Statement by Political Leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Kamla Persad Bissessar, MP, SC, on the occasion of Independence 2020.
As we mark the 58th anniversary of our nation’s independence, we do so in a time of great uncertainty. COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of life and living and presents us with many new challenges. We are now, each of us, called upon to adapt, to change the way we operate, to evolve in our thinking and our modes of operation.
Business unusual is now the new normal. Nonetheless, despite dark days ahead, remember there is always hope that even the darkest day must end, and the sun will rise again.
As we reflect on the significant achievements we have made in 58 years, we can be proud of the strength, courage, and resilience of our citizens and residents, who have stood together in times of adversity to overcome challenges presented to us. And so, I do not just offer just the usual greetings but also thank everyone for the role played in the enhancement of the people of our nation. No task was too small or too grand. So many have contributed to the beautiful creation and advancement of our twin-island Republic.
We are indeed but a speck on the global scale, but that should never impede achieving greatness. The past 58 years have taught us that. As a young fledgling nation, not even 60 years old, we have been able to accomplish feats equivalent to some of the best in the world.
But then, we must ask, what good is a global achievement when we have citizens who are still excluded and marginalised in our own country? Today we have thousands of our citizens, from urban Scarborough to rural Barrackpore, who continue to struggle, to look on helplessly as opportunities are taken from them, as the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen.
What good are the hundreds of achievements putting our tiny nation on a global scale when we have children without equal access to education? It is indeed sad that a government lacking in vision scrapped the laptop programme, which, in today’s environment, would have enabled thousands of children to participate fully in the transition to online learning. Likewise, a visionless government scrapped so may initiatives designed to give citizens a hand up, choosing instead to push citizens down into poverty.
We cannot hope to advance as a nation if we do not unite to address the many challenges confronting us. Without unity, survival at the very least and prosperity at the very most is never possible.
On this 58th anniversary of being an independent nation, let us cast off the old tactics used by the colonists of dividing to rule once and for all. Let us learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them. Let us use this Independence Day to ignite a spirit of unity. A difference in political opinion, a difference in religious beliefs, a difference in ethnicity, none of these is reason enough to abandon the words of our national anthem “here every creed and race find an equal place” to live together in unity.
Let us use this day to remember that whilst our forefathers came on different boats, we are all together on the same ship today, SS Trinidad and Tobago. What this means is that the only way forward successfully is as a united people and nation.
While we have serious problems with our national physical infrastructure, we must address the fine cracks within our social structure.
Today, I remind those in authority that we must ensure that all citizens must be included in our national development, regardless of educational, economic, social or geographical background.
I repeat the commitment of the duly elected loyal opposition of Trinidad and Tobago. We will continue fighting to protect citizens’ rights and to ensure the inclusion of all in national development.
The challenges we face as a nation may be difficult, but we are resilient, and we will get through this, together.
I have faith in the good people of Trinidad and Tobago. We will overcome, and we will survive and thrive. Happy Independence Day to all.