My brothers and sisters, the people of this island have every reason to be proud of their contribution to the nation’s development over the years. Former President, Prime Minister and Tobago House of Assembly Chairman Arthur N. R. Robinson; late Commissioners of Police Eustace Bernard and Hilton Guy, former Heads of the Public Service, Dodridge Alleyne and Reginald Dumas; cultural icon Dr. J. D. Elder; former Governor of the Central Bank Victor E. Bruce; educator Lionel P. Mitchell; Entertainers Calypso Rose, Lord Nelson and Shadow; footballer Dwight Yorke and athletes of recent vintage, Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Lalonde Gordon, Renny Quow, Semoy Hackett and Joseanne Lucas – these are just some of the high-profile Tobagonians who have made significant contributions in building the nation and enhancing its regional and internal stature.

     Tobagonians have also blended their unique qualities into the national mix and have contributed to the fascinating mosaic that identifies this country as one of the most intriguing national entities in the region. We need to introspect and determine if we have retained those qualities of devotion to duty, pride in performance, loyalty to family and community, confidence in self and belief in God that enabled our fore-parents to cope with their particular environment. These are the qualities which engendered respect, even admiration throughout the country. If we lose these Tobago values, the Tobago spirit, we do a disservice, not only to ourselves, but to a country which needs committed, self-reliant, focused and confident men and women if it is going to realize its full potential over the next 50 years.

     Tobago’s potential for significant contribution to the national economy must also remain a priority. The Tobago House of Assembly is committed to the development and diversification of the tourism sector, while ensuring that our pristine environment is maintained. The issues of environmental degradation, and climate change will continue to challenge us. Battling such global problems requires concerted action, not only by the Assembly, the Central Government and regional and international entities, but by all residents of, and visitors to, Tobago.

     The diversification of the Tobago economy will continue under this administration. More Tobagonians have to return to the land and Tobagonians must be prepared and outfitted to derive more benefit from the sea. The availability of energy resources in the waters surrounding Tobago must improve our negotiating position on the national stage but, more importantly, the potential for the use of natural gas could within the next two decades provide the catalyst to develop and market Tobago as a genuine green island.

     The welfare of the Tobago child, the Tobago youth, is still our major challenge and our major priority. A number of initiatives including the recently launched Youth Energised for Success Programme, the Financial Assistance Programme, the Young Adults Home Ownership Savings Programme and the Lalonde Gordon Sports Development Programme, in tribute to our Olympic Bronze Medallist, are all geared towards the preparation and energising of the island’s young people. We remain aware that just as it was 50 years ago, the future of our independent nation lies in their school bags, and maybe today, their computers. We must therefore prepare them so that as we “entrust the future of our nation” into the “tender and loving hands” of our youths; they will be capable of maintaining and even enhancing “the pride of our nation” over the next five decades.

     We will continue to celebrate but we must continue to reflect. We have come a long way since 1962 but we have a long and challenging journey ahead. Yet it is a journey which is also exciting and full of opportunity. Let us be strengthened, encouraged and informed by the lessons of the past 50 years, so that, as an island, a country and a people, we will be even better prepared to contribute to the development of the sovereign democratic state of Trinidad and Tobago.

     Happy anniversary and May God bless our nation.

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