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“I think it has been reasonable. If you give seven, eight, nine, ten, 20 million dollars to an event, or to support, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that members of Government should expect to go to these events and not be able to take a friend or two.”—Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas
Governments—and this is not peculiar to the People’s Partnership—have always had a problem distinguishing between patronage of the arts and political patronage. Douglas’ comments, which to date have not been repudiated, suggest that the position is representative of government policy and certainly of his ministry.
It received endorsement from none other than Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in the manner in which she chose to announce the Government’s recognition of the contributions of calypsonian Sparrow and mas bandleader Peter Minshall.
Last Wednesday, Persad-Bissessar announced that Cabinet had decided to grant the million-dollar state property in which he had been living to masman Peter Minshall and to pay the unspecified bills for recent previous medical expenses of the Mighty Sparrow. Both men travelled to Penal to be presented with their awards before the Prime Minister’s Siparia constituents, including “a friend or two,” providing a backdrop to the Carnival celebration of the Siparia Women’s Association Kiddies Carnival Competition at Bhupsingh Park, Penal.
The presentation was telegraphed in advance by the previous day’s announcement that the Prime Minister was due to make a significant statement of major national importance the following day. Canboulay Productions, the group associated with the most recent attempts to honour Sparrow, had complained of meeting with official indifference when it sought official support.
“The response has not been good from the Government,” spokesman Rawle Gibbons was quoted as saying in a Guardian report. “This is something that is of great educational value and should be supported. In some cases, we didn’t even get a response to our proposal.”