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MESSAGE FROM ABOVE
When the President speaks we should listen actively, especially if, “according to plan,” it would be “the last time that such a privilege was being afforded” to the particular individual currently holding the highest position in the land.
It would have been foolish for anybody to have expected the President to bat boldly out of his crease for although this may well be his last “throne speech,” the circumstance did not warrant a departure from the convention that the President should never descend into the realm of politics. As should have been anticipated by those well acquainted with parliamentary procedure and, most important, the provisions of our Constitution, the President stuck to his script and spoke in the most “presidential” fashion. It must be appreciated that the President is an outstanding academic who does not reside in an ivory tower oblivious to the concerns of the citizenry. In his speech, the President raised several matters that should be of national concern and suggested the approach that ought to be adopted when resolving these issues of state.
According to the oath, the President is charged with the responsibility, to the best of his ability, to “preserve and defend the Constitution and the law” and to devote himself “to the service and well-being of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.” The President of the Republic had to ensure that his statement on the auspicious ceremonial opening of Parliament was relevant to the current socio-economic landscape and truly reflective of the state of the nation. There was no hiding the fact that the President chose his words wisely and delivered powerful messages on several themes. The golden thread that ran throughout his discourse was the importance of adhering to the provisions of our Constitution which, if allowed to properly inform the decision-making process, would lead to the achievement of the high and noble principles on which our republic is founded. The President urged leaders to better appreciate the meaning of the social contract between themselves and the people and the fact that the commitment to represent the interests of all the people should not be an empty promise created specifically for electoral consumption on the campaign trail. The matter of equal opportunity was raised and the necessity for meritocracy to reign supreme in the context of equality of opportunity. And the further point that once equal opportunity for all the people was achieved, then each individual would have to take responsibility for his success or failure.
It was this type of informative analysis which is often missing in the speeches of politicians that made the words of the President even more appealing to the ears. We still suffer the ill-effects of a brain drain and much more has to be done to stop the exodus of the wealth of talent that leaves our shores to reside in foreign locations. At this critical time of our growth, it is imperative that we provide a healthy environment that enables citizens to reach their highest potential. No citizen must feel that he is not appreciated or respected in his own land. The President has challenged us to change our current course of becoming a download nation and instead aspire, as we have done in the past with the invention of the steel pan, to be innovators rather than consumers. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister misinterpreted the observation, and used our international recognition as a diverse, multi-talented and harmonious people to respectfully agree to disagree with the President. The reference by His Excellency to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson was meant to incite our creative and intellectual genius, so that we could be a part of this exciting time in scientific history.
It is for this reason, the President emphasised that in order for the University of the West Indies, including the St Augustine Campus and the University of T&T, to achieve success, “the independence of the university must be untrammelled and independent thinking allowed to flourish.” The President expressed concern about the unprecedented level of criminal activity and gave sage advice that zeal must be tempered with adherence to due process.
The fact that no significant strides have been made in reducing crime is a great disturbance to all law-abiding citizens and it is hoped that Minister Warner, who has already hit the ground running, will listen to those who are competent to assist him in the mammoth task that he has been assigned. Our challenges as a relatively young nation are not going to be overcome overnight, but if we remain with open minds, acting at all times in good conscience, then we will have reason to celebrate way beyond our 50 years of independence.
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