Trinidad celebrates 50 years of Independence
Fri, August 31, 2012 - 6:25 PM
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 31, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 50th anniversary of political independence from Britain on Friday, re-enacting the ceremonial replacing of the Union Jack and President George Maxwell Richards urging constitutional reform.
President Richards led local and international dignitaries at the flag raising ceremony at Woodford Square, a stone throw from the country’s Parliament building, where 50 years ago, then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams accepted the new Constitution from the Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal who read the message sent by Queen Elizabeth II, relinquishing her rule.
Cultural activities highlighted the event attended by several thousand nationals with a military parade planned for early Friday.
In his message, President Richards questioned whether or not the oil-rich twin island republic had become civilised.
"We have become modern, but are we civilised? Without intending to steal our joy, I am constrained to warn that we are nurturing generations of children who are allowed not to take responsibility for their actions. We are making too much room for non-thinkers, who take the easy, clever way out, once patronage, in any form, is available. We deserve much better."
Richards said while there had been much accomplishment over the past 50 years, citizens must ask themselves whether they are living up to the expectations of those who had fought for the freedom of this country.
"Our answers must bear the hallmark of honesty, as we take responsibility for who we have become. Moreover, we must be committed to integrity, in every aspect, not least integrity of our word," he said.
Richards said the country could start by granting the promised constitutional reform to Tobago, which should not still be an issue in 2012.
"Let us remind ourselves that a nation divided cannot stand and, while water separates our two islands, broken promises should not. We made a promise to Tobago, a long time ago and, as Eric Williams said in Parliament with the joining of our two islands, administratively, one form of neglect was exchanged for another.
"This is one of the major areas of brokenness that we can fix and must fix, if we are to proceed with dignity and vigour, in unity, over the next 50 years. Unity in diversity is only one, though very important, aspect of our national character. Unity of purpose is critical,” he said.
In her message, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, the first woman elected head of government during the country’s 50 years of independence, said that “on this day, 50 years ago, we became an independent nation and for the very first time the Red, White and Black flag of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was unfurled and the pride had only just begun.
“From that moment to now the flag has inspired hundreds of thousands of us, it has brought us to tears, it has filled us with immense pride, it has made us feel at home in foreign places, it has given us a sense of identity and belonging to that special place, it defines us. “
She said today, more than ever, “we know what it means to be a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago,” adding that for 50 years “we have charted our own course as an independent nation proudly flying high the red white and black, ever steadfast in our commitment to our democracy and the rule of law and to the belief that all men and women are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights.
“For fifty years as a nation, forged from the love of liberty in the fires of hope and prayer, with boundless faith in our destiny, we have proven our ability to determine the direction best suited to the needs of our citizens.
“Our self-determination has brought success, recognition and respect to our great nation, here at home and on the world stage,” she said, paying homage to the island’s early political pioneers.
In a paid political broadcast, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley urged young people to ensure that they play a meaningful role in the future development of the country.
But he blamed parents and leaders of the country for having failed to set the right examples for young people.
"Admittedly, as parents and leaders, too many of us have failed to set the right examples for our young people. Standards have fallen in all sectors: in the way we dress, the way we speak, the normal courtesies which we expect of each other, the way we write, the way we interact with one another, and worst of all we no longer see ourselves as our brothers' keeper.
“No wonder so many of our young people head in the wrong direction. They follow the example which we have set and accept these behavioural patterns as the new norm," he said as he reflected on some of what Trinidad and Tobago has achieved since becoming a sovereign state.
"For after all is said and done, our maturity as a nation will be determined not by how many birthdays we have celebrated, as symbolic as these milestones may be, but more by the quality of our achievements and the quality of our lives and the lessons which we have learnt from our successes and mistakes. We will be judged by the ethical standards to which we subscribe," he said.
Rowley said that a good place to begin the transformation needed in society was at the level of the Parliament as many citizens have often questioned the quality of the debates.
"On this, the 50th year of our Independence, I call upon my fellow parliamentarians to take the lead by enhancing the quality of debate in the Parliament, focusing our attention not on maligning, demonising, slandering or in scoring cheap political points, but rather on treating with the issues, the ideas, the policies and the programmes, the views and opinions which will enrich our lives, enlighten our minds, uplift our spirits, make us a better people," he said.
United States President Barak Obama, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and CFaribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have sent congratulatory messages to the government on the country’s golden jubilee.
Meanwhile, Olympic Gold medallist Keshorn Walcott will receive the country’s highest award.
He will receive the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for his service in sport.
Walcott, 19, became the second Olympic gold medallist from Trinidad and Tobago having won the Javelin at the recently concluded 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The country’s highest award will also be awarded posthumously to former prime minister George Chambers.
Seven journalists are among 75 people who will receive awards at a ceremony here on Friday night.
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