Fellow citizens, today, Trinidad and Tobago commemorates the achievement of Republican status and from all indications we shall soon welcome our regional neighbour Barbados into the fold of Caribbean countries who have dared to go it alone. Republican status is the ultimate milestone in the long road to self-determination. In arriving at that significant waypost on 1st August 1976, we the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago signalled to the world our readiness and confidence to chart our own course and assume full command of our destiny.

Independence, attained in 1962, was a manifestation of our growing assurance and self-reliance. Republican status was our coming of age at which full responsibility for public affairs was placed squarely on the shoulders of the people. The Republican Constitution created new and important offices including that of President, Director of Public Prosecutions and Ombudsman, as well as a number of Service Commissions. We became autonomous in every way, but for our final court of appeal which remains the Privy Council. These accomplishments cemented Trinidad and Tobago’s identity as a sovereign, adult nation.

Although we have attained the figurative age of majority, it is critical that we continue to grow and develop to realise our potential. Taking ownership of all decisions, whether good or bad, is an exercise of the maturity and sense of duty inherent in Republican status. Failures and mistakes along the way are but teachable moments from which we learn to become better versions of ourselves.

The lack of cooperation of a recalcitrant few with the Covid-19 pandemic guidelines serves as a stark example of immaturity and impetuosity in assuming the responsibilities of nationhood. Mature individuals make sacrifices, bear momentary inconveniences and are prepared to forgo many features of daily life such as limes, dining out, beach outings and extended family gatherings. Delayed gratification, the ability to postpone an immediate gain in favour of greater and later reward, is a fundamental gauge of adulthood.

A responsible approach is critical and required of us all, especially holders of high office and profile whose conduct sets tone and pattern for others. Temperance, civility, respect for office, and a quiet word are all hallmarks of the wisdom and good judgement expected of ‘big people’. Our Republican status embodies those qualities.

The conferment of National Awards recognises those individuals who, in their respective fields, exemplify the tenets of our Republic, placing country before self and making innumerable contributions and sacrifices for the wellbeing of all. Unfortunately, the 2020 ceremony has had to be postponed owing to Covid-19 restrictions but it will take place in some form, not simply because of convention, but more importantly, because of its role in inspiring our citizens to emulate the achievements of our very own exemplars.

However, even in the absence of pomp and ceremony, we can individually bring to mind and salute those citizens whom we know and know of that have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to our national wellbeing, especially at this time, healthcare and other essential workers. They have been at it non-stop since February in true and faithful service to the nation and this we know at great cost to themselves, physically, financially and psychologically.

Coming-of-age celebrations are de rigeur, but the celebrants understand that it is the end of one phase, and more importantly, the beginning of another—one which involves continuous development and learning, making wise choices, exercising self-control and practising self-denial when necessary. In the context of a nation, the expectations are not much different, save for the fact that we look to the collective for these indications and to do that, let us look in the mirror.

Full and consistent participation in the ever-evolving process of nation-building is required to secure a bright, resilient and prosperous future for ourselves and generations to come. I extend sincere wishes to my fellow citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for a safe, happy and healthy Republic Day.