Trinidad Tobago

LiTTscapes’ literary odyssey goes to London

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LiTTribute to LondonTTown is the next stop in our literary odyssey  to recognise and underscore the global character and relevance of fiction, even those from small islands like Trinidad and Tobago.
It will take place on July 15, 2013 and will feature readings and presentations inspired by LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Garvin Nicholas said: “The Trinidad and Tobago High Commission looks forward to showcasing the work of one of our talented local authors. In ‘Littscapes’, Dr. Rampersad has brought to light Trinidad and Tobago’s rich literary tradition and unique heritage. This event will provide an important platform for highlighting the complex history and fascinating social landscape of Trinidad and Tobago to a British audience”.
As with other LiTTributes held earlier this year – to the Mainland in Guyana and to the Antilles in Antigua  – this will encourage  rethinking how we may better engage with and utilise the rich literary outpourings as represented in LiTTscapes to develop synergies with the international community for social and economic development in film, music, entertainment and education sectors.



Jean Ramjohn Richards, First Lady (former) and author Kris Rampersad at LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 2012. It preceded LiTTribute to the Mainland held in Guyana and LiTTribute to the Antilles in Antigua earlier this year, part of a series of connecting the Caribbean heritage and creative sectors, through the literary arts, with the diaspora.   Photo courtesy Office of the President of Trinidad and Tobago (http://www.thepresident.tt/events_and_ceremonies.php?mid=189&eid=1002).

It is well established that the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Europe, particularly the British Empire, has been the primary axis from which all of our written literature has emerged. This is evident even in books that do not engage directly with the colonial condition in the effects and influences of the English language, literature, education, and political and social systems and institutions.
LiTTscapes represents this relationship from the earliest writings of Sir Walter Raleigh to the current day among the 100-plus works by more than 60 writers, including those who made London their home such as Naipaul, Selvon, Lakshmi Seetaram-Persaud and others.
LiTTscapes has been acclaimed as a groundbreaking pictoral yet encyclopaedic compendium of the lifestyles, landscapes, architecture, cultures, festivals and institutions in its full colour easy reading documentary/travelogue/biography representation of Trinidad and Tobago and its fiction as represented in more than 100 fictional works by some 60 writers.  It is available at bookshops or email lolleaves@gmail.com.
LiTTribute to LondonTTown follows on the recent LiTTribute to the Antilles staged in Antigua in March,  LiTTurgy to the Mainland in Guyana in February, and LiTTribute to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, hosted by the First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards and Dr Rampersad in September 2012. LiTTscapes was launched at White Hall – one of Trinidad and Tobago’s Magnificent Seven buildings as part of the islands 50th anniversary of independence in August 2012.
Persons wishing to get involved and For invitations and details Email: lolleaves@gmail.com.
See: https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal;  facebook.com/kris.rampersad1LiTTscapes, LiTtributes, LiTTour Album Facebook .

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New World Order garden diplomacy with western plantings

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Dear Lizzie,
New world order? Garden diplomacy in order of western economic plantings?… Stay tuned. coming soon in LettersToLizzie. Place Your Orders Now!

1.US President and Chinese President

http://cache3.asset-cache.net/gc/170172036-president-barack-obama-and-chinese-president-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=GkZZ8bf5zL1ZiijUmxa7QZ3T0GTP4q81HpYnmxJMZQ9lev+LXw1UnEy/pkOFn/2vh1Wn8fyaDYS30l3S8cjmhA==

 
 
2. Chinese President and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
 
3. US vice President Joe Biden and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
 
 

Old Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T

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So we’ve had the rounds of consultations on Constitutional Reform? 
Are we any wiser?
 Do we have a sense of direction that will drive transformation of the governance of T&T? 
Do we have a vision for a better framework of governance: made of the people of T&; for the people of T&T; and by the people of T&T? 
Or are we merely repackaging old casked mercantilist rum in new bottles as we try to forcefit ourselves in one of two already tottering models of governance – the British Westminster system and the US Presidential model. 
Time to rethink our approach for what works best for us. 
 To begin this probe, let’s flash back to an article written in the lead up to the 2010 elections: Have any of these found resolution in the recent rounds of constitutional reform talks; or have they been just that: talk? More in the introduction to Through the Political Glass Ceiling available on Amazon Kindle and local bookshops: 

