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More calls for action on Magnificent 7
Conservationists are once again lobbying for swift government action on restoration projects in Port-of-Spain. The latest lobby came during a tour of the historic Port-of-Spain buildings on Wednesday. The tour was organised by the ministries of Tourism, Works and Infrastructure, National Diversity and the National Trust.
During the tour, Minister of Tourism, Stephen Cadiz, heard concerns raised by both Queen’s Royal College principal Lennard Hinkson and members of the non-governmental organisation Citizens for Conservation. Citizens for Conservation members congregated outside Mille Fleurs, where they have held peaceful protests for the past two years, and again pleaded with ministry officials to start work on the historic building, which is deteriorating.
Cadiz applauded them for their lobbying, adding that passing Mille Fleurs on his way home from work was depressing. Michele Celestine, a member of the group, stressed the need for restoration. “These buildings were built by Trinidadians, our ancestors,” she said.
“The architectural beauty of these buildings is a testimony to our potential and we need to restore some of that work ethic as well and have that national pride put back into our country.” At QRC, Hinkson said he was happy the tour was taking place, since it would draw attention to the building.
He said even though QRC was restored in 2010, the building was still falling apart, adding the school needed to be treated as a heritage site and not “just a school.” He also said he had written to and called the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure numerous times about the issue but got no response.
The other buildings visited on the tour were Archbishop’s House, Stollmeyer’s Castle, Hayes Court, Whitehall and Ambard’s House. There was also a stop at President’s House, but the media were not allowed on the compound by security. The roof of President’s House collapsed in 2010 and is yet to be repaired.
President’s House and the Magnificent Seven are among many buildings that should be listed as heritage properties of interest to be protected by law under the National Trust Act. The National Trust was formed in 1991 to address these issues and work towards protection of heritage sites, but there remains no official list or legally protected sites.
At sites like Whitehall, part of the roof and the walls on the second floor showed water damage and deterioration. Asked what progress the trust had made towards protecting such sites since its formation, deputy chairman of the National Trust, Dr Kumar Mahabir, said he could not answer because he had only been with the trust since 2010.
He said the trust had finally met with the Attorney General last week about the procedure for listing sites for protection, but he did not know how much longer this process would take. He said during his tenure at the trust, public awareness work had been carried out through public lectures, film screenings, tours and a book about built heritage.
Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Clifton de Coteau and National Trust chairman Vel Lewis were noticeably absent from the tour, which was led by Louis B Homer, a consultant to the Ministry of National Diversity. De Coteau’s adviser, Charlene Sookoo, said he was unable to attend because he was ill, while Mahabir said Lewis had a prior engagement.
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