Fellow citizens,

On 24 September 1976, our Parliament convened for the very first time under the new Republican Constitution, tasked with the solemn duty of making laws for the peace, order and good government of Trinidad and Tobago. The training wheels were off, the independence experiment over—Trinidad and Tobago assumed full command of its destiny.

Republican status was the outcome of a concerted effort by the engineers of our independence who firmly believed that we had the tenacity, resolve and wherewithal to take full stewardship of our affairs. On 1st August 1976, 14 years after we became independent, supreme authority was transferred from a distant sovereign and entrusted to the people of this nation.

Today, 43 years on, we take stock of our achievements, setbacks and ever-evolving identity. We have experienced the ebb and flow and ups and downs characteristic of a developing society and although we acknowledge these growing pains, we also recognise that we have been spared much of the peril that plagues other young nations in our region and around the world. In the midst of our circumstances, we can stand united by the Republican Constitution which sets out and guarantees our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Republic Day is a fitting occasion on which to acknowledge our responsibility to uphold the rights and dignity of our fellow countrymen even as we celebrate our own and to recommit to our nation’s founding principles of Discipline, Tolerance and Production.

This evening, we will honour those Trinbagonians who embody those principles and exemplify citizenship in its truest form—people who have placed country before self and have nurtured and developed our people and our institutions. The National Awards, now in its 50th year, recognises those individuals who have contributed to our national development and will showcase the dedication, brilliance, creativity, and innovation that exist in our twin nation.

Trinidad and Tobago is a developing nation with a long road ahead. As we celebrate this day, let us renew our understanding of what it means to be a Republic and exude those values in our attitudes, work ethic and civic duties.

I wish the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago a very happy and productive Republic Day.