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Republic Day Message from President Anthony Carmona
Fellow citizens of this blessed Republic, good evening.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the thirty-seventh anniversary of Republic Day and if we are honest, we will admit that, in the minds of many of us, there exists some uncertainty and ambivalence about the significance of this day and about the benefits of being a Republic. Many may ask, “What exactly are we celebrating? What have we gained by becoming a Republic as opposed to remaining an Independent nation? What is the real difference between Independence Day and Republic Day?”
When our nation achieved its independence in 1962, power was transferred from the British crown to the people of Trinidad and Tobago as then Governor, Sir Solomon Hochoy and Premier, Dr. Eric Williams became our first Governor-General and Prime Minister, respectively. As an Independent nation, we now had, inter alia, our own national emblems and symbols, an Independence Constitution and Defence Force. Nonetheless, the British Monarchy reigned, as Her Majesty the Queen remained the ceremonial Head of State and by extension, Queen of Trinidad and Tobago. We, therefore, still owed allegiance to her. Additionally, the Privy Council remained the highest appellate court. Regrettably, in this area we have yet to achieve full judicial independence.
It was not until Trinidad and Tobago became a Republic, fourteen years later, that we no longer owed allegiance to the Queen but now possessed the right to choose our own Head of State, an elected President sworn to uphold a new and indigenously drafted Republican Constitution. On August 1st 1976, we therefore gained total control of our own destiny as a sovereign nation among the Commonwealth of Nations.
Perhaps the key difference between Independence Day and Republic Day is that Independence Day commemorates the road to freedom from colonial rule – which in our case was a relatively peaceful one – while Republic Day celebrates our achievements born out of our thirst for self-governance and the desire to determine our future. Independence Day celebrates the birth of our nation but Republic Day celebrates our adulthood, our coming of age.
Tomorrow, as we commemorate Republic Day, we have every reason to be proud of these past thirty-seven years of self-determination. Our willingness to take full responsibility for our country’s future required great bravery, and history will show us to be a courageous people. Admittedly, we have made mistakes, our own mistakes, but maturity is often born out of mistakes both made and learned from. On the other hand, we have also had great successes and have experienced the exhilaration of taking full ownership of those victories. Even a fleeting comparison of our nation with other nations that have histories as short as ours, ought to serve as an encouraging reminder to us of how relatively well we have done as a nation, holding our own, creating and maintaining a vibrant and peaceful democracy where many larger and older nations have failed to so do.
Fellow citizens, in a little over half a century, we have progressed from a colony to an independent nation and finally, a young Republic. No longer are we striving as a people for the right to self-governance. This we have already achieved and we have become accustomed to governing ourselves. However, there is a need to rededicate ourselves. We need to rededicate ourselves to striving for excellence in self-governance. It is imperative that we also rededicate ourselves to our national watchwords of Discipline, Production and Tolerance, given to us over half a century ago.
By infusing new life into these watchwords, our nation can regain its sense of humanity. A return to tolerance will make us a more understanding people. A return to discipline will help us to appreciate the need to engage standards. A return to production will result in a greater sense of fulfilment of the dreams and aspirations of all members of our society. Indeed, these are the keys to our upliftment as a nation.
As this Republic approaches middle-age, I encourage all citizens, by your individual contributions, to collectively reflect the maturity of a more productive, more disciplined, more tolerant and a more caring Trinidad and Tobago.
Before closing, I wish to join with the family, friends and fans of the “The Birdie”, “The Calypso King of the World”, Dr. Slinger Francisco, “The Mighty Sparrow”, in wishing him a complete and speedy recovery. As all of South Africa rallied around former President Nelson Mandela within recent months, so too I have seen and heard countless citizens and fans in the Caribbean and worldwide on ‘Sparrow-watch’, rallying around this cultural ambassador par excellence, who has become an indelible part of our national identity. The nation’s prayers are with you, Dr. Slinger Francisco.
Finally, on behalf of my family and on my own behalf, I wish all citizens, both here and abroad, a Happy Republic Day 2013.
May God continue to richly bless our beloved Republic. Thank you.