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Nelson Island to be restored for Indian Arrival Day
Nelson Island is expected to be restored in time to host an Indian Arrival Day re-enactment in May. This was revealed yesterday by Minister of Diversity and Social Integration Clifton De Coteau. The restoration is expected to cost under $1 million, but De Coteau did not give an exact figure.
He gave details during a presentation of incentive awards to “marginalised” schools at the ministry on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain. Nelson Island, one of five islands off Trinidad’s northwest coast in the Gulf of Paria, was used as a quarantine centre for indentured Indians coming to work in Trinidad sugarcane fields from May 1845.
De Coteau said an inter-ministerial team had been set up to make the re-enactment ceremony a reality. “We plan to visit Ellis Island, because that island was a gateway to immigrants in America and they have developed a certain amount of self-sufficiency,” he added.
Ellis Island is off New York City and was the first port of call for immigrants from Europe looking for a better future in the US. De Coteau felt Nelson Island could be used to generate revenue to benefit the economy.
He said: “We have three main buildings there: The Butler house the old hospital and a jail house. We will restore it in the hope that it becomes habitable. We hope to put public facilities, a play park and to secure the island.”
The Butler house is where labour leader Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler was detained after industrial unrest in 1937); Restoring Nelson Island as a heritage site is not a new plan, and was to be undertaken by the National Trust in 2006 with a budget of $12 million. Then, the planned restoration included an immigration office, museum, a gift shop, an information booth, restrooms and a caretaker’s house and public areas.
De Coteau also announced a plan to make his ministry solely responsible for heritage sites. He is also seeking to have the restoration unit of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure realigned to his ministry.
At present the Ministry of Works is responsible for historical buildings while De Coteau’s ministry holds the responsibility for heritage sites and the Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for the Lopinot heritage site.
“We have started discussions with the Minister of Tourism and we will engage the Ministry of Works and Minister Ganga Singh. We feel strongly that if we should have all of them (the heritage sites) under one particular ministry we would be able to get greater efficiency,” De Coteau said.
He said his ministry had recently forwarded a list of 381 heritage sites to the Attorney General so that he could add them to the official list of T&T’s heritage sites. “It is our hope that these places can be protected as heritage sites. Let us maintain and preserve our heritage,” De Coteau said.
He added that the ministry had started three projects recently with the restoration and refurbishment of Fort San Andres, the Sugar Museum at Brechin Castle as well as Nelson Island.
Permanent Secretary Jacintha Bailey-Sobers assured that the ministry had been working since its creation in June last year.
“We initiated a ‘flags in every home’ project where we gave out 98,000 flags to citizens. We are responsible for our national heroes and will be going to Cabinet in two weeks with a national heroes’ policy.
“We expect to have a civil society board established by April and have been engaged in consultations across the nation to see this happen,” Bailey-Sobers said.
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