Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 59th anniversary of political independence from Britain on Tuesday without the traditional military parade and other public activities.
While Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley urged Trinidadians to adapt to a 21st century “becoming more aware of emerging realities and trends”, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar on this independence day, citizens have seen all their rights “suspended and for no good reason”.
The independence celebrations have been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed 1,285 and infected 44,606 others in Trinidad.
In his message, Prime Minister Rowley said that 59 years later, it is important for Trinidad and Tobago citizens to refine “not only of your individual rights, but more so your responsibilities.
“We all hold in our hands, very respectfully, the rights and, most importantly, the responsibilities of each other. Once we fully recognize our obligations and rights, that all citizens hold an equal share, we can take charge in shaping a better, collective future; not only for ourselves, and families, but for all others and all future generations who will call these twin islands home.”
He said the world is caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time, human beings are facing other threats, specifically, global climate change, alongside challenges in resource depletion, and fundamental changes in technology, business, education, health services, work; our overall way of life.
Rowley said that the past 18 months have been difficult if not destructive for the world economy, and also for Trinidad and Tobago mainly as a result of the impact of COVID-19 and the collapse in energy prices in early 2020.
“During this time the Government had to protect the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. This has placed a continued strain on the treasury, but the Government is determined to take care of the neediest.”
Rowley said, “we may be bruised, but we will not be defeated. I know we can overcome the challenges of the 21st-century, and emerge from this crisis”.
He said in doing so, Trinidad and Tobago must acknowledge many economic opportunities are no longer available, but the global pandemic is creating new ones.
“Massive transformations are taking place in manufacturing, finance, medicine, security, business, music, fashion, food, entertainment, energy and climate. There is now a new world out there, which this country must first understand, then grasp “with boundless faith in our destiny.
“We have to adapt to 21st-century changes, becoming more aware of emerging realities and trends, overcome the disadvantages of complexity, and develop indigenous Trinbago models,” he said, promising that “as a government, we will provide the necessary support and enabling environment”.
But in her message, Persad Bissessar said that while it is “safe to say we have indeed come a long way” since attainting independence “we still have far to go”.
But she said that nothing of the past can compare to what citizens are being subjected to today.
“It is an insult to our constitution and the pioneers of our independence that on Independence Day 2021, all our citizens’ rights are suspended for no good reason.
“This Independence Day is a solemn one. For whilst we mark 59 years an independent nation, we do so with none of our constitutional rights and freedoms. I however remain confident in the collective will of our people to get through this dark period in our history.”
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has congratulated Trinidad and Tobago on its 59th anniversary of political independence, saying the country “has achieved a considerable level of socio-economic advancement including the many achievements of its creative people, who continue to excel at home and abroad in many fields including academia, the arts, diplomacy and sport.
“The Caribbean Community has benefitted tremendously from the commitment of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago to regional integration, and your country continues to play a lead role in advancing the integration process,” said the newly appointed CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett.