Republic Day Address 2017

National Address By His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona ORTT, SC President Of The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago
On The Occasion Of Our 41st Anniversary Of Republic Day 2017

Good evening fellow citizens,

Tonight, is significant. It is historic. Another symbolic step in raising our national consciousness and pride in a patriotic way that further affirms our Republican status. Tonight, as Chancellor of the National Awards, conferred by the Republican Constitution on the Head of State, men and women who have given yeomen, stellar and distinguished service to the progressive development of our great Nation were recognized at the National Awards Ceremony.

Change is immutable and as much as we want change we often want things to remain the same. Shifting the National Awards Ceremony from Independence Day to Republic Day was constitutionally progressive.

As I have previously stated, Republic Day celebrates our achievements born out of our thirst for self-governance and the desire to determine our future. Independence Day celebrates our adulthood but Republic Day celebrates our coming of age.

I wish to remind our goodly citizens when Trinidad and Tobago achieved Republican status fourteen (14) years after Independence, we no longer owed allegiance to Her Majesty, the Queen of England. This paved the way for National Awards to no longer be conferred constitutionally in the name of Her Majesty but rather in the name of the Head of State, the President, whose constitutional and ceremonial authority and legitimacy are embedded and rooted in the Republican Constitution.

To reiterate, such an Awards Ceremony on Republic day, would raise the national consciousness of our people, deepen our sense of patriotism, give added credence to the Republican Constitution and also bring greater awareness of the true meaning of Republic Day. I wish to commend and thank all the stakeholders, in the majority, involved in various sectors of national life who said a resounding yes to the change, for your support in bringing added significance and credence to the meaning of Republic Day.

As we celebrate the forty-first anniversary of our transition from an Independent Monarchical State, to an Independent Republican State, it is an opportune moment for us to recognize that we all can and must contribute to ensuring that the “Model Nation” that Dr. Slinger Francisco, the Mighty Sparrow sang about, is not a faded memory, steeped in nostalgia. In describing what he observed to be the traditional harmony among the different races, living in a small island space, Sparrow crooned, “It is a miracle all these different people can dwell so well”. “You see, we are educated to love and forget hatred”.

Is this true of Trinidad and Tobago after more than four decades of Republicanism, or are we a work still in progress? Whatever the answer may be, it is important for us to understand that we are all part of a whole, and if we are not, things will fall apart  and “we are all in this thing together”, irrespective of the size of each group that makes up this mosaic called Trinidad and Tobago. We must all work towards guaranteeing that no one group, whether small or large feels alienated, marginalised or lacking in influence when it comes to safeguarding the national interest and patrimony of this blessed Twin-Island State. This is a noble objective and will bring us nearer to accomplishing that goal of Model Nation Status.

I stand firm in my belief that with concerted action, national dialogue and genuine inclusivity, this is possible. We have demonstrated that inclusivity, in some measure, by saluting the descendants of the first or indigenous peoples with the declaration on a national holiday on the 13th of October. The legacy and resilience of the original inhabitants of Trinbago still remains, despite the genocidal wrongs perpetrated against them, many centuries ago.

We must ensure that the beautiful depiction of our land by Mervyn Hodge, the Mighty Sniper in his classic calypso, “Portrait of Trinidad”, is not forgotten but rather is invoked in our daily lives. He sang, “For when we moving, we all move as one body, for our policy stands for racial equality”.

Both of these seminal calypsos, as is the case with other works of art or literature done by very civic-minded and patriotic citizens, are not pie in the sky, unattainable ideals. It is not by coincidence, that the film Green days by the River, based on that seminal novel by Dr Michael Anthony, premiered a few days ago. It is a great coming of age story, a young man’s journey into adulthood, celebrating the pristine values of traditional life that have kept us glued and grounded, as a Nation of wonderful diversity.

In the midst of the prevailing social and economic problems confronting us as a Nation, we must not spend useless time engaged in morbid negativity. We must rather let our positive energy reverse this decline and hold firm with our boast that, “We have boundless faith in our destiny”.

Dear citizens, it is important to demonstrate the will and the courage to return to our traditional and progressive traits, that spirit of ingenuity that has been quintessential in our journey to Republicanism.

