Thanks, but no thanks Mr Prime Minister; George St is no place for Despers …

Desperadoes Steel Orchestra is in no position to refuse the generosity of the prime minister, but the population can. We can tell Dr Rowley that the reasons Despers left the ‘Hill’ are still with us and may even be more deeply entrenched as we count the daily shootings, killings and incidents of violence being perpetrated on some innocent citizens.

The population can tell the prime minister that the property at the corner of Tragarete Road and Victoria Avenue is an ideal location for the theatre concept he is espousing. We can tell the prime minister that gentrification cannot occur simply by placing one icon in a prominent location. The population can tell the prime minister that based on our history, his time frame of a Christmas present is unrealistic.

Photo: Panorama 2020 winners Desperadoes Steel Orchestra (via

Despers’ departure from the Hill is symbolic of the deep decay eating away at the core of our society. Crime is a problem that has evolved around the poor judicial infrastructure that has developed over decades and has influenced society’s mindset to accept it, further escalating the spiral.

We accept that there is no single root cause, so an array of solutions will be needed. But crime will not be solved until the population perceives that there is equity and justice.

On one hand, we refer to the ‘criminal elements’ and are comfortable referring to human beings as ‘elements’. Meanwhile, our white-collar criminals use their office, access and money to buy their way into the good graces of politicians, and it is perceived that they can even manipulate the justice system.

I am personally still smarting from the First Citizens’ IPO issue. Recall that a settlement agreement was arrived at without any ‘admission of wrongdoing, guilt or liability, whether civil, criminal or otherwise, on the part of BBL and/or its managing director.

The players were able to pay a fine, hold on to most of the profit they derived from this deal and continue their lives of luxury. Do you not think that the ‘elements’ can read and understand the extent of this inequity?

Dr Keith Rowley

If the prime minister had made an ‘incognito’ visit to Despers at the corner of Tragarete Road and Victoria Avenue, he would have felt the love that existed in the panyard this year. From the day of the judging of Youth Panorama right up to the night before the Panorama Finals, there was peace, friendly banter and a communal spirit.

I saw persons in that panyard whom I used to see regularly ‘up de hill’ and some commented that they felt safe enough to return. It is hardly likely that they will visit Despers on George Street because it’s too far from main transit access, locked in by buildings on all sides, and in an area where some might consider their personal security at risk, justified or not.

The plan to redevelop the city of Port of Spain by providing entertainment and exposure of the country’s culture to citizens and tourists alike is a great one. But building a Pan Theatre for Despers in the heart of a decayed part of the city will not stimulate that redevelopment.

You cannot hope to change the character of a neighbourhood by placing one icon there and hoping that everything else around will magically improve. For one icon to make a difference, there has to be a plan that includes access, foot traffic, other activities and security. Gentrification from the bottom is destined to fail.

I understand the graciousness of Despers to say thanks, but as a citizen I am calling on the prime minister to reconsider his decision. The 12th Panorama victory of this band deserves giving them a fighting chance to become sustainable. And, right now, George Street is not the place.

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