First People, Divali, Emancipation: Are Cultural Celebrations Just a Racket to Fleece the State?

Today is a one-off public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago in honour of First People’s Day. This isn’t the first time in recent memory that a group outside of the mainstream Afro-Indo tandem has been bestowed the ephemeral honour of a once only holiday, as the country downed tools for Chinese Arrival Day almost 11 years ago to the day, on 12th October, 2006.

Reception of the First People’s holiday has been generally positive, with opinion split down the middle as to whether the holiday should remain a one-off event or become an annual one.

The purpose of this post isn’t to look into the validity of the holiday (because of course it’s valid) or to determine how often it should be observed.

This post is all about the money, the main question being

Does the government spend too much on cultural celebrations of individual sectors of T&T society?

Considering the following:


The First Peoples higher ups asked the state for $3 million to hold their activities.


Secondly, the following:

Source: Trinidad Guardian 09/10/17

Though those in charge of upcoming Divali festivities – the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) – did not ask the government to foot the whole bill however, citing

Financial distress

They said the state needed to up 2016’s $800,000 funds disbursal to a cool million, as seen below.



And finally, the following:

Trinidad Guardian 26/07/12

In 2012, the Emancipation Support Committee – organizers of the yearly Emancipation Day celebrations – snubbed the state’s offer of $1 million for the event, holding out until the offer was doubled.


As seen above, contrary to the NCIC, the ESC did actually ask that the government pick up the full tab to the tune of a whopping $7 million, which the state declined to do.

It is not difficult to understand that holding celebrations requires a certain measure of finances, but how much of said finances should reasonably come from the state?

Each celebration is of relevance to a specific sub-category of our population and not readily pertinent to the national body as a whole – even if there are messages about identity affirmation and the theme of freedom that can be applicable to anyone – so should the funds of the country as a whole to go the furtherance of the cultural goals of a niche?

Thus is the question.


1 Comment

  1. The state most definitely should not be contributing so heavily to such activities, especially in the case of religious ones. Religion is a private affair and as such, private individuals and organisations can finance any religious events themselves. As for the other events, perhaps we should just host one national heritage day and the state can contribute a flat fee to that. The people organising these events could also tone down with the extravagance as no one actually needs ALL of these events.


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