Constitutional Crisis of Leadership
Various analyses tell us that the leadership blunders of the past few decades point to the Trinidad and Tobago’s Constitution as the culprit, and there is an indisputable need for constitution reform, given evident flaws in T&T Constitutions past and present.
Both the 1961 (Independence) Constitution and the 1976 (Republic) Constitution were clearly already obsolete from their inception, with their unworkable British import of the first-past-the-post/winner-take-all model and evident failure, as they disenfranchise large numbers of voters, as occurred in the 1981, 2001, 2002 and 2007 general elections.
The alternative, proportional representation, which offers each party numbers of seats in Parliament, according to the proportion of votes they command, has received some attention, but, like first-past-the-post, it upholds a party-based system that gives politicians divine status, and places them at the centre of decision-making, which we have seen, with demands for a bottoms-up approach, itself cannot hold.
 The Wooding (1971) and Hyatali (1974) Commissions, set up to explore constitutional reform, proposed another, a mixed system drawing from first-past-the-post and proportional representative models. This has been rejected by the PNM’s Williams and Manning, though all—PNM and the commissions—premised their arguments on our diversity which they defined largely as ethnic diversity.
 Manning put forward, in 2006, a “working document” on constitutional reform, drawn up primarily by a one-man commission (former President Ellis Clarke), and after-the-fact staged some public “consultations”—an approach interpreted as paying lip service to public opinion. Executive president? His draft provided for an executive president, as in the USA, which would give even more executive powers to an already maximum leader of the first-past-the-post system, without correcting (but rather further emasculating) those instruments and institutions that provide checks and balances on such “Massa” power.
These include the judiciary and the legislature, and others as the Ombudsman, the Director of Public Prosecution, the Commissioner of Police, the magistracy, Commissions for Integrity, Judicial and Legal Services, Police Service, Public Service, Teaching Service. etc.
 It also proposes to restrict the principle of freedom of expression (the media) by altering the Bill of Rights. Another constitution, drafted by the self-assigned 2006 Fairness Committee of four, leaned on a further amalgamation—of the Manning model (though produced before Manning’s) supporting an executive president, along with a mixed system of proportional representation and first-past-the-post, as recommended by the Wooding and Hyatali Commissions.
 One challenge after the other to the constitution has surfaced, since the NAR, to show that the constitution is not just dog-eared, but coming apart at the seams and irrelevant in a rapidly-changing world:
 1. The PNM’s challenge of Winston “Gypsy” Peters’ dual citizenship;
2. The 2002 18-18 deadlocked elections which were not catered for in the constitution;
3. Other challenges, mainly related to cockfighting, by Panday and Robinson—appointments through the Senate of people who had been defeated in the polls;
 4. The chicken-and-egg crisis precipitated by the Standing Order for electing a Speaker before convening the House, when neither party wanted to propose a Speaker.
The constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, as it is, has outlived its usefulness.
To justify his quest for an executive president/US-styled governance system, (Then) PNM leader Patrick Manning has sought to justify his high-handed approach to decision-making with arguments that the extremely diverse nature of the society and their many competing interests made it difficult to govern, and needed “strong” leadership. But at the risk of sounding like a prophetess, the diversity of T&T is, indeed, its primary character, and anyone who cannot manage our diversity is doomed to failure!
Anyone who wants to govern effectively must unite the diversity, rather than seek ever more exclusive power to overrule it; (the consequences of ignoring the public over an extended period have been graphically illustrated by the events of recent weeks).
The constitution—and the Westminster-styled parliamentary system it establishes cannot accommodate that diversity.
The PNM—undeniably the most experienced party in T&T—argue that neither could proportional representation. Both, it seems, are partly in the right; but wholly wrong.

  Leadership crisis—single party or coalition 

 The search for the ideal model has been around the debate of whether the single party or coalition government is the better model. Both have been tried and tested and found wanting. As analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath observed, the three occasions when our governments prematurely collapsed have been as single-party governments—Panday’s in 2001 and Manning’s in 1995, and 2010. Majority rule by a maximum leader, with powers equivalent to the divine right of kings, in a single party is losing sway on a population becoming more astute and unwilling to continue as blind, unquestioning, sheep-like followers. 
Governance by any one majority ethnic group has become unsavoury to growing and more vociferous elements, demanding recognition of our cultural and other diversity, denied in Williams “No Mother India, no Mother Africa” maxim which seemed not to grasp the complexity of the identity issue. 
Nor have coalitions worked either; not two examples, the alliance governments of 1986 and 1991—both of which evolved out of forces opposing the PNM and including Panday’s UNC, Robinson’s Democratic Action Congress, Karl Hudson-Phillips’ Organisation for National Reconstruction, Lloyd Best’s Tapia and various others. 

