Prime Minister, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Photo courtesy jyoticommunication.blogspot.com
August 30, 2012:
I greet and welcome you this evening with a profound sense of honour to be the one destiny has chosen to herald this moment in history, 50 years ago, when our independent nation was born!
This evening, we assemble as partners, to revisit a moment in the past when the people of Trinidad and Tobago stood solemnly together to face a new future, as one self-governing nation and one self-determining people.
Fifty years ago, on this day, around this very time, at this very location, our first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Eustace Williams stood here representing a people filled with an unusual sense of exhilaration, anxiety and hope, to witness the hoisting of our national flag for the very first time.
The Union Jack was about to be replaced with the imposing red, white and black, which would fly triumphantly in the midnight air of 1962, signaling the birth of a new nation.
We were declaring that we were now the captains of our own ship of State, the makers of our own destiny and the guardians of our own rights and freedoms.
And we were doing so under the watchful eyes and commanding presence of the seat of Parliament – the symbol of our democracy.
Our deep excitement and jubilation, and our intention to take charge of our own future, were reflected spectacularly in our national anthem, authored by the late Patrick Castagne (may God rest his soul).
In the years following, right here in this square, the wisdom of age and experience was shared through animated discussions.
It was to become known as the University of Woodford Square to some, and to others, the Parliament of the common man.
Similarly, right here in this square, many political intentions were declared, and promises made, and victories declared and defeats accepted!
Fellow citizens, the place where this historic occasion took place half a century ago, holds for us some of our nation’s most cherished moments and memories.
And when we reflect on this history, with each moment being a guidepost for our development, it is clear that our nation has stood the test of time!
In our sterling achievements in sports, in education, in culture and the arts, in labour, business and industry, and indeed in politics, we all stood hand in hand as Trinidadians and Tobagonians, true to our motto – Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve.
We have had our moments of elation, of sadness, of fear and of triumph.
At all times, we relied heavily on our ancestral wisdom, our passion and our deep determination to be free and remain free as a sovereign nation.
This is why, as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I felt honoured in 2010 to inherit a tradition of liberty and freedom and a long-standing covenant to uphold the principles of our democracy.
And this is why as we consider the journey still in front of us, I feel that we must, together, re-establish the platform upon which development will take place in favour of all of our citizens.
The key to the security and stability of our future lies in the mind of each and every citizen of our nation, just as it did 50 years ago.
We are a people driven by thoughts, words and actions which all invariably combine to create the national character that the world sees.
We must then become the exemplars for tomorrow’s people, as yesterday’s people are exemplars for us, by taking our responsibility seriously, and ensuring that we never lose focus on our role as caretakers of a nation waiting to be inherited by the future men and women.
Now, as we revisit this great moment in our history, we must resolve to heal old wounds, let go of old grudges and perceptions based only on personal feelings, and protect and if necessary, rebuild the foundations of mutual respect and trust.
In moving forward, we must fortify the platform of principles and moral judgment upon which we make laws, implement policy, expand democratic governance and rise above partisanship in service to all citizens.
We must ensure that the torch passed to us by our parents and grandparents, right here 50 years ago, remains bright when our time comes to pass to the next generation.
We must firmly commit to face the world as a nation not as a fearful people, afraid of losing what we have, but rather as an indomitable people, seeking to build and share what we have so that we all can achieve.
Fellow citizens, in our history we have faced dangers and overcome them, holding in our hearts the intense desire to remain free.
To have always triumphed was not to have eliminated the dangers; for today, dangers to our democracy have not receded.
Rather, at times, it is our vigilance that has waned, perhaps out of comfort in our long-standing tradition of liberty and independence.
Therefore as we reflect we must not become so hypnotized by nostalgia and by our past glories, that we take our eyes off the future or become less vigilant.
The nation we build must appeal to the enthusiasm and vitality of our young people and must remain safe, stable and progressive.
For this reason, as citizens of a nation celebrating our Independence Golden Jubilee, it is our duty to ensure that we not only uphold our freedom as a guarantee, but also recommit to a nation, under God where every creed and race will always find an equal place.
Fellow citizens, here’s to a nation of greatness, a people of greatness and a future of dreams waiting to be fulfilled by the young men and women of Trinidad and Tobago.
May God bless our nation and always remain at the forefront of our progress, with us a devoted and dedicated nation, marching behind.
I wish you all a very Happy 50th Independence Day.
I thank you.