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PM misses Divali Nagar finale
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley left organisers of the Divali Nagar disappointed last evening, after he failed to attend the closing night of the biggest cultural event on the Hindu calendar.
National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC) PRO Surujdeo Mangaroo told the T&T Guardian he got a call from Rowley’s secretary at around 12.31 pm yesterday informing him that “the Prime Minister sends his regrets and will not be attending.”
He said invitations to the Prime Minister, President Anthony Carmona, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Government Ministers and members of the Opposition were sent almost two months ago.
While no reason was given for Rowley’s non-attendance, Mangaroo said Rowley had previously attended the event “twice as Prime Minister and in the past when he was opposition leader. We feel disappointed that he could not attend.”
Yesterday, however, a Facebook lobby for patrons to boycott the event as a form of protest over the Government surfaced.
Asked about this, Mangaroo said he would “not be able to say whether the PM’s non-attendance was linked to that lobby.” He added, however, that the NCIC was a cultural body that steers clear of aligning itself to politics or any political party.
“For the last 20 years every single last night of the Nagar we always had a Prime Minister attend, so naturally we all feel disappointed,” Mangaroo said.
Mangaroo said things had been put in place for a gala show for the PM and his entourage.
“We restructured the programme, a special evening was planned and we had him down to speak. There will be no speaker tonight and we will have to use fillers,” he said.
Efforts to contact Rowley were unsuccessful last evening, but well placed sources told the T&T Guardian while he would have “loved to attend” he was “tied up in Parliament with the Finance Committee which is discussing the Budget.”
Culture Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly was also unable to attend and her Permanent Secretary stood in for her.
Over the past few nights in the build-up to the grand finale, the Divali Nagar had a range of officials attending, including Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan on Sunday, President Anthony Carmona on Monday and Persad-Bissessar last Saturday.
Mangaroo also said last evening that the attendance at the Nagar had been “very encouraging” this year. He said because of the number of people attending traffic was an issue.
“It takes me two to three hours to get here,” he said, adding the police he said had done yeoman service.
He said this year’s event cost the NCIC $5 million and they asked the state for “just over a million dollars to offset costs” but had received no money as of yesterday. Last year the NCIC got $800,000 from Government.
A lot of preparation he said goes into the event and planning for next year, where Divali is scheduled to fall between October 29 and November 6, has already started. (Reporting by Shastri Boodan)