On August 1st, 2018, we pause to reflect on the bravery, the determination and spirit of those who fought for and won their freedom from slavery.
The incredibly brutal conditions under which slaves lived, and the indignities they suffered are inconceivable, and their strength, sheer will and capacity to hope are enduring reminders of the power of the human instinct to survive and thrive.
Those who endured the Atlantic Slave Trade retained their spirit, dared to struggle against their bondage, and yearned for freedom for themselves and their families. In resisting and rising up against the cruelty meted out to them, they showed strength, courage and perseverance, and demonstrated that they would no longer accept being treated as property to be bought and sold by colonial masters. Even today, centuries later, the steadfastness and resolve in standing against their subjugation, as well as their hope for a better future, inspire awe and deep respect and appreciation for their struggle.
Today, while the descendants of the former slaves have cast off the chains, the trauma inflicted has reverberated through generations, and many are yet to be entirely free of the scourge of man’s greatest indignity to man.
Our beloved Trinidad and Tobago is richer because of the culture and values that the slaves held on to, and which they reconstructed and passed on in the post-emancipation period. We are all able to admire and share in the cultural traditions, the food, the music of the people who made Trinidad and Tobago their home after their liberation.
As we celebrate this important occasion, we must remain ever mindful of the price that was paid for the freedom which we cherish and must guard. Today, the threats we face to our own individual freedoms continue, as criminal activity continues unchecked, and the current administration has shown that it is incapable of stemming the flow of blood, or of creating a safe environment for the people of this country.
The one initiative that was launched after almost three years in office is a nonstarter and does not contain any viable plans to deal with the crime crisis.
The lives of each and every Trinidadian and Tobagonian has been and continues to be affected by crime, which has severely reduced our quality of life. People are afraid to leave their homes, parents no longer feel comfortable allowing their children to play in community parks. The Prime Minister and his Government have failed to protect citizens.
In light of their abject failure, I call on citizens to work together to make Trinidad and Tobago better, stronger and safer. Our nation’s stability and future growth demand action from each of us; we must unite for the good of our country.
I remain hopeful that our country can be re-claimed from the criminal elements, and as Leader of the Opposition I assure you that we have developed a clear strategy for our nation’s recovery and return to growth.
Today as we celebrate emancipation, let us look forward with renewed vigour, and join hands, minds and hearts in building Trinidad and Tobago into a nation in which we can all be proud.
I end with the words of the legendary Nelson Mandela, who would have celebrated his 100thbirthday this year: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Let us take these words to heart, and do our part to ensure a brighter, more prosperous future for Trinidad and Tobago.
Happy Emancipation Day to you all, and may God Bless our nation.
31st July 2018