Kamla promises to create a steelpan factory in T&T

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will create a pan factory in T&T when she returns as Prime Minister.

Speaking at Emancipation celebrations held at Southern Marines Pan Theatre at the Marabella Trainline on Emancipation Day, Persad-Bissessar said it was regrettable that T&T invented the steelpan but does not sell the instrument.

“If you want to buy a steelpan right now you have to go to Japan to buy one. You think that is right?” she questioned.

Saying she planned to work closely with Pantrinbago to expand steelpan education and training, Persad-Bissessar said: “The pan in schools programme was one way that my government recognised the Steelpan Movement. On our return, we shall work closely with Pan Trinbago to expand this programme to include the steelpan facilities in our communities that continue to work with our youth.”

Noting that it was time that T&T made steelpan into a revenue earner, Persad-Bissessar said: “We created the steelpan. We must take it back into State ownership and set up a factory which can be a revenue earner for this country. When we return to Office we will do it together.”

The Opposition Leader also paid tribute to the Southern Marines Pan Theatre for its role in teaching pupils to play the steelpan.

“I wish to honour the memory of Mr Michael Joseph also known as Mr Scobie, who was the bandleader until he joined his ancestors after leading the band in the last Panorama. His legacy is alive and well in his children and grandchildren. I saw his grandson Malakai perform expertly on the steelpan today,” she added.

Standing in a panyard, Persad-Bissessar said: “The steelpan represents the innovation, leadership and connection of the Africans to their roots. After emancipation was won, the colonial powers maintained a ban on the African drum.

“It was the creativity and the will to resist combined that produced what would be Trinidad and Tobago’s gift to the world, eventually becoming our national instrument,” she explained.

She noted that the Southern Marine Pan Theatre has continued to be a centre of learning and should be commended. 

“I have been informed that it was under a previous Panday government that much support was rendered to erect this structure, and I assure you that the education of our children that continues here is not unnoticed,” she said.

She added: “The steelpan fraternity is full of unsung heroes like the bandleader present today Malomo Joseph. You take children on the vacation and from your pocket at your own expense, you train them in pan making, creating a virtual pan factory. You train the children to play the steelpan providing an avenue of income for your young charges and giving them a career start.”

Persad-Bissessar said members of the UNC who are Orisha or Ifa devotees have reminded her that Ogun is the Orisha deity attributable to manipulating metal. 

“Therefore, in this panyard, we are not only in a place of wonderful innovation, but we are also in a sacred space for Africans who preserved their belief system,” she said. 

She paid tribute to prominent Afro-Trinidadians of the past including Elma Francois, Emmanuel Muzumbo Lazare, Henry Sylvester-Williams and George Padmore who was involved in the Pan Africanism movement which was an attempt to create a sense of brotherhood and collaboration among all people of African descent whether they lived inside or outside of Africa.

Also attending the celebrations were Kasala Kamara, founder of the Sando Educational Workshop, and Aiyegoro Ome, founder of the Sinhue Centre and former president of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).

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