Tuesday, September 22, 2009


On the 24th day of September 2009, we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. When we became a twin island Republic 33 years ago, it was a defining moment in our history. As a people, we had passed through harsh and cruel times - from slavery and indenture, through the colonial period, to the status of a free, proud and independent people. By that act, we had assumed the responsibility of creating a nation out of our diverse ethnicities, religions and cultures. We eagerly took up the task of building a cohesive society with great courage and optimism; for we had decided to be masters in our own house and together carve out our own destiny.At that juncture of our history we had the good fortune to have had at the helm of , people of towering intellect, incisive intelligence, great courage and stubborn determination. They taught us that real independence was not evidenced by the formal symbols of sovereignty – a flag, an anthem, a seat in the United Nations – but by an independent mind, the ability to do our own thinking and make our own decisions. They relentlessly instilled in us the importance of self-esteem, pride in our country and the obligation to work hard and to respect each another.For them, true independence also meant the pursuit of certain objectives as ideals: foodself-sufficiency, the acceptance and promotion of local cultural expressions and manifestations. They saw all of these things as reinforcing national pride and our sense of achievement. They advocated, too, the development of a cohesive national culture as the best means of promoting understanding among our people, breaking down prejudices and reinforcing our sense of nationhood. And in the early days we pursued these ideals with a restless energy. We engaged in extraordinary feats of self-help work, from building of small bridges, to theconstruction of schools, to the repairing of our aging infrastructure. Our cultural life flourished. We established several local and national programmes to showcase our culture. Our sportsmen and women, being greatly encouraged, turned in significant achievements and triumphs on the world Olympic stage. And the arts – sculpture, painting, theatre, flourished. Those were wonderful, joyous days when it seemed that nothing could stop our progress and development as a nation.But, the course of human history is not a straight line. We faced difficulties of one kind or another. We had our ups and downs, our vicissitudes; but thanks to our resilience, our courage and our determination, we survived. We acknowledged our setbacks and we need to start rebuilding again. Within recent years, we have seen a decline in the ideals of national pride, self-confidence, respect for one another, and the achievement of a cohesive society. Selfish men and women have jeopardised these ideals as they desperately strive after narrow partisan goals and personal agendas. Today, the nation is at it’s lowest ebb in it‘s history. Cultural life is becoming an endangered art form; national cohesiveness is undermined as some people promote ethnic and religious divisiveness as a virtue. Educational standards have deteriorated; opportunities contracted; and thousands of young people, as they leave school, face a bleak prospect. They can no longer see the horizon. The pervasiveness of a feeling of insecurity and despair is evidenced by the increasing number of homicides and migration in our society, by the frequency of crimes against hard working people and their property. And the kidnappings, drug addiction and HIV/ Aids threaten to destroy a whole generation. Many of our important national institutions have been weakened and are threatened with decay: the army, the police, the judiciary, the public service, all because of selfish partisan political policies. Today, however, the people of this country are showing that they will not allow this tradition to be destroyed.It is understandable, then, why so many people are despairing.But I bring you a message of hope. Do not despair!We are a proud people, courageous and resilient people. We have overcome many obstacles and impediments in the past. There is no reason why we cannot now overleap the hurdles that lie in our path. Indeed, we must, it threatens our very existence. We have overcome in the past and we must overcome again.At this point in time, we are now about to face another defining moment in our history. Very soon we will be having a national election. This will not be the usual run-of-the-mill periodic elections. For the nation, the outcome will be a matter of life and death. It will determine whether the people of this country will remain in the thrall of corruption, incompetence and backwardness and suffer a lingering social death; or whether they will, by their votes, throw off the yoke of oppression and burst forth into a new dispensation of freedom, security and opportunity –and so survive and prosper.For us, the choice is stark and clear. On the one hand, it is to allow this regime to remain in office and complete the destruction of our people and our country. On the other, it is to install a government that will guarantee that you and your children survive in conditions of dignity and prosperity.The people of this country are shrewd and sensible. They will choose to survive. They will elect a government that will have no time for victimization or witch-hunting or settling political scores; a government that will administer the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago in a fair just and equitable manner in the interests of all people irrespective of race, culture, social or economic status.Let us all do our duty to ourselves, our children and our country. That duty requires us to rescue our nation from the abyss in which it now finds itself and install a reform government to oversee the task.Have a happy and joyful Republic day! But after the celebrations, “time for seriousness has arrived”. We have a serious duty to perform, we have our country to rescue!!.

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