Minister of The Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas said yesterday that the idea of race is obsolete when dealing with culture and, in a society as diverse as Trinidad and Tobago, everyone should be involved in all cultural expressions.
Douglas was delivering the feature address at the opening of the public consultation on a Draft National Multiculturalism Policy Framework and Draft National Cultural Policy at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.
This was just one of several such consultations on a draft policy on culture over the years, with no policy having been finalised to date.
Douglas assured the stakeholders in attendance that this time the consultations at Macoya and Crown Point, Tobago tomorrow will result in a national strategy for cultural development in 2013.
He said a report on the consultations will be produced by November 5 and will be circulated for public perusal on Facebook and the Culture Division website.
The Minister said that whatever policy the Government formulates, it will have to treat with the ethnic and religious diversity of the nation.
Douglas said: "Race is nothing, but to some people race is everything," which contributes to the tearing down of the society.
He said that "Trinbago" has been fortunate thus far because other multi-ethnic nations such as Serbia and Rwanda have not been able to enjoy their diversity as Trinidad and Tobago has.
"We must also reinforce that while there may be a multitude of manifestations, there is only one Trinidad and Tobago culture. We all belong to this culture. This overarching culture includes all the manifestations developed, nurtured and practised by the citizens. Each citizen has the opportunity, in accordance with constitutionally-enshrined rights to freedom of association, expression and religion, to engage in the manifestations of their choosing. But make no mistake, as varied as we are, we are all one," Douglas said.
Stakeholders in attendance included executive members of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), Pan Trinbago, National Carnival Bands Association and other cultural organisations representing artforms such as chutney, Ramleela, the theatre and film fraternity, as well as members of the public.
While several people commented they were pleased to see a real push towards finally establishing a national policy for culture, many were concerned that nothing will come out of the consultations again.
Actress/playwright Penelope Spencer said she and other members of the theatre fraternity had been invited to speak on the needs of the theatre movement before and her suggestions were never acted upon.
Other people questioned the Government's wisdom or lack thereof in wrapping up the Film Company and Trinidad and Tobago Entertainment Company, asking what consultation if any had been done in making those decisions.
One filmmaker said she had heard of a mega film city being set up and asked how was this being funded and what expertise was being employed in it.
She received no answer from the panel, which included Minister Douglas, Director of Culture Ingrid Ryan-Ruben, Multiculturalism Ministry Permanent Secretary Desdra Bascombe and Deputy Permanent Secretary Vel Lewis.