Before the birth of our nation, a dream stirred deep in the hearts of our people. A dream to build a brighter future with more hope, and inclusion, than the rear-view of our colonial past. This dream fuelled a push for greater local representation; an intense struggle for universal suffrage; and perhaps the most significant of victories with the lowering of the Union Jack. At the core, the vision was much more than gaining the reins to sovereign power— it was also about harnessing that power in order to truly empower every Trinbagonian citizen.
With those reins now firmly planted in our hands, we were given the opportunity to begin again. This change in status presented us with a chance to insert fresh energy and direction into the governance process. It allowed for us to try to develop a style that was more authentic and reflective of the realities of our country and the people who resided in it.
In some ways we are yet to fully maximise this prime opportunity, tethering closer to former and familiar standards, rather than boldly carving a path of our own. We have found ourselves too often along the straits of safe and small, instead of being the trailblazers leading the way.
Those moments when Trinidad and Tobago was audacious, still resonate around the world to this day. It is the marvel of the steelpan, which serves as evidence of our ingenuity to see and extract value, even in the old and discarded. This remains the only new instrument to have been invented in the 20th century, an invention that came courtesy of the Red, White, and Black.
Who can also forget when a country of approximately 1.3 million dared and believed that we could successfully qualify for a FIFA World Cup? A historic qualification which made us the smallest nation in the world to have ever achieved that feat up until Iceland advanced in 2018.
It was Trinidad and Tobago under the astute leadership of the late A.N.R. Robinson that tabled the motion at the UN General Assembly for an International Criminal Court in 1989. This was an idea that Robinson passionately advocated for and led the charge as a leader of a developing country, even earning the stripe as the ‘godfather of the ICC’ in the process.
I reflect on these national achievements as a timely reminder that we are meant to be the vanguards. We are the ones who should be bravely breaking the mould, while welcoming and surmounting the challenges that arise along our development journey.
As we celebrate our anticipated Diamond Jubilee, we must ask ourselves the pertinent question: What type of country should we be after sixty years of Independence?
Sixty is an age often associated with maturity and a strong sense of self. With six decades under the belt, an unshakeable confidence and wisdom are evident from the years of experience. It is my genuine hope that this is the posture we adopt, as a country, and an island, who have been blessed to observe a Diamond Jubilee.
Today also begs the questions: Have we built a country where everyone feels truly independent? Or do some citizens, based on creed or geographical location feel more restricted and dependent than others?
The dream was not solely to attain the power to govern ourselves, but to do so in such a manner that it makes a marked difference in the lives of all citizens. It was to build a Trinidad and Tobago where equity triumphs elitism; a twin-island nation that protects the dignity of all residing within its borders.
Therefore, our celebrations must accompany critical introspection, as we commemorate this significant milestone in our national history. We cannot be afraid to ask the tough questions, or engage in the difficult conversations, for it is only then we can gain a better understanding of our diverse and lived experiences.
Some have been championing the idea that life begins at sixty. If so, we are at a crucial juncture where we can strive to start again. We can breathe new life into the dream that transformed us from a colony, to a country of promise.
The journey from dream to Diamond Jubilee, germinated from the belief that no one can manage and seek our own interests better than ourselves. So remember, as we serve our country, we are ultimately serving ourselves.
On this our 60th Independence Anniversary, I urge every Trinbagonian to recommit to the vision of the first patriots who believed that together much could be achieved for us as a people. Reignite the love and dedication that may have grown cold for your beloved country. Let us stoke the fire once again and vow to push the land of our birth to go farther than ever before.
Happy Independence Day Trinidad and Tobago! May God continue to guide and protect this nation.