Citizens, we must embrace that spirit of transformation which we assumed in the past in times of difficulty. Now is not the time to engage in recitation of pious platitudes, or negativity or pass the buck, or step aside. Instead, I urge you to adopt the approach of the Good Samaritan, who did not turn away, or passed by on the other side, when he saw a stranger in distress. The Good Samaritan got involved and comforted the stranger and provided relief to him. We must be each other’s keeper in both good and bad times.

Now is the stage for us to perform to the best of our ability, to unleash the never say never attitude that we are known for.

I am deeply disturbed, as I have always been, about the scourge of crime and its damaging impact on our national life and psyche.  Are we willing to take up this challenge involved in Nation building, in making our streets and homes safe at all times, in order to tackle and reduce violent crime, which national public surveys identify as the number one problem facing our Nation?  Even if it is not your job to be directly involved, you must petition and cooperate fully with those charged with the responsibility of protecting us so that appropriate policies and action plans could be formulated to rid ‘Trinbago’ of the scourge of crime which continues to impact very negatively on our economic fortunes and general wellbeing.

It must be recognized that despite the fact that there is a transnational element to some of the crimes committed on a daily basis, a significant number of these offences are due to conditions which originate right here in our country. Despite all of the ‘ole talk’, we must individually and collectively ask ourselves, as a Republic, what have we done to combat the indiscipline, the recklessness, the selfishness, the corruption that have not only produced blue collar, but also the white-collar criminals.

Calypsonian Dennis Franklin, The Merchant, a great lyricist in song provides for a sustainable solution to this social dysfunction. “Now more than ever we must show, discipline tolerance and production, to build a strong and better nation, I say, that is the main foundation, so come let us work hand in hand, because this is our land, Come let us build a nation together”.

The move to Republicanism over forty years ago means that sovereignty or power is derived from the will of the people. If you accept this notion, you must employ all lawful means in defending what is right and eschewing what is wrong. One cannot and must not allude or refer to the wrongs of the past, to justify the wrongs of the present. This approach is counterproductive because wrongs must not be repeated under any condition or by any rationale.

Notwithstanding the separation of powers provided under the Republican Constitution, the founding fathers did envision levels of cooperation among the different branches of Government in matters that are germane to the welfare of all citizens. It is in your interest, dear brothers and sisters, to become watchdogs and demonstrate patriotic fervour, and request that the relevant authorities work together to resolve issues affecting the entire Trinbagonian family, if you feel that this is not being done. You must remember that you are a citizen, and with citizenship comes both burdens, benefits and responsibilities.

As we celebrate Republic Day, we must spare our thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean who have become victims of the most severe effects of Climate Change with record breaking hurricanes of tremendous intensity.   We too have seen with our flooded streets, the impact of that growing dilemma.

Many of our citizens can trace their ancestry to the territories affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and as such, we must marshal our resources, as limited as they might be, to provide humanitarian assistance to our CARICOM neighbours, in true solidarity and in the CARICOM spirit because Calypsonian Merchant also reminds us that there is a Caribbean Connection, “For we are one people, one destination”.

I wish once more to refer to words of wisdom bequeathed to us by our poets, our calypsonians, who are sometimes prophetic in their interaction with us. Winston Bailey, the Mighty Shadow, who has been referred to as the William Blake of calypso, also recognized that you cannot build a whole if all the parts are not included, if everyone is not given a chance to make a difference. In his provocative rendition: “Everybody is somebody”, he postulated that:

“If a man is born in luxury they prove to me through history, he is somebody, and if a man is born in poverty, starvation and misery, he is nobody, when a woman makes her son or daughter, from the time that child is born, he or she is somebody. Everybody is somebody; nobody is nobody, the pauper or the wealthy”.

It is my sincere hope, it is my prayer that you accept that everybody is indeed somebody and eradicate all forms of prejudice. To build a model nation, to construct a strong and better nation, we must bring all into the fold. Mother Trinidad and Tobago has no second-class citizens, and as such, she should not discriminate against her children regardless of their circumstances as we engage in the process of renewal and transformation.

