DAYS after Hatters Steel Orchestra was told again that it would be temporarily housed opposite its panyard on Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando, the Ministry of Works building earmarked for its relocation is being demolished.
A meeting scheduled for Friday, to map out how the relocation would take place, between Hatters' executive and a Udecott official, was rescheduled to next Tuesday.
Udecott has committed to meeting with representatives of Hatters and officials from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on March 23.
Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore said she is looking forward to this meeting as the band is on the verge of becoming homeless, since its present base is also scheduled for demolition to make way for the San Fernando Waterfront Development.
Ramsey-Moore went to San Fernando on Friday morning to be part of the discussion with her members and representatives of Udecott, “to get to the bottom of this misunderstanding.”
Since the meeting was cancelled, she held a news conference to express her consternation. After being updated by Hatters, she had a message for the Government.
“Don’t push us in the back.”
“Based on what I am hearing from this side (Hatters), they were promised to be housed here (MOWT building) temporarily – and right after the promise was made, the demolition started. I think this is unfair."
The band had already moved some of its racks to the MOWT building.
“I will hear from the other side (Udecott, Government) shortly, but I have to stand with my band. I have to believe what the leaders of my band are saying.”
Ramsey-Moore met with San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, whom she dubbed the "pan mayor," but neither could be reached to get a perspective on the discussion.
She said she intends to write to San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi, who said he is engaged in finding a solution, Culture Minister Randall Mitchell, Udecott chairman Noel Garcia and the Prime Minister to have this matter settled quickly, as the band has not practised for a year owing to its present dislocation.
She made it clear, “We are not in the way of development and we know that the price of progress is high. In terms of relocation, we have no problem. But we are saying relocate us but do not get rid of us from this prime spot.
“Don’t push pan in the back. We are not from the backwaters of society. We have come a long way though struggle and we understand that.
“Keep us centre stage, because we, too, make a contribution to human capital development in this country."
Demanding respect for the national instrument, its players, and the contribution it makes, Ramsey-Moore said, “We don’t want you to see us as just pan woman or pan man. We want you to see us as a contributor to national development."
She said the discussion has to take place from the perspective of the role they play, and the importance of steelbands in the country.
Hatters’ chairman Whitfield Weekes explained that there was promise, and expectation, that, as the last surviving south band to win a national Panorama, Hatters would be relocated to the MOWT building because its present location was in the way of the waterfront development. He said a state-of-the-art panyard to be constructed in the same area was a part of the arrangement.
The demolition of the MOWT structure, it is understood, will make way for a high-rise building.
“Just to give a background on how much we believed in this project and supported this project, if you look at the water tank the contractor is using – that is ours,” Weekes said.
“We lent them our water tank because they did not have one. More than that, they are using our road float to store all their PVC and materials.
“So, there was that co-operation and synergy among all the players involved – the contractors, Udecott, the MP. Everybody was on board with this project.”
He said he did not understand what went wrong and why there is a move to get the band, which has partnered with the La Romaine High School, and is creating a future for at risk youths, out of the area.
In a statement on Friday, Udecott’s manager, corporate communication Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said there have been three meetings with Hatters.
She said the dialogue will continue to explore options for a temporary and permanent location for the band, as well as assisting with additional concerns.