STORY By JACK WARNER
Kenny De Silva served under three Prime Ministers – Manning, Persad-Bissessar and Rowley – for thirteen years, in the twin capacities of Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC). He credits Manning as being the best Prime Minister under whom he has ever worked.
Prior to his NCC experience, he was the Public Relations Officer of the then Carnival Development Committee (CDC) where he worked under the Chairmanship of the late Jack Lewsey and under whom he had honed his talent for the organization of Carnival. He has been a member of the People’s National Movement for over 50 years and has assisted that party’s Political Leaders at various times and under the most difficult circumstances.
He has also worked under several Ministers of Culture from Joan Yuille-Williams to Penelope Beckles to Eudine Job-Davis to Winston Gypsy Peters to Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. He considers Yuille-Williams the shrewdest and Eudine Job-Davis as “the best Minister of Culture with whom I ever worked; she’s straight-forward, outspoken and brilliant.”
Over the years Manning had repeatedly asked De Silva to contest the Diego Martin North East seat (presently held by Colm Imbert) in this country’s General Elections and De Silva consistently refused. Manning had also asked him to accept the post of Chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation and this too he had refused.
Among the many reasons he gave for his refusal is his distaste for politics. According to him “politicians like to mask whatever they say and make promises which they know they cannot keep.”
“We Folk Festival”
In 1987, when the PNM was at its lowest, following its electoral defeat (3/33) at the hands of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) it was Kenny De Silva who had come to their rescue with some good political initiatives which helped to return the party to power in 1991.
One such initiative was Kenny’s “We Folk Festival” held at Skinner Park in 1987.
Manning’s request of him was for a big event with which his politically weakened party can identify and Kenny’s responded with his “We Folk Festival” which was bigger than any present-day Calypso Spektackula. At that event, Kenny got every artiste (African as well as Indian to perform for free). One Darian Marcelle who had worked with Kenny to plan the event says, “1987 was a difficult time for the PNM. We were in a desperate situation. Kenny’s suggestions and almost single-handed organization of the “We Folk Festival” was the PNM signal moment. That event was phenomenal and was the biggest motivator for the PNM troops to rebrand themselves. It is something that no one in the PNM should ever forget up to this day. That event was the forerunner of the PNM Family Day which we still celebrate up to now. Had it not been for Kenny’s successful initiative, who knows where the PNM would have been today!”
Another successful initiative of Kenny’s was the Pan Relay he organized in 2011 from Piccadilly Street to Despers pan yard on the hills of Laventille – 34 steel bands beating a medley of tunes all along the way. It was an outstanding success and Kenny was lionised by everyone. One of Kenny’s achievements in 1991 which he vividly remembers is asking the then Opposition Leader, Patrick Manning, to sit with eight University students at a dinner he had organized at his home and to chat with them so as to get the vision for the country through the eyes of the young people. The dinner and discussion lasted some four hours after which Manning advised Kenny that it was the best dinner he had ever attended. Manning told Kenny that it was stimulating to hear ideas from the young people and the hopes that they had for the future of Trinidad & Tobago.
Humble, hardworking and dedicated, Kenny began to work from the age of seven. As a boy, he sold eggs as well as ice at Carnival time. Today Kenny is the proud owner of a chain of sports stores throughout the country having been blooded at an early age by doing sportscasts on radio seven days per week.
He grieves over what Carnival has become today
Kenny has been credited with the introduction of Savannah Friday; the political success of Franklin Khan for the constituency of Mayaro in the 1991 General Election; the first Calypso Tent ever in Deluxe Cinema which was a tremendous financial and organizational success, Ram Kirpalani – sponsored Pan Music Festival in 1980 and 1982 in conjunction with Pat Bishop. These were some of Kenny’s major achievements.
As a sportscaster, he also attended and covered the Olympic Games in 1972 in Munich and in 1976 in Montreal. He also attended and covered the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978. Dr Eric Williams gave him a commendation for outstanding journalism in 1976. In 1980 Kenny represented Trinidad & Tobago together with other Youth speakers from other Caribbean countries to conduct speaking engagements throughout the state of Massachusetts. The speaking engagements lasted eight weeks.
Notwithstanding these successes, Kenny has one regret and that is that he never represented Trinidad & Tobago in the field of Sport like his mother and other siblings did, even though he had trained to be an amateur boxer under the highly respected and internationally acclaimed Don Rajkumar.
Kenny is a proud family man with two sons and three grandchildren. He has no regrets that he has never received a government contract from the PNM in all his 45 years in business. Nor is he angry that he never received a national award for service he has rendered to government and country for more than five decades. These accolades which he never got, mean nothing to him and he is not bitter in any way. However, he grieves over what Carnival has become today. There is no significant funding from business firms as there was in his time.
He regrets very much “the decision to do away with the North Stand which normally cost $1.8m to erect and take down but can make up to $5M as was the norm in his time. He sees more and more of Carnival going to private hands and he refers to such bands like Bliss, Tribe and Caesar’s Army. Kenny has given a multiplicity of reasons for this shift, one of which is “the lack of a growth path in Carnival”.
A dedicated PNM member; a brilliant organizer; a successful businessman and a genuine exemplar in society, Kenny De Silva is the man PNM forgot.