Ring Bang monument to be tribute to Hochoy Charles

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Ring Bang monument in Signal Hill. –

THE 60-foot dancing figure at the top of Signal Hill, a monument of the controversial Ring Bang Celebration in 2000, will be illuminated in tribute to deceased Hochoy Charles, Tobago’s first chief secretary.

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine made the announcement on Wednesday as he responded to a question on the status of the monument, which was erected while Charles was in charge of the THA.

Augustine said: “We are cleaning up in and around the Ring Bang statue monument. We are looking into the possibility of having it lit so that even in the night it can be seen. Whether that would be a possibility at this time, immediately, that is unsure.”

But he said the THA was hoping at least to “have it lit for a seven-day period from tomorrow night (January 4, the day of Charles’s funeral), and then pause and do the necessary infrastructural works so that it can be permanently lit.”

The monument, designed and fabricated by York Structures, was erected as part of a Millennium concert in Tobago and was anticipated to attract millions of viewers around the world as part of the 2000 Today BBC/WGBH Millennium Day Broadcast.

The project was led by Guyana-born singer Eddy Grant and promised to bring significant revenue and prominence to Tobago with a 39-minute segment on the BBC. The THA paid $40.9 million to Grant’s company, New Media Ltd, for the initiative, expecting huge dividends.

Approximately 20,000 patrons were expected to descend on Scarborough for the concert, but the event attracted a mere 1,500. In addition, Tobago was not featured at all in the BBC’s television coverage.The concert itself was also plagued by mismanagement and received complaints from artistes and patrons.

Charles faced harsh criticism for his role, which is believed to have contributed to his defeat in the THA elections of January 29, 2001.

On Wednesday, Augustine asked whether Tobagonians were fair in how they assessed some of Charles’s initiatives, including the concert.

“Before this island understood what event tourism was, before this island spent hundreds of millions in a jazz festival, there was the Ring Bang Festival as a main thrust towards event tourism.

“He at that time was soundly criticised for the investment in Ring Bang and you know it’s sad to see that after we criticised him, we were very critical of that investment in Ring Bang.”

He said the monument has stood the test of time.

“It’s actually an engineering marvel in terms of how it is constructed and the fact that it stands and it is not corroding to the point of falling down.”

He added: “That’s one of the areas as a collective, we perhaps should apologise for that. We just ignored it, left it there in the bush at Signal Hill for the longest while and did nothing. It is something for us to consider as an island.”

Commenting on the tribute, political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said, “I don’t think it’s the best way to honour him. The people of Tobago should find a more appropriate way to honour him.

“Mr Charles has done a lot for the development of Tobago – the question is what should be done in the best interest…Ring Bang came with certain challenges and issues. Not everybody in Tobago would have supported the notion that Ring Bang was in the best interest of Tobago and at that point in time.”

Ragoonath is in favour of using the structure as a tourism attraction.

“Tobago has to generate income, and income is generated through tourism largely in Tobago, so if you’re going to use it as some kind of tourism site as a tourism attraction – yes, all of that would make it a good idea.

“The concern, however, would be what would be the final use of it, beyond cleaning it and bringing back to an acceptable level, what would be the benefit or the use of it?

“To be used as a tourist attraction, I have absolutely no objection to that.”