It must be further stated that the people are not the servants of the politicians but rather the politicians are the servants of the people. I have stated it and I will state it again and again, a progressive democracy must always be girth with service leadership rather than power leadership. We must get into the business of holding hands rather than shaking hands. We must therefore not fall prey to the ravages of cult politics or identity politics, see what my party can do for me, or what I can do for my party and if I get the time, or have some free time, maybe, I can see what I can do for the country and give them a bligh. Cult politics and identity politics muster an unholy alliance with silence in the face of wrong. Our citizens must therefore not become slaves to the political parties they support or are aligned to. When you are placed in the hallways of influential institutions or the corridors of power, the country is first always, and there must be no ambivalence or reticence on this. Leaders, wherever you are in the national landscape, you must embolden citizens at all times to reach for heights seemingly unattainable and if this is done, not only a country will grow but it will also have the capacity to meet the challenges that accrue.

I wish to salute those Trinbagonians with a genuine concern about our country, concerns grounded in a firm belief that this country can truly aspire to greatness. We might be in some straits economically, but as a Nation, we are still blessed with much, and the hard truth is that we must manage our resources in an efficient, sustainable and socially sensitive manner. Individually and collectively, we must not be impervious to great ideas and boundless vision even though they emanate outside our circle of friends, colleagues and affiliates. Solutions to the problems of this country are in bountiful supply, but persons in authority and in leadership positions must be prepared to not only listen but to hear from ground zero up.

This country demands genuine collaboration and cooperation among all its leaders and we must not become a democracy obsessed with the separation of powers to the extent that short thrift is given to the interdependence of powers under the Republican Constitution. At the inauguration of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on January 26th, 2017, I alluded to the importance of the interdependence of powers being a critical component of efficient working governance and all-inclusive democracy and if I may, I need to remind our elected and appointed officials that the Parliament is not a battle field for scoring points which benefits no one but political and individual egos. The Parliament is about the people’s business, the people’s concerns and the people’s demand for answers and solutions that will carry us forward as a Nation. The people depend on you to do right to all manner of persons without exception.

My dear citizens, on this Republic day, the world is in a worrying place. As we look on, two major State Powers engage in sabre rattling and we pray that the swords do not leave their sheaths for it can result in untold catastrophe for Mother Earth. If nuclear war breaks out there will be no winners, for who really wins a war when millions die. As Small Island Developing States (SIDS), we in the Caribbean will be most vulnerable to nuclear toxicity given our tourist-based economies and fragile marine environment. No one can bathe in a radioactive sea and no one can be fed with radioactive fishes. CARICOM should possibly consider more proactive international diplomacy under the umbrella of international mediation for international peace and harmony made more relevant by the fact that the International Day of Peace was celebrated on the 21st  of September. It is no longer an issue of state sovereignty but about world sovereignty and the very existance of mankind.

Finally to our marvellous young people, I want to further encourage and commend you all for your generational responsibility displayed and being adverse to that philosophy of neglect and indifference by some of our adult population. As it relates to our environment, our young people continue to lead the way championing issues as it relates to sustainable economic revival through innovation, invention and technology, the rights of persons with disabilities, cybercrime, vagrancy and crime by the awesome presence and power of peace marches.

My dear citizens, Republic Day is just not a holiday. It is a strong statement, a veritable testament to a birth-right that has matured and with that maturity we are given the responsibility to create the required vision and to set a prospective generational course. In so doing, we must not fall prey to a seeming culture of complacency. We therefore must not and cannot sit on our laurels, with folded arms, hoping for and praying for the best. Our response to the challenging times we face demand an added sense of urgency, immediacy and transformational vision.  Yes, a vision that empowers the citizenry with the human spirit and resilience to do what is required of each of us and by each of us. The human edifice, in each of us, must therefore not diminish in the face of the structural or economic crises or challenges. Those who are have been blessed with more, must give more. Those who work less, must work harder.

Our Republican Constitution must continue to be our guiding light, respect for the principles of justice, an economic system that will result in the material resources so distributed to sub-serve the common good, that labour should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions and that for all of our citizens there must be an opportunity for advancement on the basis of merit, ability and integrity. Republicanism demands that we must support and preserve the dignity of the human person, acknowledge the supremacy of God, ensuring that we protect the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by our Creator.

On behalf of my Wife Reema, son Christian and daughter Anura Happy Republic Day 2017 to all at home and abroad.