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What happened to the idea of a Convalescent Home for Calypsonians?
After 15 years, calypsonians who have fallen on tough times, are still without a place to convalesce or retire in spite of promises of assistance from the government. Calypso annals are replete with cases of calypsonians who have suffered and died like paupers or destitute, all needing some form of assistance.
According to president of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba, the government, through its construction company UDECOTT, is the entity to which the question should be directed.
“Tuco has been pursuing this matter with the authorities for more than ten years, and up to today there has not been any resolution,” he said, while producing a wad of letters on the subject exchanged between the parties over the period.
Masimba continued: “The Tuco Convalescent Home project was initiated in 2002 by the Ministry with responsibility for culture, on the recommendation of the calypsonians’ organisation. In September of that year the property and real estate division of the Ministry of Public Administration granted approval for “the temporary allocation of Government quarters known as LR #7, located at Caroni North Bank Road, La Reunion, to Tuco for use as a Convalescent Home for the less fortunate members of the organisation for a period of ten years, in the first instance, and at a peppercorn rent of $10 per annum.”
Construction of the facility was allocated to the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Limited (Udecott), following submission and approval of official drawings done by the Culture Ministry. The allocation of funding was then outlined in the National Budget every year up to 2014, but the project never got off the ground.
In the 2011 Public Sector Investment Programme it was explicitly stated that an allocation of $5 million had been made towards the construction of the three-storey home. Projects aimed at improving the livelihood of artistes and the development of the steel pan as the national musical instrument included “preparation of designs and tender documents for the construction of a three-storey Convalescent Home for Calypsonians and other Cultural Practitioners.” It was stated in the document that the facility was intended to provide nursing and supportive care to patients, primarily members of the calypso fraternity who had been discharged from hospital and were without support at home.
However, a letter from Tuco, dated May 12, 2016, to present Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Nyan Gadsby-Dolly seeking an update on the project, and enclosing notes from Udecott on its status, received the following reply on May 18, 2016: “Please be advised that, though noble, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts is not in a position to facilitate this initiative at this time. We look forward to further discussions on how the needs of our aging cultural practitioners can be best catered for.”
Masimba said the organisation has no alternative but to interpret that reply as a scuttling of the project after all the years of work that went into its preparation.
“There has been no further communication since then,” he said, “and there is nothing that Tuco can do about it. I see this as just another indication of the lack of respect and consideration successive administrations have shown to our cultural practitioners over the years.”
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