“We wrote to the ministry when the facilities were just opened and requested the use of the facility to have the World Chutney Soca Monarch,” Ramlal said. “We had 25 countries sending representatives and we indicated that we wanted to do the event slightly differently whereby we would have greater seating capacity and better acoustics and have it in a world class facility suited to the participation.
“However, we were informed that the facility was not for that kind of thing,” Ramlal said. “The minister spoke to me and indicated that the facility was not built for ‘those kinds of things’, it was built for more classical events,” Ramlal said.
“I remember her saying that when the other facility (the National Carnival Centre) is built that is where those kinds of things will take place,” he added. Ramlal’s comments flies in the face of a series of electronic advertisements taken out by the Culture Ministry over the facilities of the NAPA, which have been criticised by the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT). One such advertisement features popular chutney artiste Ravi “Ravi B” Bissembhar, the Chutney Soca Monarch. In that ad, Bissembhar described NAPA as a venue where a lot of Indian cultural events could take place. In the ad, played on television, there were images of Indian dancers at the front of NAPA while Bissembhar’s voice could be heard extolling the facility.
Yesterday, Congress of the People (COP) political leader Winston Dookeran questioned whether the country has gotten value for money on NAPA. At a press conference outside NAPA, opposite the Queen’s Park Savannah, Dookeran called on the State to allow open tours of the facility immediately.
“The public has raised a lot of issues not the least of which is whether there has been value for money in this project,” Dookeran said after the press conference. “We have a right to know all the answers to questions that have been asked about the performing arts and whether or not the defects that have been outlined are so prohibitive that we have made a bad investment.”
He said the COP applied to tour the facility on Thursday but were told that they would get a response to this request on March 23.
“We thought that there might have been a facility for the public to tour without having to make a request,” he said. “We have learnt that even the security officers don’t go inside of the building themselves. So nobody knows what is going on.”