They failed because…
They failed, not because the structure of the coalitions was tested, nor because of challenges of managing our complex diversity—they never got a chance. They failed because—as with the maximum leader mode of single-party politics—managing the diverse egos of a man-rat-driven political culture, continuously tested the constitution and the governance model, promoting the eminence of constitutional lawyers and legal Messiahs. They failed because of unenlightened or misguided leadership that failed to respect the needs and wishes of its people.

The Tomb Raiders …. Return to the Quest for El Dorado

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You can support our efforts by purchasing copies of LiTTscapes, commissioning LiTTours & LiTTevents; or ask about collaborating on our upcoming publications on Caribbean heritage for ages 3-103. That way we all win through sharing knowledge and information. See krisrampersadglobal/home/about-me/books
For collaboration details email lolleaves@gmail.com or call 1-868-377-0326

Tombraiding has been Hollywood glamourised through the Indiana Joneses and Lara Crofts and a range of new video games that play on this land-based version of the kind of piracy that used to prevail on the high seas around the Caribbean. And it dates back to the Caribbean as a target in the quest for El Dorado so many millennia ago. Not to be confused with body snatchers, it ranges from the activities of hobbyists seemingly innocently eager to hoard a bit of history so they comb graveyards to gather bits and pieces from or off tombs, to petty thieves looking to earn a quick shilling, to highly organised crime networks trading in black market heritage goods with complicity by individual collectors or even museum dealers participating in a very lucrative heritage trade market.
It has been a raison d’etre of interest in the Caribbean since

See Also: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2012/10/centuries-old-heritage-tomb-spanning.html#more

https://sites.google.com/site/krisrampersadglobal/home/about-me/books
the first European explorers cast their eyes in this direction in the quest for El Dorado. With the world re-awakening to the value of culture and heritage and the Caribbean being a repository of histories and heritage of migrant streams from all the continents of the world, El Dorado is not just the bullion or traditional objects of value as gold and jewelry, but artefacts that may be believed to fetch high prices in the world market, or become part of heritage collections that may one day be sold to museums and archives for high prices. These lie underwater, on land, in documents and in the oral memory and traditions we hold.

This siphoning out of such assets and heritage, deprive local communities and populations of enjoyment and appreciation of their heritage but also of creating and generating incomes from legitimate heritage-based industries and activities. It was partly in response to this that UNESCO developed its albeit convoluted sets of conventions related to protection of natural, cultural, built, knowledge and information heritage, assets all aligned to a complex series of processes and procedures and international legal instruments. (See list below.) 

