Idakeda and the Circle of Poets set record straight on East Indian representation in Poetry Festival

The following is a statement sent to Devant Maharaj in response to a letter from him about East Indian involvement in the recently concluded National Poetry Festival The full text of Mr Maharajs letter is also included

The following is a statement sent to Devant Maharaj in response to a letter from him about East Indian involvement in the recently concluded National Poetry Festival. The full text of Mr. Maharaj's letter is also included:

Mr. Maharaj,

We wish to record receipt of your letter dated March 25th, 2009, in which you levelled claims of bias against the East Indian Community of Trinidad and Tobago by the organizers of the recently concluded National Poetry Festival.

We categorically assert that your claims are not only without basis or founded in fact, but they're indeed spurious and lack any understanding of the spirit or the goals and objectives of our Festival. Indeed, our response to your letter is prompted only by the need to make the position of those involved in this project clear, and is not meant in any way to be a justification of our Festival.

 In this regard, we wish to apprise you of the following facts:

  1. The Vice President of the Circle of Poets, Mr. Sheldon Manoo who is of East Indian heritage, performed at several of the Festival events such as Woodford Square, the Carib Community and the Corner Bar.
  2. The Rising Tide Tassa group began the ‘Poetry for the People' at Woodford Square, when they walked up Frederick Street announcing to all present that the event was about to begin, followed by a fifteen minute performance. This same tassa group began the ‘Conscious Lime' session at the Phase 11 Pan Yard, and performed a piece with Mr. Manoo at this same event.
  3. The venues selected were intended to ensure a primarily Trinidad and Tobago presence for the Festival so events were held in places such as the Fish Market in Charlotteville, a school in Point Fortin and the Karina Community in Arima.
  4. Performers at the Open Mike event at the Corner Bar in Port of Spain included Nicola Dinoon, Nicholas Sosa (mixed heritage) and Keegan Maharaj.
  5. The new Poet Laureate of Port of Spain, Mr. Anson Gonzales, is a poet who has spent decades honing his craft and is in fact a mentor to Ms Kavita Ganness mentioned in your letter. He also happens to be of mixed Trinidad and Tobago parentage.

Finally, we wish to point out that this Festival was promoted widely using various Social Media outlets, traditional media, the internet, personal contacts and the networks of the organisations involved in the project. We received requests from artists wanting to be part of the Festival from both outside of Trinidad and Tobago and locally; we would have welcomed any similar suggestions from your organisation.

Since we can only conjecture that the ultimate aim of your ‘letter of concern' is enhanced national unity, we encourage you and your members to become actively involved in the Circle of Poets and look forward to your input in the future.

Niketa Yearwood                                            Dara E. Healy

President, Circle of Poets                                Managing Director, Idakeda Group Ltd.


25th March 2009


6 NewalloVille Ave

San Juan

Trinidad and Tobago



The Indo-Trinbago Equality Council wishes to officially protest the apartheid-like behaviour of the organizers, Idakeda and the Circle of Poets, who have partnered with the National AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC), in excluding Indian poets from the National Poetry Festival 2009.

 Poets listed to read are Sister Ava, Pearl Springer, Muhammed Muwakil, Brother Resistance, Black Sage, etc.

ITEC asks why exclude Indian poets like Bhadase Seetahal, Kavita Ganness, Rajandaye Ramkissoon-Chen, Krishna Samaroo, Kumar Mahabir, Toodesh Ramesar, Raymond Ramcharitar, etc. ? Why include calypsoians? Why are their Indian counterpart excluded? If singers are being included, why discriminate against Chutney singers?

 ITEC views the program as infused with latent discrimination, and hopes that you reconsider this manner. The program should reflect the full spectrum of the talent within our multi-racial and multi-ethnic society and not limit it along ethnic lines as it currently appears.

 Yours truly,


Devant Maharaj


 Cc : Copy to Circle of Poets , National AIDS Coordinating Committee (NACC)