WST Global News Division


Baring the Soul of the Steelpan Fraternity

  Steelband, oh what an invention, it should be the pride of our nation.
But what ah seeing, Lord it have me grieving……………………..
Dennis Williams (Merchant)

After many years and so many promises, the Steelband movement is outcast, a Vagrant and a squatter, in the land of its birth.  The structural frame of our Headquarters and Information Centre on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, Orange Grove, Tacarigua stands out as living testimony to this fact.

In spite of his-story and hers, the evidence is quite clear in the eye-sore it sticking out as a mockery to our aspirations, bare and naked to the world. This site brings to my mind, flashes of a slave block in the middle of the town’s square. Every time I look at it I see my shame, and feel the pain in my heart of those who sacrificed their lives so that Steelband may live. Why is the Steelband movement still suffering in the land of its origin?

The Steel band organization over the years has been working and planning in a timely manner to meet, manage and carry out all of its functions. Today, when the Steelband world is looking to Pan Trinbago – The World Governing Body for the Steel Pan – for direction, the organization is struggling for a comfortable work environment and space in order to attend to the business of Pan, as spelt out in Act 5 of 1986.  What a shame? But, it is our shame. The shame of the men and women who have been the flag bearers of culture in and out of this blessed land of ours, long before we became a nation. And, we have been bearing this shame amidst ridicule and fingers of scorn, misuse and abuse.

Battered and bruised, we continue to play our part in soothing the soul of our nation, in spite of being a victim of maliciousness propagated by gossipers and rumor mongers within and without. And because of that, our valiant and courageous efforts to venture out at constructing our Head Quarters to the tune of $3.9 million dollars are not being applauded.

The truth is, Pan Trinbago had applied for fifteen acres of land and received from Caroni (1975) Limited in 2002, through the then Government, 3.2376 hectares (8 acres) of land at the Orange Grove Estate in Trincity. This was given to Pan Trinbago for the purpose of establishing its Headquarters and a Complex for other income generating activities. (Not withstanding the fact, that the parcel of land given to Pan Trinbago at William’s Bay Chaguaramas, by the deceased Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams, is to establish an Entertainment Centre.)

The parcel of land was formerly handed over to Pan Trinbago by the State in August 2002, with a lease period of 99 years. The then Prime Minister indicated that funding for the completion of the Headquarters would be made available should Pan Trinbago present plans and a budget for its construction.
Initial design budget estimated construction costs was ready and so presented, and this catered for a two storey structure estimated to cost $ 3.9 million.

Let us clear the air at this juncture, of all misinformation relating to monies made available and spent by Pan Trinbago on this ambitious project. Firstly, Pan Trinbago never had in its possession a sum of $7.5 million to fritter away, as some malicious detractors would have the national community believe.

On Tuesday 9th April 2002 at the San Fernando Room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a symbolic presentation of a cheque in the sum of $7.5 million was made to Pan Trinbago from funds arising out of the Trinidad Tesoro Fraud Settlement.

At the said ceremony, Pan Trinbago presented a program of projects and its intended expenditure.

  1. Pan Yard Improvement.
  2. Purchase of Real Estate (Headquarters).
  3. Pan Trinbago Foundation Board.
  4. Steel Pan Factory.

The actual funds - $7.5Mm was placed in a Pan Trinbago Account at R. B. T. T. with the clear understanding that all withdrawals must be approved by the Ministry of Culture.  With all this checks and balance put in place by the Government, it was impossible for Pan Trinbago to drawdown and bad spend any part of the said funds, far less $7.5Mm.

The cheque was handed over in April 2002, and in August of the said year, due to the cries and expectations of STEELBAND, the organization wrote the Permanent Secretary, requesting a draw down of $4.7Mm to meet the cost of constructing Pan Trinbago Headquarters/Cultural Centre and other Pan Yard development expenditure.

From this approved draw down, Pan Trinbago was able to assist some Steelband in each region with improvement to their facilities. Construction of facilities for storing Steelpan Instruments was done at some Primary Schools, and Steelpan Instruments were manufactured and placed in Schools in each of the four regions of PanTrinbago. It was a Pan Trinbago initiative that started the Pan in School Project. And as more demands were made by the Panist, the Executive thought it wise to start the Headquarters Project before the Funds became exhausted.

It was at this point that the organization engaged the services of Architects and Consultants and Surveyors and Engineers and Building Contractors etc.

The initial design of the Headquarters was to construct a Two-Story structure estimated to cost $3,687,778.00 dollars. However, after being credible advised, and discussions were held within the Executive of Pan Trinbago, the architect was instructed to incorporate additional features into the original design to include a fully expanded third floor. This took the estimated completion cost to $7.5 million TT. 

A number of overtures were made to realize the extra funding of the project to no avail.  Work started in July 2002, and was aborted in September 2003, because the $3.5 million was exhausted to the extent that Pan Trinbago owes the contractor for work done to date.

All this to say that it is malicious and mischievous to accuse Pan Trinbago of squandering $7.5 million on its incomplete Headquarters when in fact, if the organization had that amount of money, the structure would not be standing as a mockery today, to the Steelband world.

In my conclusion, I would like to express the gratitude of Pan Trinbago Executive, for the Government intervention to have our Headquarters completed. But I am also appealing for some urgency to the task, given the work load of the organization, and the cramp condition under which we presently operate.

S.O.S to the Honorable Marlene Mc Donald, Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. Pan Trinbago is poise to take the Steelband Movement to the next level. That is, from cultural to Industrial. The completion of our Headquarters and Chrome Plating facilities is vital to the success of this mission. If Trinidad and Tobago is to maintain its reputation as the Mecca of Steelpan, then this is most critical to the future.

Let us, Pan Trinbago and The Ministry of Culture, work together to develop this gigantic Industry that can realize great economic possibilities for this still blessed nation of ours.

As Black Stalin say, ‘We can make it if we try’.

Michael L Joseph  Public Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago
The World Governing Body for Pan.

From the News Desk of Pan Trinbago

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