The choice of Lisa Callender, a non-Antiguan, to head the National Cultural Policy project is a topic of conversation online and on the street. E.P. Chet Greene, minister of culture, told OBSERVER media that Callender’s selection met European Union (EU) and Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) requirements, the funders of the project.
Barbara Williams, project implementation coordinator, said that the position was advertised in EU countries and CDB member states.
“It was through a regional and international advertisement that the call for proposal went out. It had to be done that way because the funds being utilized are from the EU, enabling applicants from CDB member states and EU nationals to submit expressions of interests,” she said.
She added that approximately 11 submissions were received, and applicants were evaluated based on their experience and qualifications.
Alister Thomas, information commissioner, and Harold Lovell, leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), are among those criticising the decision.
“I was a bit taken aback when I heard, as I thought it was a regional programme, because I am pretty confident that there are those of us, who have the expertise, who could provide the skills and background to draft such a programme,” Thomas said. Explaining that a draft for this project was completed more than twenty years ago when he was assistant director of culture, he said that there was no need to “reinvent the wheel,” suggesting that a review of the original document and a few adjustments would suffice.
Harold Lovell, political leader of the UPP, wrote in a Facebook post, “A National SHOULD head the National Cultural Policy Project to bring Antiguans and Barbudans closer toward the realisation of a cultural renaissance.”
Several residents also took to Facebook to express their disapproval of the decision.
One user wrote, “I’m so lost. Please guide me in the right direction. Cause all I read here was, we have decided to waste monies that we don’t have…to pay somebody else to do something that apparently no Antiguan or Barbudan could ever do!”
“Well well only in Antigua what fools we are,” another user wrote.
Eleston “Namba” Adams, former minister of culture, said he is not concerned about the selection and commends the minister for getting the programme off the ground.
“It’s long overdue,” he said. “And yes, you have Antiguans who have been involved in culture through the years. But it would be nice to have persons, who have been through a matter like this one, who can give proper direction. The people who live here will be writing the cultural policy. This person will be giving it some solid direction,” said Adams.