It is the stuff of movies, but as real as daylight. A range of these activities have gone unmonitored in Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed much of the Caribbean.
With little or no oversight mechanisms in place, it is virtually open season for heritage hunters and hoarders, regardless of motivation, to gather and dispose of as they wish – evidence of which we encountered on the inaugural LiTTour – Journeys Through Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago and described in the previous blog. 
Inadequate local legislation, deficient local structures and institutions, incompetent monitoring and enforcement authorities all contribute to making this a lucrative activity. High sounding national plans with little supportive resources, funds or mechanisms for implementation become recipes for failure.
Historic animosities fostered and entrenched between and among our populations also transfer to institutions that have grown up around heritage often piecemeal and hardly thought-out. Several institutions, most of them with overlapping jurisdictions, duplicate each other’s activities, holding heritage assets in a stranglehold whereby none can adequately perform their functions, and none can benefit. For instance there are at least six  public institutions, and several private ones and individuals with listings of heritage assets, duplicating each other with very little coordination among them.
Suspicion, mistrust, lack of confidence hang over these institutions which include bureaucratic government departments, agencies that include such front line institutions charged with guarding such assets as the National Trust and museum.
Indeed, an archaic museum model, run on a massa-type structure, borrowed from an old colonial rule (when those countries have evolved significantly more sophisticated systems) designed for a time when a country could have boasted of a single national museum still prevail, when a number of district and private museums now form part of the collective heritage system.
Even those charged with safeguarding heritage, foster a patronage approach and jealously guard their territory in obstructionist stances, holding culture and heritage in their deathgrips when they could be better served through collaboration and cooperation to release the full potential of the heritage sector for the development of communities.
Actions for heritage have in the large been shortsighted, piecemeal, often reactive, crisis oriented, a stop gap response to an immediate situation to avoid embarrassment or deflect from public rage until such rage can be redirected elsewhere and generally not thought out in ways that they can be of lasting and permanent benefit. And most are all-too-willing to state it is someone else’s problem and leave it there.
Deficiencies in the line agencies charged with heritage preservation Government agencies like the Trust itself, which is key as a frontline institution in heritage preservation and which glaring deficiencies have gone without being addressed for years.
But if you were to talk with anyone in the Trust, (s)he would also be pointing fingers in several other directions, including other government ministries and departments, who are also pointing at each other, the  National Museum of the lack of a proper museum system operating on an archaic model at a time when museums can no longer be regarded as static doormat institutions but are an active part of our living heritage (and maybe both point to one and the same obstacle).
I have spoken to several conservationists prior to and during this aroused interest in the Ganteaume tombs and the deep degree of distrust and lack of and loss of faith in the public institutions charged with heritage conservation (among others) and whose frustrations are no less than mine or my associates on that tour – and all with various degrees of a sense of powerlessness. Some have even also become tomb and beach combers and hoarders of heritage, taking for “safekeeping” because the institutions and persons charged with this function are not doing so. The argument that such activity helps in safeguarding such heritage predates the great battle between Egypt and England over the Sphinx or the Greek and British over the Elgin Marbles or the Indians and British over the Koh-i-noor Diamonds.  
And if you were to ask almost anyone in the conservation and heritage arena, they would tell you that the solution is with the local authorities – local NGOs or local Government who are falling short; or politicians or Government Ministries, Minister and officers; or the private sector (and as the old European childhood story says, ‘another ant took another grain of corn’ – lots of action and noise and committees and reports with no progress and no solution); at least no solution in which each sees himself/herself/themselves as a pivotal point to the problem(s). 
And therein is the problem: if we cannot take personal responsibility then of course, we have the situation like the McLeod House demolition; or the Ganteaume tomb, shedding tears after the fact and then go back to our business and lives until the next person highlight some other act of defacement or destruction.
How can we harness the energies of all the enthusiasts and institutions and others with direct and indirect interest to move forward with sustainable solutions and actions?
As I communicated to Mr Ganteaume, none of it is beyond any of us; it has been done by hundreds of other nations of the world; some much less resourced and much less enriched by the multidimensional and microcosmic heritage that we enjoy in Trinidad and Tobago; except that we often do not see it as such, but instead prefer to treat it as an albatross that some of us would prefer to pretend is a burden of no real significance.
The solution is to get on the same page.
From the range of all very positive and encouraging responses: ‘likes’ and comments and suggestions and emails and calls and contributions – I have received from around the globe on my last posting on the defaced tombstone in Mayaro, including some very distressed Ganteaume family members, it is clear that national sentiment for protection and conservation of heritage assets are high.
So why aren’t we doing something about it?
While we sit around in committees in grand talk sessions, drafting communiqués and reports, and plan PR site visits Rome burns, or rather, McLoed House is demolished and the tombraiders gather up their loot from graveyards and some of the other most valuable heritage around us and literally under our noses. I am heartened by the many responses I have had from persons who have been labouring, many of them behind the scenes, in heritage, and want to see us move forward in this in a constructive and positive manner, including Mr Henry Peter Ganteaume himself who has expressed an openness to help us work towards solutions. This is not an effort for any one of us; but for all of us. If we succeed in this, we have all of us to thank for it; if not, we then become little more than tombraiders. .krisrampersadglobal/home/about-me/books




The UNESCO Conventions and Instruments:
Please respect our copyrights
You can support our efforts by purchasing copies of LiTTscapes, commissioning LiTTours & LiTTevents; or ask about collaborating on our upcoming publications on Caribbean heritage for ages 3-103. That way we all win through sharing knowledge and information. See krisrampersadglobal/home/about-me/books
For collaboration details email lolleaves@gmail.com or call 1-868-377-0326