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Feature Address:
Mr. Vel Lewis
Deputy Permanent Secretary

On the occasion of the Launch of Carnival 2013
Hosted by the Port of Spain City Corporation Downtown Carnival Committee

The Brian Lara Promenade
Friday January 25, 2013



  • Your Worship, the Mayor of Port of Spain, Alderman Louis Lee Sing
  • Stakeholders and representatives of Carnival special interest groups
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon.
It is truly a pleasure for me to be present today at the launch of Downtown Carnival 2013, here in the city of Port of Spain.

As Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism, I am also very pleased to represent the Honourable Minister, Dr. Lincoln Douglas who is currently overseas on government business.

He has asked that I extend best wishes on his behalf to His Worship the Mayor of Port of Spain and to the Port of Spain City Corporation Downtown Carnival Committee, for a safe, secure and successful Carnival 2013.
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is undoubtedly the premiere festivalon our national calendar of events. It is a virtual explosion of the creativity, artistry and innovativeness of our people.

This magnificent street-theatre styled spectacle of colour and creativity, infused with music and masquerade, has long been testimony to the success our peoplecan produce,through natural talent, hard work and focused energy.

Like so many aspects of our cultural traditions, Carnival was born out of pain and struggle. But the human spirit is resilient, even in the face of dire circumstances.

With its propensity to divest a people of all of their possessions, enslavement did not, however, prevent certain traditions from surviving through the ages.

Today, mas, calypso and steelpan continue to be the intrinsic flavour of Carnival as we know it. The melding of the African, French and even Spanish influences brought forth a potpourri of cultural expressions enjoyed by many locally, regionally and internationally.

Ladies and gentlemen, when we study the Caribbean region we observe how Carnival has evolved differently within each nation state. The reason for this is because each island was, in fact, populated by different cultures and religions, under varying conditions of wealth, governance and other factors.

However,as many historians will concur, Trinidad and Tobago Carnival appears to have evolved more strongly along national and community lines. And therein lies the reason that we stand out from the rest.

Each year, in terms of participation, the numbers are on the increase. School children and students are fully involved in the tradition. And that speaks volumes for the future growth and development of the festival.

One day the youth of our nation will transition from being spectator, to become next generation designers, producers, musicians, arrangers, craftsmen and artisans.

We must never fail to encourage participation and innovation! I must mention too that the involvement of the younger generation is even more critical in view of the fact that our elders and icons seem to be departing this life so swiftly.

In the latter part of last year alone we witnessed the passing of master mas’ craftsman, Geraldo Vieira Senior, steelpan innovator Bertie Marshall and calypsonians the Mighty Power and Squibby. We pay homage to these pioneers, while simultaneously encouragingour young peopleto take up the proverbial mantle and move boldly forward.

Research has shown that Trinidad and Tobago Carnival has become the blueprint for just over fifty festivals which take place throughout Africa, Europe and North America. Such is the strength of our product, and such is the expertise of the people who comprise the veritable eco-system surrounding the celebration.
By that I mean the artisans - the wire-benders, tailors, craftsmen and women, bandleaders, chutney and soca artistes, entertainment entrepreneurs and pannists without whom the success of this majestic event would not be fully realized.

We cannot forget the masquerader who converges on the streets of Port of Spain, San Fernando, Tobago and all the other communities and regions of the country, showcasing their skill.

Ladies and gentlemen, I consider the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism, as chief custodian of the arts and culture.

Our role is to facilitate its growth and development through the establishment of key direct and indirect infrastructural arrangements. Our responsibility also lies in the provision of State subventions, grants and funding.
That being said, we at the Ministry are of the view that all stakeholders and special interest groups involved in Carnival need to become increasingly self-sufficient, thereby reducing the financial burden on the State.

Until such time, however, the Ministry and by extension,the Government of Trinidad and Tobagowill continue through private- public sector collaborations, to ensure that the product maintains a consistently high standard.

All things being equal, the wider goals and objectives include: sustainable development, economic growth, national development and the social well-being of our people.

When we witness a clear increase in the avenues for job creation both during and outside of the Carnival season or a well-honed tourism product offering, and aggressive marketing and promotions strategy that creates a demand for our local talent beyond our shores… we will know that we are on the right track.
Carnival, with its many benefits in the economic, social and cultural spheres, holds great potential… still worthy of deeper exploration within a transformed and diversified economy.

Under the new chairmanship of the Board of Commissioners of the NCC, there is a clear vision to continue the process of: -

  • Commercializing the festival,
  • Exploiting the power of marketing and promotions, particularly in this age of social media and rapidly changing technology, and
  • Creating greater overall structure, while reducing bureaucracy as far as possible.

We are confident that the changes and upgrades in the running of the festival this year will contribute tremendously to a much more streamlined product in the future.

We encourage your support of “Terrific Thursday” when the Calypso Monarch will be crowned; “Big Friday” – the competition among the Kings and Queens of carnival in all their costumed glory. And Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday night… re-formatted with a fresh perspective that has eliminated the competitive element, opting instead for well-packaged, well executed show of which we can all be proud. Of course we acknowledge the efforts of our stakeholders – TUCO, NCBA and the NCC in ensuring that these shows come off without a hitch.

Similarly, we anticipate continued cordial relations with the Downtown Carnival Committee in staging this year’s edition of Carnival. As usual, we trust that you will go the distance to ensure that all critical areas such as security, crowd control, street vending and the like will be managed expertly.

In the final analysis, the benchmark by which we will be assessed is our combined efforts in creating more opportunities for an enhanced experience for our citizens, visitors and tourist arrivals.

The Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism is committed to facilitating the development of the right environment, with the right policies in place to implement plans and initiatives that would accomplish our major goals and objectives for the creative sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, notwithstanding the challenges within the Carnival sector, I believe that opportunities exist to take the mas’ and the music in fresh and new directions.

We owe it to ourselves and to the ancestors who carved out this tradition, to prevent the festival from disintegratinginto disorder and miscommunication - far removed from the majestic, theatre-style street performance that it is.

As such we advocate frequent dialogue and determined action which will redound to the benefit of all stakeholders involved. We at the Ministry have no doubt that we can set our sights upon this goal and achieve it comfortably!

In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my gratitude once more to His Worship for his invitation. We look forward to a safe, secure, enjoyable and profitable season for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and our visitors and tourists alike!

May God bless you and may God richly bless our nation.
I thank you.