Namaste – The divine light in me honours the divine light in each and every one of you.
Welcome to our celebration of the joyous occasion of Divali, which our country commemorates as a National holiday next week Thursday.
On behalf of the people and Government of Trinidad and Tobago, I extend to you a very Happy Divali.
Ladies and gentlemen, that each time I have the opportunity to host these dinner receptions, in recognition of our National holidays; I am awed by the rich diversity of the cultural celebrations that we are able to enjoy together in Trinidad and Tobago.
Each of our religious and secular observances presents us with the opportunity for growth, for learning and to express gratitude that we able are to respect and appreciate each other’s traditions.
This evening in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, ignorance and fear, as we honour Mother Lakshmi – the divine Goddess of wisdom, beauty and prosperity, who is worshipped at this time of Divali.
I also take this opportunity to recognize the great milestone celebrated this year by the National Council of Indian Culture.
Ladies and gentlemen this year the NCIC celebrates its golden anniversary – 50 years of hard work and commitment showcasing and educating our citizens on the many aspects of East Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago.
As you may know the NCIC is largely responsible for the Divali Nagar which is now synonymous with the commemoration of Divali in our country.
I wish to sincerely commend the founders of this illustrious organisation, Mr Narsaloo Ramaya and Mr Bisram Gopie for taking the bold step to form an organisation to promote East Indian culture and support its practitioners.
Their work and efforts of countless others now remain in the capable hands of current President, Dr Deokienanan Sharma and his executive.
Congratulations to you Dr Sharma and congratulations to the NCIC. Happy anniversary.
The great Mahatma Gandhi once said,
In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path to the clearer light;
And what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness;
Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
In celebrating Divali we light several thousand deyas, often set into intricate and beautiful bamboo designs. The lights of the deyas at times flickering in gentle breezes; others times strong and steady, pierce the night’s darkness to shower us in radiant light.
But as you know Divali is so much more than the lighting of deyas.
Divali is about family and reunion, as Lord Rama was reunited with his family after his period of exile.
Divali is about compassion and forgiveness as Lord Rama taught us when he forgave those who caused him great pain.
Divali is about solemnly looking within to discover our own divine light and then sharing that light with all those around us.
Even as we clean and decorate our physical surroundings during Divali, we must also ensure that our soul is pure; our heart is filled with compassion and love, and we are strong and resilient in body and mind.
Many among us would say that today Trinidad and Tobago and the global community are plagued by grave darkness.
And that darkness is taking many forms – the darkness of terrorism, disease, abuse, injustice, inequality, poverty and hunger, natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change.
But the reality is that darkness cannot exist where there is light.
Indeed, if in every facet of our lives we can be sources of joy for others; if we can put country before self; if we can reject violence, intolerance and intimidation, then the darkness we all fear will cease to exist.
Each of you, each spiritual organization and community group represented here today is called to erase the darkness threatening to destroy our Nation.
At Divali we recognize the power and noble qualities of the Goddess Lakshmi who is regarded as the embodiment of wealth, prosperity and success.
But as Hindus we are also called to remember that Mother Lakshmi does not reside long with anyone who desires her only as wealth.
Sri Lakshmi also represents righteousness, kindness and liberation. Our focus should not merely be on the material but also on the spiritual – the attainment of abundant joy and infinite peace.
Therefore we must answer that higher call of selfless service to community and Nation to ensure continued peace and harmony in our country.
I encourage you, at this time of Divali, to commit your time, talents, and resources to assist in the development of our country, as a whole community united in love.
Whilst we have been distracted by the objections to major infrastructure projects such as the Point Fortin highway which appears to have mesmerized so many and attract premium media coverage, the greatest threat that faces our nation is that of the Ebola virus.
CABINET DECISION ON PREVENTING EBOLA
Today, Cabinet Agreed to the implementation of the following measures for the prevention of the importation of the Ebola Virus disease in Trinidad and Tobago:
a) All visitors from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo be prohibited entry in Trinidad and Tobago with immediate effect;
b) Persons in the last six (6) weeks visited any countries referred to at (a) above be prohibited entry into Trinidad and Tobago;
c) Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who in the last six (6) weeks visited any of the countries referred to at (a) above be placed in quarantine for a minimum period of twenty-one (21) day;
d) All airlines be notified of the decisions at (a) to (c) above;
e) To the establishment of an Ebola Prevention and Response Team, the Team to comprise:
Brigadier General Anthony Phillips Spencer
Dr. Colin Furlonge
Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health
The Chief Nursing Officer, Ministry of Health
A Representative(s) each of:
The Maritime Services Division
Ministry of Transport
The Civil Aviation Authority
The Airport Authority
The National Operations Centre
The Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago
Point Lisas Industrial Development Corporation
All established Unions
The private sector.
