Walking off into the sunset to the strains of Differentology.It was to a Defence Force band rendition of Bunji Garlin's We Ready for the Road, that outgoing President George Maxwell Richards and his wife Jean headed home yesterday after the armed forces bid farewell to the commander-in-chief.Richards had served as head of state for two consecutive five-year terms of office.He demitted office yesterday when his second term ended.
The inauguration of Richards' successor, president-elect Anthony T A Carmona, 60, as T&T's fifth head of state, takes place today at 5 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo. Approximately 10,000 guests, including 5,000 students are expected for the two-hour function.Yesterday's demission function by the armed forces was among events to bid farewell to Richards.
The Defence Force event was held on the Queen's Park Savannah roadway outside Knowsley which had been used for various presidential functions in recent years. The road was closed to traffic to accommodate the function,Members of the Defence Force stood at attention in formation facing Knowsley as Richards and his wife arrived, escorted by members of the Mounted Branch.
The function for Richards created a bit of Defence Force history since it was the first time a demission ceremony and the trooping of colours (flags) involved four branches of the Defence Force. Usually there were three.Represented yesterday, however were the president's colours (red), the Regiment (green), the Coast Guard (white) and for the first time, the Air Guard (blue). The Air Guard was recently added.
Max's presidential leaving ceremony
Richards, 82, took the salute and inspected the troops. In prayers for Richards on the completion of his term as commander-in-chief, members of the armed forces gave thanks for his "leadership, wise counsel and his warmth, caring attributes and his friendship and simplicity."
The Defence Force farewell also featured a saxophone solo of Going Home and presentations to both Richards and his wife.Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj presented Richards with several gifts including a large framed pictorical compilation–collage style–of Richards' Defence Force appearances.
Richards thanked the armed forces for their gifts and consideration, wishing them all well.He inspected the troops a final time to the strains of Auld Lang Syne played by the Defence Force band.At the end of the inspection, he was escorted again by the Mounted Branch as well as Major General Maharaj and other top military officials.
Richards, joined by his wife, then walked away from the troops and headed to their official car as the band struck up Bunji's 2013 anthem We Ready for the Road. As the couple walked away, two military helicopters flew low overhead in salute formation to bid farewell to their departing chief as he and his wife headed home.
Professor George Maxwell Richards, TC, CMTT, Ph.d, is a former principal and pro vice chancellor of UWI.He took the oath of office for a first five-year term as president on March 17, 2003. He was inaugurated for a second term on March 17, 2008.
Richards is Professor Emeritus in chemical engineering at the department of chemical Engineering, UWI. He is the recipient of the Trinity Cross, T&T's highest national award and the Chaconia Medal Gold). He is married to Dr Jean Ramjohn, an anaesthesiologist. They have two children, Maxine and Mark.