Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is urging citizens on this independence day to refine their understanding not only of individual rights, but also of their responsibilities.
Here is the full text of Dr Rowley’s Independence Day message.
Fellow citizens, it is my pleasure to extend warm greetings to you on the 59th anniversary of our country’s Independence. These sincere wishes are extended from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, my family, and myself, as Prime Minister.
The word “Independence” carries great significance for every nation as it allows their citizens to stand equally and proudly as members of a nation-state recognised in the international community.
This means that their citizens hold a great obligation of collective, yet individual responsibilities, privileges, duties and rights.
With that, however, comes the charge of each citizen being accountable for his/her individual actions within the nation-state – the magnitude of which a few may not truly understand, or choose to ignore.
In this country, it is a charge our first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams gave the youths of the nation in that famous Youth Rally back in 1962, warning us that: “Your responsibility is… a heavy one. If you shirk it, you betray our Nation. If you fail in that responsibility, you jeopardise your Nation.”
Today, fifty-nine years after, I urge all citizens to seek to refine your understanding not only of your individual rights — but more so your responsibilities.
Then take it further recognising that every citizen is charged, equally, or as one early political theorist wrote that one citizen’s rights begins where another citizen’s end. In other words, we all hold in our hands, very respectfully, the rights and, most importantly, the responsibilities of each other.
Once we fully recognise 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.
I speak of rights, but placing more emphasis on responsibilities, because at this historical point every citizen is being called upon to be alert more so to his/her responsibilities; our very lives and the lives of our children depend upon it.
Our 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.
Recently the “Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change”, sponsored by two United Nations bodies, warned of the worldwide ferocity of global warming, hurricanes, storms, floods, wildfires, droughts, the loss of biodiversity, shrinking glacier ice, marine heatwaves, indiscriminate clearing of forests, pestilences etc —all leading to irreversible damage to “Mother Earth”.
To many, this may seem remote to life in T&T – but we, in the Caribbean, will be touched by unusual weather patterns, floods, decreasing rainfall, freshwater shortages; affecting our agriculture industry; coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, marine heatwaves, and the bleaching of Tobago’s coral reefs, etc.
On the other hand, the past eighteen months have been difficult if not destructive for the world economy, and also our Republic. Our risks have been heightened by both the $5 Billion disbursed on relief measures against the COVID-19 virus, 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.
An unprecedented scenario called for unprecedented responses from everyone. As a people, we have dug deep, tapping into our innate resilience, our strength and shown our ability to adapt and cope with these changes.
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.
First, we 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”.
Entrepreneurship is the key. Our citizens must unlock the Trinbago creativity, passion, and energy. There must be a new mindset, new attitudes, new worldviews, searching every prospect, hungrily and courageously, to build businesses.
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.
As a government, we will provide the necessary support and enabling environment. The recent establishment of the Ministry of Digital Transformation will be mapping our transition towards a digital economy.
Other sectors, some traditional and some new, will receive renewed focus as we will take meaningful steps to build, re-build and create further opportunities.
Through our prudent management, and past good fortune this country has amassed some savings and other buffers which have allowed us to weather the economic storm of the pandemic. This is evident in the recent affirmation of our credit rating by Standard & Poor’s debt rating agency.
As an independent nation, though tiny, we have been players on the world stage, and have established our ability to govern ourselves and hold independent and non-aligned positions in world affairs.
Finally, as Dr. Williams stated: “The strength of the Nation depends on the strength of its citizens”.
Fellow citizens let’s all truly believe and act within these ideals. The national interest, the national cause must always go above and beyond, partisan politics and private interests; it must always be pre-eminent, for in this way we are all better off in all situations and for all times.
Again, I wish all of Trinidad and Tobago a happy and thoughtful Independence Day.
Make a special effort to stay safe and may God continue to Bless Our Nation.