Although some people are of the view that we have nothing to celebrate today because they believe we are a failed state, I choose to focus on the fact that we are a nation with great potential and should not allow ourselves to be written off because we have got lost along the way after gaining Independence. I hasten to add however, that if we continue moving in a rudderless fashion, we will find it difficult, if not impossible, to develop our country on the basis of the founding principles of discipline, production, tolerance and honesty. Unfortunately, we are fast becoming a nation known for its crime and corruption and while our Carnival is admittedly one of the best in the world, there is need for us to distinguish our people as more than just “warm and fun-loving.” It is of concern, that after 50 years of independence, having been given four pillars upon which to develop our Nation, we cannot take pride in having achieved greatness or at the very least, a passing grade in any of the noble virtues that were meant to build and advance our country. Can we really describe ourselves as “disciplined” when lawlessness abounds? How productive are we, when people are receiving money under false pretences or prepared to slack off on the job while others toil tirelessly to get the work done? Are we truly a nation in which “every creed and race finds an equal place” when there are some ethnic groups that still feel marginalised?
The reality is that having been given the onerous task of building our nation on the four stated principles, the blueprint was lost and the politics became corrupt, with the welfare of the nation being compromised in the name of selfish ambition. It is therefore not surprising that after 50 years, there are still shameful public squabbles amongst leaders that prove beyond reasonable doubt that there exists a political divide that is widening and which carries the risk of causing further societal disharmony and decay. It is a great embarrassment that, as we celebrate this auspicious jubilee occasion, some politicians are putting self before country. Some have withdrawn support or refused to participate in major Independence Day events on the grounds of being misled or not being consulted. This is a telling indictment about the unacceptable state of affairs of this nation. All this bacchanal, which has no place in a celebration as auspicious as our 50th year as an independent nation, could have been avoided if an independent, non-partisan committee had been appointed to organise and oversee events deemed suitable for marking this important historical landmark. Instead we are bombarded with headlines that speak to the political immaturity of our leaders. This is a time when we should be showcasing the best, and not the worst sides of our people. It is not too late, though, at this 99th hour, to set things right but it will call for responsible and dynamic leadership and healthy compromise for the sake of the nation.
What lessons are we giving to the youth upon whom we depend to take the nation forward? How the heads of those who had and those who still have great hopes and dreams for this young nation must be shaking in disgust at what is taking place mere hours before the historic celebration. But before I am accused of being a party pooper, let me categorically state that we can get our affairs in order, provided we admit that we have lost our way and need to get back on track. This is the time for us to consider matters such as constitutional reform and the full acceptance of the Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate Court. Upon attaining Independence, there was no turning back and therefore we have no choice but to march forward confidently. But right now, the footage shows that some are standing at ease, others have left the field and many are marching embarrassingly out of time.
And finally, let us remember that we must not be part of the blame game. As citizens, we carry the ultimate responsibility to protect and safeguard the interest of our nation. We are a democracy in which the voice of the people is the most important check and balance for any government. If we live in silence and refuse to speak up and speak out when there is injustice, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the demise of our nation. May we regard our 50th year of independence as a time of celebration and reflection. May God bless our nation.