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An Open Letter from Pan Trinbago to Kenny de Silva, Chairman of the National Carnival Commission

Trinidad & Tobago, W.I.

Dear Kenny,

Michael Joseph - PRO of Pan Trinbago

“After celebrating fifty-five years of Independence, one would have believed that the peoples of this twin-island nation had developed a sense of unity and appreciation for all things Trinbagonian, and would unite to support, encourage and defend our national heritage, especially our arts and culture, under the watch words of DISCIPLINE, PRODUCTION and TOLERANCE.

“But today, it is very clear, how far we are from nationhood, and that nothing is sacred in the eyes of some people except obscene profits to which they believe they alone have an entitlement. Because of the selfishness and greed of those who continue to control the commanding heights of this twin-island nation’s economy, and their belief that all others must know their place, and stay in their place, this nation would always be in conflict within itself.

“Here every creed and race find an equal place is a false notion that some of us tend to entertain mentally, but can never be a reality until we learn to respect and appreciate without reservation, the contribution of one another to the development of this fractured society, where all skin teeth is not laugh. A people’s culture is not something to be tinkered with or treated lightly. This is the soul of a people and it is seen as interference with one’s spirituality. That is why, when the Africans were captured, they were denied their rights to religious and cultural expression. So, your intervention, to some of us, goes deeper than you may think.

“Your role as chairman of the NCC (National Carnival Commission), and the changes you proposed to implement for the steel bands’ involvement in Carnival 2017 were not surprising to me, as I recognized whose interest you represented during my brief interfacing with you as a representative of Pan Trinbago’s negotiating team, seeking the best benefits for our members.

“Your shenanigans were so obvious to me, that I was moved to point out to my team that your intention was to deceive Pan Trinbago, as, it seems, you had done before with our incomplete headquarters, to which you admitted to be a part of the technical team, and it was you who had stopped the project.

“We tried to negotiate a positive way forward, failing to recognize that we were dealing with a modern day Shylock whose only intention was to implement a set plan that would take over the control of the Steel bands from the legitimate organization. The years of struggle and sacrifice to bring this art form and the players to its present state of development, where it is now recognized as the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and bring some form of reward to the players who sacrifice night and day in the Pan yards, to make a meaningful contribution to our national festival, meant nothing to you implementing your set agenda.

“Our pioneers, who struggled for years, just like slavery days without reward, to perfect and establish this art form under persecution from those who are now recognizing its aesthetic and economic value, would not rest comfortably in their graves, if we, their beneficiaries, sit idly by and allow others to take over and control the industry that their sacrifices have spawned.

“It is quite clear that your intentions, aided and abetted by the usual suspects who, throughout history, would sell their mothers for a promise of position or rewards as small as the widow’s mite, is to stop the growth and upward mobility of the Steel band movement, so that we will remain mendicants begging patronage, while others control the commanding heights of the Steelpan industry.

“Pray tell, unkind sir, while you have your agents sowing seeds of ill will and disaffection amongst the membership of the Steel band fraternity, why would Pan Trinbago sit with you and agree to cut the panists’ meagre pittance by fifty percent (50%)?

“Could you explain the rationale behind the executive negotiating over the years for better terms and financial rewards for its members; always preaching that the one thousand dollars (TT $1000.00) is too small a compensation package for the many long hours the panists sacrifice to the success of our national festival; when the contractors and service providers who enjoy over eighty percent (80%) of the Carnival budget, and whose costs keep going up from year to year, and who do not have to wait six months to a year for payments - could you explain?

“And the irony of it all, is that you choose to release the funds at the opening of the new school term, knowing full well that the majority of panists are students, and this five hundred dollars (TT $500.00) could contribute in no way to their back to school thrust.

“Is this all part of the plot, to frustrate the youths, by trying to show them that there is nothing in Steelband for them so they should leave it alone? This too will fail, as the Steelpan is a spiritual thing that would have a spiritual effect on all who come into contact with it, negatively or positively. A word to the wise is sufficient!

“Long live Pan Trinbago, and may the gods of our ancestors bless our nation, as we continue on the road towards nationhood.”

Michael L Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Pan Trinbago Inc. T.C.

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