Message to the nation from the Prime Minister on Republic Day 2019

Today, as we observe the forty-third (43rd) anniversary of the founding of our Republic, as we commemorate this anniversary, I ask that we consider the significance of its observance as a national holiday and its importance in unifying us as a people, considering also the recent celebration of our 57th Independence.

Let us make this a reflective occasion in which we honour the sacred traditions and values of our democracy, reaffirming our commitment to mutual respect, tolerance, freedom and equality among all citizens.

Above all, let this day be an occasion to recognize the bounties of our land, as well as the spirit and resilience of our people.

Republican status has allowed this country to chart its own course, and to determine, through the checks and balances of independent institutions, how we should be governed, and how we are recognised by the international community, as a proud and truly independent-thinking people.  

The foundation of this country and all that we stand for was laid out within our Constitution, that document crafted by Trinidad and Tobago nationals, who worked together to outline our basic principles and aspirations. Today, we can say that we have derived, in great measure, our togetherness from those values enshrined in our Constitution.

We must always be prepared to defend this country from those who would diminish or dismiss us in the variety of ways that this may be presented. Loving and caring for Trinidad and Tobago is an assignment for each of us, one that we cannot pass on to others whether local or foreign.

The 1976 Republican Constitution has given us also to some degree a maturity that now we can envision, and outline a framework for the creation of a New Society.

I want you to remember that today we hold that power.

As a sovereign nation, it is within the hands of every citizen to determine  both the future he or she wants for themselves and the legacy we all want to pass on to future generations.

This country continues to face some economic challenges, such as falling energy prices, production and consequently revenues, which continue to threaten the quality of our lives.

Another area of my concern, deserving of a national conversation, is that of our youth. There are reports which describe some youths as discontented, cynical, bored, violent, aimless and idle. Such a description fits the profile of the socially-disengaged youth which is a feature which is appearing, worldwide.  In Trinidad and Tobago, our home, this land of rich history and much promise we still see many of our citizens in significant positions throughout the world.

We continue to make contributions in almost every human experience. To this end I wish to pay tribute to our athletes. In March, our team brought home 56 medals for the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi; at the Pan Am games last month, we received 13 medals, the second highest in the Caribbean, and our cyclists, created history, competing against each other in the finals, bringing home Gold and Silver medals.

However, there is a need for further empirical work on our youths to enhance our policies and to engage them in very many ways which would instil pride and responsibility into their lives.

It is an area deserving of open discussion, particularly as the language of millennials in the globalised, digital world of the 21st Century is about creating New Societies, using artificial intelligence, 5G-enabled applications, the Internet of Things, radical innovations, technologies, creative lifestyles and, most importantly, new jobs.

Let me reassure you that for the past four years your Government has been putting things in place towards achieving this vision of a New Society. You have seen us passing the legislation to curtail crime and corruption.  Expanded judicial space is being created at the current parliamentary chambers at the International Waterfront Centre, once the refurbishment works at the Red House are completed.  This will move the management of civil matters away from the Hall of Justice, ensuring that the backlog of cases is cleared up, allowing for the swift delivery of justice.

With reduced national revenues we still continue to build and repair highways, bridges, healthcare facilities, schools and community centres and continue to improve the delivery of key government services to citizens.

This work redounds to the benefit of not just this generation, but all generations to come. These actions are part of your government’s thrust toward the New Society and merging all of Trinidad and Tobago as one -- to the benefit of us all.

The building of the New Society is not a job for politicians alone. The New Society is one in which every citizen of this country becomes involved in shaping his/her future in our nation: a place where every citizen will see his/her individual responsibility to keep our streets clean, our communities crime-free, our roadways safe and our children safe and free from abuse and neglect.

A New Society is a kinder society, in which we respect each other and ourselves.

Republic Day stands as our reminder that with freedom comes responsibility. The hard-won freedom to govern ourselves is accompanied by a need for civic responsibility, empathy for one another, and a sense of genuine national pride, with boundless faith in our destiny.

Happy Republic Day.

Dr Keith Rowley,

Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

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