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Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Long road to restore sugar’s history
Almost four years ago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar launched the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum at Brechin Castle, Couva, to preserve the memory of the sugar industry that once sustained the national economy. The museum is supposed to record the historical and cultural legacy of the industry, which brought together many races, cultures and traditions for over 200 years. The Sugar Heritage Village will house artifacts from the industry, including rail engines, railway lines, animal driven carts, tractors, harvesters and other obsolete machinery. Although restoration on the site has already begun, chairman of the Heritage Village and Museum Steering Committee, Professor Brinsley Samaroo, said there was still a long way to go. At a recent meeting held with the Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce where the committee sought to gain the Chamber’s support, multi-media presentations were shown of the sugar industry in its heyday and future plans for the projects that will make the area an historic and recreational site.
Samaroo told the potential stakeholders, in 2007 a number of his colleagues from UWI, St Augustine, decided they were going to restore the history of the sugar industry. He explained when Caroni Limited (1975) was closed down in 2003, it saw the immediate retrenchment of 20,000 workers who were directly employed in the industry and 4,700 cane farmers were put out of business. “From the time of the closure in 2003 right up to 2010 there was very little interest by the then government in the resuscitation and the rehabilitation of the heritage of the sugar industry. “We decided that after all that the industry had done for the economy of T&T and also in remembrance of the workers, something had to be done to preserve its memory.” Following the closure, Samaroos explained, tremendous deterioration had taken place because nothing was done to maintain or preserve the site by the previous administration. “When the present government took those of us who were working on this project and formed the committee in 2010, we had a tremendous job of rehabilitation because so much of the physical infrastructure had deteriorated. A lot of stealing had taken place particularly of the metal, iron and steel. The place was enormously overgrown with grass, so you couldn’t even go and have a picnic there,” said Samaroo.
“We have about 520 acres under our jurisdiction and that is the acreage upon which we are constantly working.”
Samaroo said the committee tackled the project in two phases: dealing firstly with the “low hanging fruit,” secondly deciding on a vision—plan for the whole development of the 520 acres.
For the second phase, the committee has been inviting the public to come up with a development plan for the Sugar Museum and Sugar Heritage Village. “We really want this to be a community effort. We want as much as possible the input of potential stakeholders and the public, on what they would like to see at this heritage site.” According to Samaroo the site where the old clinic stood has now been refurbished and this is now the archive and research center. The Seville housing area where the expatriate management of the Brechin Castle sugar factory was housed, has also been upgraded and is ready for occupancy. On the southern side of the Sevilla House will be the Sugar Museum. He said there are a considerable amount of artifacts that will eventually be on display in the museum.
“We are negotiating with the Indian government to send us a museologist at their cost to talk to us about layout. We want to marry all the artifacts that we have with the building that we have there. We have written a brief for the museologist so when he gets here, he will have knowledge of what we want and what we have to work with,” said Samaroo. He said the committee was also in the process of refurbishing the old sugar factory. “We are now doing service of the factory, we have removed all the asbestos and all other harmful material, so it is now ready to be used as a refurbished museum. We are also hoping that the Four Ponds area will be turned into a recreational center, where families can go to fish, cook or just spend time together,” said Samaroo. Samaroo said three million dollars had already been pumped into the refurbishing of Sevilla Club and work is also being done on the swimming pool, tennis courts and the golf course.
The Sugar Heritage Village is charged with two main purposes. The first and most important goal is to honour and preserve the memory of Trinidad and Tobago’s sugar industry, paying homage to all those who were involved. Following this, the SHV project also aims to bring useful amenities to the Point Lisas /Couva area. These two objectives will be accomplished by transforming currently underutilised land at Caroni’s Brechin Castle estate into a place offering valuable historical, educational, recreational and commercial resources. This place is called the Sugar Heritage Village, the only one of its kind in Trinidad and Tobago.
More Info: www.sugarheritagevillage.com
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