Speaking with the Express after receiving the first cheque for $2 million from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday, ESC chairman Khafra Kambon said he was pleased as the $4 million was what they had asked for.

“We have gotten what we requested and we didn’t expect more than what we requested. The Minister assured us that he is working on getting additional funds and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism sent us a letter indicating we will be getting $2 million from the Ministry,” he said.

“This afternoon I enquired at the Ministry and I was told that it (the cheque) was being prepared. So if it doesn’t come this afternoon it will come in the morning,” Kambon said.

On July 24, the ESC held an emergency press conference at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, to announce that it had refused a $1 million cheque from the government for Emancipation celebrations on the grounds that it was not enough.

Kambon had charged that the Government had reneged on a promise to include funding for the Emancipation Day celebrations in the annual budget and that the committee was disappointed and angered by the lack of financial support for the Emancipation celebrations.

Asked by the Express yesterday about the Committee’s accountability for the funds, Kambon said there was thorough accountability by the Committee to the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.

“It is very detailed accounting and we have done audited accounts. We have even had someone at the Ministry for about three years working with us on the accounting,” he said.

This, he said, was what allowed them to know their budget beforehand, and that the Ministry was aware of it.

The ESC’s total budget, he said, ranged from between $5 million to $6 million , but this did not include the none-cost items, where people volunteer their services and resources.

“The basic setup of the village is very expensive—putting up the tents, stage, decor and lights …. and we are not even talking activities yet. Anybody who has a sense of events planning would know that $ 2 million would not cut it,” Kambon said.

Kambon said the Emancipation activities run from May 25 and last for six weeks, up to the Emancipation week at the Queen’s Park Savannah where there are many shows.

“Government funding can’t cover all of it, but we have been asking for more than they usually give us because it is our 20th anniversary and our 50th year of Independence…we really wanted to do more,” he added.

Kambon said although the Committee assisted with other festivals, they were unable to do so financially because they were currently operating at a deficit.

Commenting on the $4 million in State funds to the ESC yesterday, general secretary of the Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, said he was happy for the group, but hoped that the same would be done for Indian Arrival Day next year.

“Well I am glad for them that they are able to get all this amount of money, and once the Treasury can afford it we say increase it. We only got $300,000 from the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism for Indian Arrival which was in May.

“I have no problem with them getting more money because what it will do is set the pattern for us to get more too. We expect that when our turn comes around next year that our figure will be somewhere near theirs,” Maharaj said.

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