Message From His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC, President Of The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago And Chief Scout
At the Annual Presentation of Awards and Colours
of the Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago
At The National Academy For The Performing Arts (NAPA)
Port of Spain
The National Scout Commissioner, Mr Robert Berkeley;
President of the Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Commodore Anthony Franklin;
Members of the National Scout Executive;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Good Morning – Good afternoon. I do owe you all an unreserved apology for my late arrival. It speaks to the type of day I had. It was indeed a day that was emotionally sapping because I just came from a funeral in Tunapuna of a United Nations Security Officer; a national of Trinidad and Tobago who died in South Africa. As much as I in fact wanted to meet his coffin at the airport to pay my respect, because of a mix up in time I was not able to do so. But one thing that made me really proud was that another United Nations Officer from Trinidad, serving in Liberia, accompanied the body home. That soldier served in East Timor; he served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; he served in Liberia. I came across many friends because of my international work and connections who are still working in South Sudan and who are experiencing the trials and tribulations of the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In other words, we have Trinidadians and Tobagonians dealing with evil people who are doing terrible things to innocent people.
When I heard a few moments ago the calypso song by Abby Blackman, “Save Our Children,” it was a bit depressing coming out of the environment that I just came out of. I remembered immediately the thousands of children who died in Rwanda; persons I prosecuted; the thousands of innocent lives that were lost in Yugoslavia; the thousands of innocent children dying with their parents as they tried to come to Europe, drowning by the hundreds in Europe’s outer islands, all for a better and greater life. In light of what is taking place in Trinidad and Tobago, this song, “Save Our Children,” is so relevant because I have been to the funerals of so many murdered children in Trinidad and Tobago and all I hear in the wider world is “talk and talk and talk”, and “fluff and fluff and fluff”. That is why moments like these are so important. When those who are responsible for ensuring the safety of our children are not doing as good of a job as they should be doing, it comes down to you, our young people to save the next generation to come. At the end of the day, the future lies with you. That is why from day one of my presidency, I have always engaged initiatives dealing with young people. I feel as a demographic we sometimes forget to talk about the differently abled; those people who suffer from Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy; the blind and the deaf.
Time and time again, when we feel a sense of hopelessness, there are bolts of lightning, not coming from our adult community in Trinidad and Tobago, but from our young people. I had a long beautiful conversation with Lexi Balchan, who topped SEA. It gave me a sense of renewed hope about our young people. That is why I want to go off track a bit and not engage in any tired, long feature address. I want to engage in dialogue. Rayshard Hosein, where are you? Come to the front. I want you all to meet a young man who in fact placed third in the SEA examination. By the way, and very importantly, he is a scout. I join with our esteemed Scout Commissioner of the Scout Association of Trinidad and Tobago who has congratulated some fourteen members of the Scout Movement who have placed in the first 100 in the SEA examinations.
I recognise that the foundation stone of the Scout Movement is grounded in remarkable principles and values that stand the test of time. Sometimes, it is good to read about the history of the Scout Movement. You know Lord Baden – Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement. He was able to draw philosophies from the Bushido Movement in Japan. He was able to look at the value systems to be found in the American Indians in terms of their gallantry and courage. As much as he was a colonizer, he was able to admire the vision, the spirit, and the soul of the Zulu Warrior defending his land with his life. He incorporated all these principles in the Scout Movement to ensure that it would result in creating a better citizen for the world and by extension, Trinidad and Tobago.
And that is why I feel there is a need for me to go a bit off path. Rather than talk about courage, faith, honesty and integrity – since all of these things are very important – I want to talk about a crisis that we have to take control of. There is a fight that you young people of this generation must be a part of. I refer to that fight against climate change, deforestation and environmental degradation on our planet earth. We need to follow great examples. Consider, for example, that countries in the European Union such as Norway and Finland, implement a philosophy in which trees are consciously planted, not only for the current generation, but also for the generations to come. Consider, also, that our very own Caribbean neighbour known as Guyana has crafted a concept known as the “cut one plant two” policy, where citizens are mandated to plant two trees in areas in which they have destroyed one. And even in Trinidad and Tobago, without much fanfare, Her Excellency and I started a project called “Plant a Plant in T and T,” where we invited young persons from kindergarten to university to come to the Office of the President, on Presidential Grounds, to the plant a plant – a distinction that was only afforded to Princes and Princesses of England, Queens and Presidents. And I in fact impressed upon them that you, you young people, are our Princes and Princesses. I am going to ensure that the names of all those persons who planted those plants would stand next to the Lords, Governor Generals and Princesses of England that are to be found on President’s Grounds. It is my way of telling you that you are generational ambassadors. You are the ones that will ensure the kind of environmental activism that we require.
As we celebrate your crowning achievements today, I ask you all to push for more infrastructural development on a national level to save not only our heritage buildings, but our legacy. How many of us, for example, know of the crumbling grandeur of the 1st Presentation Sea Scout Houses? The first of these Scout Houses, known as “Copperhole”, has historically rested on the Monas Island at “Down D Islands.” Copperhole has tragically been invaded by squatters and burnt down, and not a single stone has been laid to restore it to its former glory. Look at “Dunboy.” How many of you all have heard of Dunboy? Dunboy has also been destroyed to give way for what is now today the Water Taxi Departure Terminal in San Fernando. Tangible parts of the generational legacy of scouting traditions are thus no longer in existence. And I want you scouts to promote a culture which places greater emphasis on infrastructural development and the preservation of our cultural legacy, and the legacy associated with the Scout Movement.
