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The President's 2009 Republic Day Message
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2009

Address to the Nation by His Excellency Professor George Maxwell
Richards TC, CMT, Ph. D, President of the Republic of Trinidad and
Tobago, on the Occasion of Republic Day, Thursday 24th September,

Fellow Citizens

At the outset, let me wish you all a happy Republic Day, 2009. These greetings go also, to the diaspora and to all who have adopted our beloved country as their own.

This Republic Day comes at a time when convulsions are taking place, all over the world. And we have not been spared. While the world-wide economic downturn has not, so far, impacted us, as severely as it has other countries, we must maintain caution, lest our decisions, in this regard, move us into crisis, even as there are indications that the situation is easing, in other parts of the world.

Our cushion against fallout from international developments, which inevitably affect us, is not merely the presence of what may be regarded as adequate reserves, of money or natural resources. It goes beyond, for example, to policy decisions that ensure responsible fiscal arrangements, for the purpose of maintaining a healthy economic climate which is essential to our future development. I have no doubt that we are capable of doing what is right.

In the current circumstances, we have been able, thus far, to stave off the worst results of the economic upheavals that hover and I am persuaded that this is not happening by chance. It flows from the fact that, over the years, we have acquired expertise which has enabled us to be in a position to manage our resources, in such a way, that we could keep on the path of development.

This is a part of the continuing process of education required for consolidating our independent status, as we chart our course and, in this process, we must be ever mindful of the quality of person that we produce – quality, defined not only in academic terms or in terms of skills. Our schools and homes have nurtured many excellent sons and daughters, who, by their diligence in their respective fields of endeavour, have achieved positive results for Trinidad and Tobago, over the years, at home and abroad.

We have benefited from the collaborative efforts of home, school, religious bodies and communities, in that, among our nationals, we can identify many persons of solid character. Though some of them have, the majority of them have not achieved national or international prominence, and perhaps never will. But they are people whom I would describe as “the salt of the earth” and on whom we can still rely to be true to their responsibility as nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. They are ordinary people who can be found in every village, every town and every city.

They do not have mere self interest at heart, but, by seeing the larger picture, they are able to eschew personal choices and comfort, for the greater good. Their duty to themselves and to their families and friends is acted out in the context of the requirement of sacrifice, sometimes, so that more of us might share in what our country has to offer, in every aspect.

This could not have been possible without the freedom to explore and to debate the myriad questions that would have confronted our fledgling nation and some of which still arise, today. Those who were laying the foundation, had to be bold in their vision for our country, as individuals and also as part of a collective, in positions of leadership.

It was not always smooth sailing. There was bound to be conflict and many, as private individuals, politicians or public servants, in spite of their best intentions, found themselves on the wrong side of the debate, with attendant consequences. The fact remains, though, that they were true to themselves and over time, their contribution to the making of our history, including their lack of better judgment, even at the highest level, sometimes, is being told and will continue to be told.

It is this legacy of freedom to explore and debate that must be maintained for
succeeding generations. Without it, we would stifle participation, on the widest possible scale, in the maturing of our nation. The work of our predecessors would then have been in vain and the education of which we boast would be pointless, in so far as nation building is concerned.

I recall the Independence debate and that, in the final analysis, opposing forces came together and proceeded to Marlborough House, in a joint effort, to secure terms for the Independence of Trinidad and Tobago, in 1962. The decision that we took, in 1976, took our independent status one step further, when we decided to adopt a republican constitution. Our responsibility to ourselves, as a people and to the world, as a part of the international community, was no longer shared with a mother country. Our readiness for that responsibility was never in question. That remains so, as does the validity of our motivation in becoming a republic, a status, having to do with how we are governed, that is yet to be plainly understood by many of us, including our children. As we celebrate our thirty-third year as a republic, we are not as educated as we might be concerning our institutions and it is a void that needs to be filled.

As a country in process of development, we have been spared armed conflict, in taking our independence and in maintaining it. This is very different from the history of many nations and different from today’s reality, within and among many of them. It is a fact that we must not take for granted.

We have been blessed, at the grassroots level, in particular, with understanding among our people of different races, religious persuasions and interests. The wisdom of our people has kept us, to a great extent, as an example of harmony in diversity and this we ought to guard, jealously, against the machinations of any persons or groups. We would do ourselves a grave disservice if we were to allow the brotherhood and sisterhood of our men and women to be wrested from us, for any cause whatever.

In times past, we have shown, as a nation, that we are capable of settling our business, among ourselves. We have pulled back from the brink, in critical situations, and, make no mistake, critical situations will continue to arise, as long as we exist. Each individual has a duty to understand his or her particular role, when crisis looms or is evident, and this applies in personal situations, as it does when the nation is affected.

With this in mind, let us contemplate where we find ourselves in terms of our nationhood, in the year 2009. I have no intention of seeing things through the proverbial rose-coloured glasses, but I do not wish to use this opportunity to belabour the points that assail us, on a daily basis, concerning our serious shortcomings. Each one of us must know what we can do, in our space, to contribute to the fixing of things.

Let us take account of those things that we can do better and do them better. Let us change what we must. Let us celebrate those things that we have accomplished and continue to do what we are doing well. Above all, as we make honest assessment of where we are, as a nation, let us determine not to abandon the spirit of our constitution, which includes our declaration, as a people, for respect for the principles of social justice; for our right to play a part in the institutions of national life, maintaining due respect for lawfully constituted authority; and our affirmation that “the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, faith in fundamental rights and freedoms, the position of the family in a society of free men and institutions, the dignity of the human person and the equal and inalienable rights with which all members of the human family are endowed by their Creator”.

Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good night and may God bless our nation.

From the office of Government Information Services Ltd. (GISL)

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