f) That the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications conduct Education Outreach Programmes in respect of Ebola;
g) That the Ministry of Health, the ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Security take all necessary action to give immediate effect to the measures referred to above, in consultation with the Attorney General;
h) All Government official travel to the countries referred to at (a) above be suspended at this time;
Cabinet is informed of the ongoing Actions taken by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the above context as follows:
The MoH has been proactive in collaborating with the Regional Health Authorities, stakeholders at the airports and seaports, the Ministry of National Security and other agencies to minimize the risk of disease importation as well as to appropriately manage any suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
a) Formation of Port Health Committee:
I. Sensitization of front-line personnel at Trinidad and Tobago’s major points of EVD
II. Strengthening public health emergency preparedness at ports of entry-
Created standard operating procedures (SOP), testing via table top and drill exercises
Strengthening surveillance methods
III. Regional Health Authorities
a) Sensitisation of Health Care Workers (HCW) and workshops on infection control and prevention measures
b) Standard operating procedures for Primary and Secondary Care facilities for EVD preparedness which includes referral matrices to CMO and interim treatment centre;
c) Surveillance Strengthened
d) Designated interim treatment centre at Caura Hospital identified which is currently being refurbished and upgraded to provide isolation and management of suspected persons
e) Quarantine areas identified at Caura Hospital (24 beds) and Hyperbaric Unit, EWMSC (12 beds)
f) Buildings identified at Caura facility to be used as housing for HCW who will be managing EVD cases at Caura Hospital
g) Identification of all grades of staff to treat EVD cases at Caura facility (Emroy University Hospital reported a staff of 25 nurses and 5 doctors to treat 1 EVD case)
h) Remuneration packages for HCW managing EVD cases are being determined.
IV. Health Promotion
a) Raising awareness and knowledge of travellers and general public
I. Educational Literature
II. MoH representatives discussing key points about EVD on radio and television programmes
CABINET IS ADVISED THAT WHILE THE RISK OF IMPORTATION OF EVD INTO TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO BY AIR AND SEA IS LOW, WHO ADVISES THAT TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO BE PREPARED TO DETECT, CONTAIN AND MANAGE SUSPECTED CASES.
Cabinet is advised that the following updated statistics regarding the EVD have been provided by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as at October 8, 2014;
· Areas with intense and widespread transmission, namely Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – 8376 (confirmed and suspected) with 4024 deaths
· Areas with localised transmission:
Nigeria – 20 confirmed cases and 8 deaths
Spain : 1 confirmed case: a Health Care Worker (HCW)
USA: 3 confirmed cases (2 HCW), 1 death (updated as of 15 October, 2014)
· Area with an imported case and no localised transmission
Senegal: 1 confirmed case
· Area with a separate and distinct outbreak:
The Democratic Republic of Congo: 71 cases and 43 deaths
Cabinet noted that all major hospitals, District Health Facilities and certain Health Centres have been identified as designated triage areas for suspected person with EVD.
Ramleela Heritage and Festival Village
And so, I take this opportunity to announce that Cabinet has agreed to the allocation of a five (5) acre parcel of land within the acreage of the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum, to the National Ramleela Council of Trinidad and Tobago.
This land will be used for the establishment of a Ramleela Heritage and Festival Village. Caroni (1975) Ltd, as executing agency for the project, will work together with the Ministry of Tourism to ensure the Village’s success.
The Ramleela Heritage and Festival Village arose out of a need for the preservation, propagation and development of the Ramleela Festival.
This is in keeping with the overall concept of the establishment of a Sugar Heritage Village.
As such, the Ramleela Heritage and Festival Village will facilitate year round performances, create awareness of the story of the Ramleela and instill, preserve and disseminate values and traditions associated with this unique aspect of Trinidad and Tobago’s heritage.
It will be a show piece of the artistic and cultural community while reflecting the values, norms and lifestyle of all the Peoples of our nation.
This site will be the home of several attractions which include a collection of historical artifacts and materials. Visitors will also have access to an Archive and Document Centre as well as an upgraded Sevilla Club and Sporting Facilities and access to the refurbished ex-Brechin Castle factory.
As I close, I ask you to join me in a prayer which I believe aptly captures the true essence of Divali:
Om asatoma satgamaya
Tamasoma jyotir gamaya
Mrityorma amritam gamaya
Lead us from the unreal to the real
From darkness into light
From death to immortality
Ladies and gentlemen, as the dark Divali night is brightened by the flames of the deyas, so too let our hearts glow with the light of love for our family, our community and our Nation.
I ask that the gifts and prayers offered this Divali reflect not only personal desires but also a universal call for tolerance and unity and the positive development of our young Nation.
May the Goddess Lakshmi generously shower you with beauty, prosperity and peace.
Once again, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, our citizens, and my own family, I wish each and every one of you a Shubh Divali.