Bill to be laid in House to make pan Trinidad and Tobago's national instrument

Katzenjammers performs at Panorama small band finals at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet. - Photo by Jaydn Sebro
Katzenjammers performs at Panorama small band finals at the Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet. - Photo by Jaydn Sebro

A bill to be laid in Parliament on June 7 – the National Musical Instrument Bill, 2024 – paves the way for the official declaration of pan as this country’s national instrument.

Newsday noted that on the June 7 order paper, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell is set to bring the bill, which is listed the Finance (Supplementary Appropriation) (Financial Year 2024) Bill, 2024.

Last year, Independent Senator Sunity Maharaj filed a private motion calling for pan to be officially declared the national instrument.

Her motion also called for a joint select committee (JSC) to be set up to determine the best way to give meaningful effect to such a declaration.

Mitchell, via WhatsApp messaging on June 5, said the bill will be laid on June 7 in the House of Representatives for its first reading. It then has to be debated and approved in both houses before being assented to and proclaimed by the President as law.

He expects all of this to be done before Parliament goes on recess in July.

Asked if the bill would consider Maharaj’s call for a JSC, Mitchell said she had filed a private motion in the Senate calling for two resolutions to be accepted. The first was that pan be declared the national instrument and the second, for a JSC to find mechanisms to give effect to this declaration.

He said Government agreed that pan should be declared the national instrument and further determined – having regard to calls by stakeholders including Pan Trinbago president Beverley Ramsey-Moore, pan advocate Henry Harper, the World Steelpan Thrust and even President Christine Kangaloo – that simple legislation would give meaningful effect to the declaration.

The bill has four clauses and the 3rd and 4th ones are the most important, Mitchell said. Clause three was the official declaration and clause four placed a positive obligation on the minister responsible for culture to lay a report biennially before Parliament on the “recognition, status, promotion, development and impact of the steelpan at national, regional, and international levels.”

“The effect of this clause is to place in the public domain, through the Parliament, a report on what all stakeholders, (including Government) are doing to promote, develop and advance the steelpan locally and internationally with a view to ensuring constant and never-ending development and advancement of the national instrument,” Mitchelle said.

He added that such a report would create an accountability mechanism and would be examined by JSCs as well as the public.

Ramsey-Moore said she was extremely proud of this development.

In a phone interview on June 5, she said, “As a citizen of TT in particular, it is going to be a historic day for all of us in the steelpan community and by extension all of TT.” It had been a long and hard road but there was finally light, she added.

In 1992, then prime minister Patrick Manning declared that the pan was a national symbol, and the bill’s passage would legitimise the instrument as a cultural and national symbol.

“It would definitely give a fillip not only to our member bands but to the industry itself. It is something that was clamoured for and (when) you have parliamentary proclamation, it would definitely push the way forward for us,” Ramsey-Moore said.

She said Pan Trinbago executives and members plan to be in the public gallery during the debates and is looking forward to support from all MPs. She thanked Maharaj for moving the motion, and Mitchell and Government for actioning it.

in 2023, the UN declared August 11 World Steelpan Day.


"Bill to be laid in House to make pan Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument"

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