At the same time, ladies and gentlemen, as we engage in an innovative developmental thrust in this respect, let us not forget that we owe a perpetual responsibility to our greatest asset in sustainable development – people! Since when have we reached a point where people’s life no longer mattered? Look at Rachel Ramkissoon from Valencia; 13 year old Abiola Adams in Tobago; and the last thirteen year old, all brutally murdered. Many are the countries which let the welfare of their population fall to the wayside all in the name of the economic and infrastructural development. So I ask you young people, let us move towards a generational ideology which prides itself on greater inclusion for everyone, including the differently abled in our society.
You would have noticed that there is a school of thought which advocates that the solution to the social ills afflicting our country is purchasing more bullets and more guns; building more prisons and cells; and lobbying for heavier and lengthier prison sentences. Why can’t we now look in the opposite direction and engage more in restorative justice; more mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution. These, my young leaders, are the mechanisms for real transformational social change. Why wait on the bolted horse? Why are we not dealing more significantly with the proverbial horses in the stables? I can speak with authority as to the dire straits that national organizations are facing. It is a well – known fact that many of our major national youth organizations – such as the Girl Guide, the Red Cross, The Boy Scouts and the Social Coterie of Workers – are floundering due to a lack of institutional support through the lack of resources. When we invest in our people, we invest in foresight and vision.
You see ladies and gentlemen, there is one area that I feel the scouts and the Scout Movement can be the vanguard of real positive change. You must never be put off by institutional inertia or a society that has created a new solution to problems – blame somebody else. That ain’t no solution ladies and gentlemen. And that is why I am calling on our young people to spearhead a revolutionary “green” scout movement. Just a few years ago, I raised with the Chief Secretary in Tobago the idea of banning all plastic bags from going to Tobago because I felt that Tobago could be a place where we can push this initiative. Now and again I hear a message about that. And now I feel, for example, that the Scout movement can become the vanguard and thrust towards banning all plastic bags in forest trips, camping events and environmental activities. Let us show the adult population what young people can do. You see, because we have a green revolution that speaks to policy and not implementation. What I refer to in the context of governance in Trinidad and Tobago is a deficit implementation philosophy. We must rid ourselves of plastic bags. Just maybe if we do away with plastic bags, it can generate a new financial entity called the bagasse plant, where we could in fact us the copra from coconuts to make bags. We can also use fig leaves which, at one time, were dried and used to make bags.
You see ladies and gentlemen, there is a revolution that nobody is talking about in Trinidad and Tobago. It is called the blue revolution – blue growth, blue economy, where in fact nations in Europe are recognizing that in order to transform your economy, you can use the oceans to engage that transformation. In terms of wind power; in terms of ocean power; in terms of fish tanks; in terms of ensuring that all the garbage in the land doesn’t go into the sea. And you, my scouts, can be a part of that revolutionary process.
The scrupulous lessons and values subscribed to by the scouting fraternity have the potential to bring about revolutionary and transformational change, empowering us to become model citizens, if we are willing to rise to challenge, willing to dedicate our life’s work to “creating a better tomorrow” for everyone. Scouts, I know you have been taught this and continue to do great deeds.
Compassion and kindness remain the hallmark of a good scout who ensures that no one is left behind. And it is to that end that I extend my deepest congratulations to the continued success of this fraternity on a job well done. My esteemed congratulations to those with whom I have presented the National Colours – you are off to Iceland; to St. Lucia; to the United States. You carry that flag of Trinidad and Tobago with pride. And of course, when you hear that National Anthem of Trinidad and Tobago being played, let them know that is the best national anthem in the world.
In passing, I finally want to congratulate the parents who are subject to all the peer pressures that you scouts would be subjected to. Because sometimes you have to stand alone in doing the right thing. We like to talk about peer pressure in relation to young people but we don’t like to talk about peer pressure in relation to parents. Sometimes you are burdened: “girl what happen to you? Is 2017? You go hide away your child?” And your response ought to be, “there are predators in the malls; there are predators in the discos; there are predators in the night clubs; and there are predators who are sometimes all around. Continue to carry out yeoman service and encourage great values in your children. Bond with them; spend time with them on weekends. I remember when I started my Presidency, my wife and I, some perons in Trinidad and Tobago were saying, “what you doing wasting time with children? Deal with the issues! Deal with the solutions!” They didn’t realize that my wife and I were investing in solutions. And now, to their credit, many of those who were detractors have now come around to join with us and the Scout Movement that the transformation we seek must begin with the young. So I want to thank you parents for keeping the faith and keeping the course. The sky doesn’t have to be the limit, but let it be a steppingstone for even mightier dreams we may accomplish together. I wish you all the best.
And those of you going into Secondary Schools, you have been nurtured with important values, taught by your teachers and the Scout Movement. When you go in the Secondary Schools, you will meet person who have not been given, or nurtured with similar values. Bring them over to your side. Don’t let anyone in your career make you feel doing good is doing wrong. Be good and do good to all – everyone in your classrooms. Just be good to people, man! Be nice to each other.
So children, you are in fact the vanguard, and be the revolution. Because we need to bring back niceness in this land, yes bring back niceness in this land!