The official Web site for the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations was shut down yesterday after the T&T Guardian pointed out it contained numerous factual, spelling and grammatical errors. Kendal Fontenelle, director of corporate communications at the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, which was responsible for producing the site, said yesterday: "We took note of your concerns and we are going to take down the site and give it a thorough editing."
The content of the site was not written by the department, Fontenelle said. "It was actually written by someone who is a lecturer at one of the tertiary institutions," he said. He refused to divulge the lecturer's name. The site would be back up as soon as editing was done, he added. He estimated the secretariat would need at least 48 hours to edit it.
The site, www.tnt50.gov.tt, proclaimed on its home page that it was in honour of the "50th Independence of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago." In fact, 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the single independence that occurred on August 31, 1962. Trinidad and Tobago only became a republic in 1976. Other statements infuriated citizens, such as the reference to slavery in the brief section, titled: "Who We Are."
The sentence reads: "At the time, the islands' rich sugar industry required the importation of labourers from Africa." It is followed by an equally bewildering one: "After the abolition of slavery in 1834, the British colonisers turned towards Asia to secure its labour force in the form of indentureship of Indians on May 30, 1845."
The home page describes the site as "An Official Website of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago." It says a Cabinet-appointed ministerial committee, chaired by the Minister of Planning and the Economy, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, is responsible for implementing independence celebrations. Tewarie's own message on the Web site contained grammatical errors, stylistic howlers and bad punctuation.
It read in part: "This anniversary is a significant milestone on [sic] our nation's history and every citizen should feel a special pride in their personal contribution to what we have achieved since our National Flag was hoisted at twelve midnight, August 31st 1962. "On that occasion we immortalized the red, white and black. Representing in the red, the vitality of the land and people, the warmth and energy of the sun, and courage and friendliness of a new nation.
"In the white we take into account the sea which surrounds us, the sea [sic], the purity of national aspirations, and the equality of all men, and through the black we symbolize the strength, unity and purpose, and the natural resources of the land." Professor Emerita of history at UWI, Bridget Brereton, who is abroad, commented on the site by e-mail in response to a query from the T&T Guardian, saying she had noticed "serious inaccuracies" in the historical part of the site.
Describing the First Peoples whom Christopher Columbus encountered on his third voyage to the Americas, the site said: "Trinidad and Tobago was originally inhabited by the Tainos (Arawaks) and Kalinagos (Caribs)."
The site's claim on the first people is controversial, since historians cannot say with certainty what the original inhabitants of these islands called themselves 7,000 years ago. At the time of Columbus's arrival in 1492, it has been stated there were Lokono, Shebaio, Nepuyo, Yao, Kalinapagoto and other unnamed tribes living in T&T. The Taino did not live in Trinidad or Tobago and they were not Arawaks.