My fellow citizens today as we celebrate our 39th year as a democratic republic within the Commonwealth I am pleased to acknowledge the maturity with which we handled the political change, which happened just a few days ago.
While many issues are yet to be resolved, the peaceful transition from my government to another is a tribute to all of us who have shown the world time and time again that while we have political differences we are one people, respecting our democracy and the will of the people.
In 1961 we achieved our political freedom but a nation was not born. It took another 15 years before we broke the formal ties with Great Britain and proclaimed our Republic, trusting in God and the commitment of our people to live together in harmony as we began the task of nation building.
Our 1976 constitution was and remains an expression of our desire to respect one another and to recognise each other’s rights, freedom of speech and freedom of association. It also ensures the rule of law and equality of citizens, regardless of religious, social, ethnic or political considerations.
Today let us recommit ourselves to those values and to respecting one another. And join me as I rededicate myself to the service of Trinidad and Tobago, especially the tens of thousands who need food, shelter and clothing for themselves and their families.
Let us also pledge today to protect the freedoms we enjoy, to protect our families from harm, and to continue to live as one family looking after one another.
In 39 years together we have worked hard at building a nation that is strong, free and independent. But the task is incomplete. Let us keep the torch burning and stand on guard for Trinidad and Tobago.
The future of our great country lies in your hands. We must discuss our differences openly and respectfully. That’s what democracy is about. Continue to be vigilant. Never allow anyone trample your rights and always banish hate and divisiveness, which are cancers that have destroyed entire societies.
The celebration of Republic Day is a re-dedication to our values as one people with a common goal regardless of our differences. As leaders it is our responsibility to put aside personal interests and serve you and your community faithfully. I reiterate my pledge to honour that commitment to you now and always.
I wish you a very safe and peaceful Republic Day.
May God continue to bless each of you and may God bless our great Nation, Trinidad and Tobago.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC
Leader of the Opposition | Leader of the UNC and the People’s Partnership | MP for Siparia