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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced yesterday that the Government has agreed to celebrate the life of former South African president Nelson Mandela on a day early next year. The day, which is to be announced as a public holiday, will be aptly declared Mandela Day in T&T. Making the announcement in the Lower House yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said: “With the co-operation of leading scholars, historians and relevant historians, we will organise a public symposium on the life and lessons of Nelson Mandela.
“This morning we had discussions with Professor Ken Ramchand, who has agreed to contribute his expertise to this effort.” The PM said the message of Mandela, who died on Thursday after prolonged complications with a lung infection, will be presented through presentations, enactments, video clips and photographs, and all of the material, including a specially compiled booklet, will be recorded, preserved and made available for posterity and study, particularly by younger politicians, students and teachers.
The PM said she also planned to travel to South Africa for Mandela’s funeral on December 15 and extended an invitation to Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley to join her as part of the T&T delegation. Ramchand had first suggested this type of celebration on his Internet blog hours after it was announced that the South African leader, known as Madiba by his countrymen, had died at the age of 95 on Thursday.
He wrote, “It would be fitting and creative for us to declare a Nelson Mandela Appreciation Day sometime in January and talk among ourselves and to our young people about the meaning of Mandela for us and, automatically, for the world.” His comments led to discussions with others, many of whom agreed with the suggestion, seeing it a novel way for the country to celebrate the life of a man seen as a world icon.
Efforts to reach Ramchand for further comment were unsuccessful last night as calls to his cellphone went unanswered. In the Parliament yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said Mandela is not merely to be deeply admired and revered, but is to be studied and emulated in deed. “His pertinent lessons, encompassing so many spheres of life, must be preserved and taught for generations,” she said.
“Nelson Mandela eschewed being regarded as an icon, but his sheer greatness places him in a unique and very selected pantheon of really great world figures.” She said, “It is with profound sadness and respect I rise to place on record the sad passing of a towering, colossal and beloved world figure.” The PM said she remembered the indescribable experience of meeting Mandela at the official state function during his visit to T&T in 2004 and would forever remember the sheer calm, humility, charisma and magnetism he exuded.
“South Africa has lost its greatest son,” she said. “The nations throughout the world, including us in T&T, have lost one of the most powerful and influential beacons of hope, spirituality and moral guidance we have been privileged to have had among us.”
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