Gail Alexander and Joel Julien
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As crime wave rises in east PoS - Panmen running scared
Pan players from steelbands based in east Port-of-Spain are on the run as the country’s crime wave continues to escalate, says Gerard Mendez, chairman of Pan Trinbago’s northern region.
Up to late yesterday, six bands—Nostrand Symphony, City Sun Valley, Freelancers, Blue Diamonds, Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars and Witco Desperadoes—were reported to have been directly affected by issues related to gun violence in this part of the capital.
Mendez said Nostrand Symphony had to abandon its base on St Paul Street, Port-of-Spain, for safer grounds near Queen’s Park East, while his band City Sun Valley based on Nelson Street was now making alternative practice arrangements because security concerns for its players.
Last year, the band had to flee the area when gun violence erupted. Its management found refuge at a car park at the corner of Duke and Henry Streets. While there, a proprietor opposite agreed to assist the band, providing storage facilities for the instruments and even extended washroom facilities to the pan players.
Freelancers Steel Orchestra which hails from Duncan Street has been unable to commence rehearsals for competition. Mendez said word reaching his office suggested that the band was contemplating bowing out of this year’s competition.
One week ago, officials of eight-time National Panorama champion Neal and Massy Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra on Duke Street were forced to abruptly end Panorama rehearsals when loud explosions were heard in its catchment area.
Meanwhile, ten-time National Panorama champion Witco Desperadoes, commonly referred to as the “pride of the hill,” had again left its Laventille home, for the National Infrastructure and Property Development Company (Nipdec) car park on Cadiz Road, Belmont.
However, the T&T Guardian has learnt that this would be the last year the property would be used as Desperadoes’ alternate Carnival home.
Its use of the property for 2014 was originally denied, Mendez said, but an intervention by Pan Trinbago’s executive caused officials at the state agency to reconsider its position for this year only.
The legendary Blue Diamond on lower George Street has not been spared. The band was also feeling the squeeze as the East Dry River community remains under siege, the steelband official said.
“All the bands in that community are under pressure...It (crime) is taking a heavy toll on us,” Mendez said.
“Some of the people who would normally come out and listen to different bands are not doing it, because they are afraid. So we are under terrible stress in the northern region. The bands in the East Dry River area are under a lot of stress.
“Bullets have no eyes. We have to take precautions. Gunshots! We have to call off the practice. We not comfortable! Players who want to play with the band not coming to that community. So we are at a disadvantage. We don’t have 25 players practising as yet and the minimum that you can go to the Panorama preliminaries with is 45.”
Contacted, secretary of the central executive of Pan Trinbago and manager of Courts Sounds Specialists of Laventille Richard Forteau said the steelband body was concerned with the communiqués being issued by member bands on the issue of security.
The executive, he said, was paying close attention to the uncomfortable developments that threaten not only the welfare of the pan players that constitute these bands, but their fan base, too.
“Nationally, we at Pan Trinbago are calling on our steelbands to get together with the community police,” Forteau said.
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure...whatever we can do to prevent a situation. The law is the law and like anything else if something happens we have to go them and report the situation.
“So, let’s harbour that kind of relationship with our officers within the community so that we can ensure that our practice is safe. We know that we are making music and if we are coming together to make music, music is the food of love, (and) there shouldn’t be any killings where love is concern.
“I can tell you that for the (past) year, we have giving the T&T Police Service and the policemen who are actually working in the Laventille area, a certain amount of support. Our panyard is open, so they can access our washroom facilities because we recognise that in this fight, we all have to come together. We have to come together if we have to arrest this situation. We are talking about innocent lives.”
He added: “We would not like to know that a young girl or young boy, a young man or a young woman left their home to come and do some rehearsals and to participate with Panorama and Carnival with Sound Specialist (and) anything happen to them.”
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