New Year’s Message by Chief Secretary the Honourable Farley Augustine

Bated breath, not bells and whistles, ushered in the arrival of 2021. Many felt that the year was destined to be a sequel of the one that went before, but longed deeply for a fresh start. With an early serving of unforgettable moments, including a historic 6-6 deadlock, 2021 signalled that another pivotal chapter was being penned for the history books.

The past year was perhaps the most seminal for Tobago in recent memory. From January to December, we entered one of the most gruelling campaign periods ever experienced across this small island, which saw expansion of democratic representation within the Tobago House of Assembly. The prolonged fight against an unrelenting pandemic also continued with additional lockdowns; sustained social distancing; and the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. But, even in the midst of our challenges, we were still able to dig deep, and render much needed support to our neighbours in St. Vincent and the Grenadines following the untimely eruption of La Soufrière.

Like its predecessor, 2021 was one when the surreal became reality and tested the bandwidth of our resolve. And while this year provided no shortage of twists and turns, it has also set us along a new path.

As we approach the start of a new year, I want to encourage us to ponder a bit more on the journey and destination of our beloved island. I am asking you to reflect on the years gone by, and to also look forward; to dare yourselves to dream once again; to be rapt by the creative power of your imagination; and to envision a Tobago of new and endless possibilities. I want you to understand that together, we are more than capable of shaping a new narrative, and future for this island. Together, we can truly move Tobago from a space touted for its potential, to one of sustained progress, productivity, and prosperity. So, this year, don’t just spend time creating a personal resolution, put some thought into a Tobago Resolution as well – a collective vision you would like to see this island achieve.

There is truly no better time for a Tobago Resolution than now, when so many of us are extremely intentional about the future, and a new administration has taken the helm at the Tobago House of Assembly. Therefore, it is a befitting time to begin an inclusive process of conceptualising a shared vision that can be built upon as we move forward.

This is an exercise that I want to really encourage the participation of every Tobagonian, and every resident in this space. It requires the contribution from multiple spheres and various stakeholders. The formulation of a Tobago Resolution is not just for the academically inclined; it is not reserved for those wielding influence and authority; it is a task for all of us. Whether young or old; near or far; your participation is sincerely welcomed. In essence, it is about starting an important social dialogue amongst ourselves, which respects each voice.

As the popular proverb says, ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’ In other words, there must be an outlook to work towards, and to guide us in the same direction.  Without vision, we stand still; we may even waste our energies; and deplete valuable resources. Or as we often say in local parlance, ‘yuh spinning top in mud.’

Brothers and sisters, the opposite of that proverb is also true. The vision also perishes, without the presence of the people. While there is usually no shortage of visions in matters of development; there is often lack of visions that truly reflect the will and aspirations of the people.

In order to effectively lead, one must first be willing to listen. A leader must be prepared to put his ear down to the ground, in an effort to better discern the wants and fears of the people. Therefore, our plans to move Tobago forward must align with your hopes and dreams.

Already, we have communicated some of those plans to transform and forge a more competitive island. We have shared our ideas to build a Tobago space that is economically resilient from Scarborough, to even the remote communities. We are indeed focused on building a Tobago where our self-determination soars high, and the dignity of our people remains well protected.

However, as we begin the groundwork to build a new reality, we must also be realistic. We must acknowledge that there will in fact be differences in our goals and wishes for this island. However, we must remember in those moments that our shared values will forever be stronger than any of our individual differences.

While I am asking you to envision a new and brighter future, I must also remind you that no dream can be accomplished without the drive. This means that a Tobago eager to make its mark on the globe, will require more than political will— it will also demand the tenacity and will of the people.

So, it is time to ask ourselves the crucial question: ‘What do we resolve to do as an island?’ The time is now for us to genuinely think about it. This initial stage does not require much complexity, but a pure willingness to dream beyond what the physical eye can see. It is time to get working on a transformative Tobago Resolution and step confidently into the new year.

I pray that 2022 is a time of ease and rebuilding for this promising island. A year that we continue to rise up in spite of our challenges! Happy New Year Trinidad and Tobago.  May eternal blessings be upon us!

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