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Heaven and hell in installments

By Martin Daly

I cannot proceed too far this week with a further discussion of Trinidad and Tobago's cultural heaven manifested in the November concert season when Dr Wayne Kublalsingh is on hunger strike and is risking going to heaven or such other realm we may go when mortal life is over. I will add my attention to Kublalsingh later in this column.

However, before Kublalsingh, I would say that over the last two weekends I went to heaven in four installments. The ascension began with the tenth edition of Trinidad All Stars Classical Jewels, and birdsong's Divali concert, paused and then continued with the mesh of Exodus, Malick Folk Performers and Signal Hill Choir followed by Tony Hall's Jean and Dinah at the Little Carib.

It was my intention to review the significant and diverse accomplishments of these productions and to hammer home the point that we now have a full blown integrated performing arts sector in which the talents of music, song, dance and stagecraft can and do combine in performances worthy of any international stage.

The musical productions are ready for immediate transfer to Radio City Music Hall, New York City, and Tony Hall's dramas are ready for theatre abroad as well as for a move into film, for which sponsors are currently being sought. It is also necessary to repeat that the musical productions embrace all our cultures and our otherwise troubled youth and represent immediate hope of salvation and of productive careers.

I add my attention to Kublalsingh because of what he represents. I identify the issue which Kublalsingh represents as this: Are politicians entitled with impunity to support the objectives of a group or a community in order to win their vote but then to do things adverse to the objectives which the politicians embraced in election season? I stress that it is the objective of this group, whose anti-smelter vote was courted, which must be addressed.

The objective of the Highway Re-Route Movement is balancing the protection of communities and environment against the "progress" of highways and smelters. There is room for much disagreement about how that balance should be struck but prominent members of the current Government, when seeking public office, loudly identified themselves with where the re-route group felt the balance should lie.

The political debt cannot therefore simply be dishonoured or bought out by giving or attempting to give individuals patronage or satellite power in the state enterprise sector. The UNC owe it to this group to seek some kind of principled peace formula short of stopping the highway (unless the court so orders).

Having identified in my mind what I believe the re-route issue is, it is of little importance to me what the personality traits of the protesters are. Kublalsingh is not the most endearing personality to take to the protest stage but I am unimpressed by insults that he and his group are egotists and liars. Such personal attacks from public officials should be condemned.

I note the jokey statement that the Government cannot talk to this group because there is a matter in court. It is a regular occurrence that parties before the court continue to talk if not directly, then through their lawyers or mediators to see whether a matter can be settled and the court encourages that. Is that not what happened in the OPV arbitration leading to the settlement of which the Government is so proud?

While on the subject of issues before personalities, I suggest that if the Laventille Family Day last Sunday had elements of a job fair whereby businesses looking for workers were present and encouraging job applications then it was a reasonable investment to make and follow up of such a process is important and relevant to influencing behavioural changes.

Of course, if our politicians would wake up to the significant employment potential of our performing arts, we could do a lot more for the economic independence of youngsters who may not have been able to have a head-start in life.

That brings me back to this mega cultural development company which the Government wishes to foist on sections of the artistic community. Last week I may have been too kind in referring to it. I actually deleted reference to my concern that it would be riddled with political appointees because the real issue is whether the company should be formed at all.

From rumblings within the artistic community it appears that such a concern is real and that there is a pre-ordained and possibly nepotistic result intended notwithstanding the usual utterances about "consultation with stakeholders". Our brilliant performing artists and visual artists deserve far better.

So the Trini paradox continues in regular installments. To borrow from Milton's Paradise Lost, our artistic minds are their own place, and in themselves can make a heaven of hell, while our morality of their own politicians make a hell of heaven.

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