marked the constitutional spot and the election is over we have nothing new to which to look forward. Our betterment is an illusion.

The ravages of violent crime, corruption and crumbling infrastructure will continue. No one will be held responsible.

Those are the realities, along with the continuing prospect of hollow governance, that cause citizens to lose hope and to react by uttering the unfortunate disparagement that “Trinidad and Tobago is not a real place”.

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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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