Thursday, October 23, 2014

Towards consensus in protecting our global heritage and legacy

Heritage can drive consensus and collaboration for sustainable development 

‘T&T world heritage status at risk

...fiddling while Rome burns, political imbroglio leaves custodians mum
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Dr Kris Rampersad
The Banwari archeological site is not yet a world heritage site and its potential to become one is in jeopardy with “unchecked and undermanaged development initiatives.” Speaking from Paris where she is attending the meeting of the biannual Unesco executive board, heritage educator Dr Kris Rampersad said misinformation was being bandied about concerning T&T’s world heritage status. “No one, on any side, has taken the time to check the information being presented,” she said.
Rampersad, who is a Unesco-Commonwealth trained heritage facilitator and the Unesco focal point for World Heritage in T&T, told the Sunday Guardian it was unfortunate the issue is being politicised and has become something of the rope in the tug of war between the State and the Highway Re-route Movement.
“That prevents the consensus building and nation building that occurs around a country’s preparation for world heritage status. I remain flabbergasted that with the significance and potential of heritage as a core growth sector as the alternative to petroleum and our best bet for diversification, that these most valuable timeless assets and heritage, in general, remain so low on the national action agenda,” she said.
Rampersad has been blogging about what she calls “The Other Magnificent Seven of south Trinidad/South America and the Global South” and has written to President Anthony Carmona and Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar ( asking them to take the lead in securing these assets which hold enormous value for T&T’s economic diversification, its knowledge economy, and its place in our global civilisation (
In her latest Demokrissy blog post, The Politics of Disempowerment, Rampersad noted that while she has received encouragement and agreement by various sectors, some key custodians and line agencies of heritage have gone mum because the elements in focus are in the districts earmarked for the controversial highway extension, also the home districts of the President and the Prime Minister, and they do not want to get embroiled in what may be interpreted as the hype around the highway. 
“Trustee organisations and officials just don’t want to get embroiled, so it’s a case of fiddling while Rome burns.”  That has also been the fate of a petition ( in circulation on the issue, said the outspoken Rampersad, who is also an author and independent multimedia journalist.
“The fact is that neither the site, nor any of the several unique invaluable heritage elements of south Trinidad are secured in world heritage terms so as to facilitate them acquiring world heritage status as they are. “Banwari is not a world heritage site as is being claimed. It is on a tentative list which is a list that includes items states submit that they intend to prepare for such status.
“The concept being promoted of the site—the half-acre plot of where the skeleton remains were found—is itself erroneous, as a heritage site involves broader association of factors. We have not yet done the investigations nor groundwork that will consolidate the scope and value, though my preliminary independent research suggests that it is just the tip of the iceberg of more fundamental discoveries that could substantially revise how this region’s evolution and migration among others have been viewed.”
Rampersad said heritage was not a footnote in national development. “It is likely to be the lifeline to which we would have to turn in the next two decades when the oil dries up.