Fifty-nine years ago, Trinidad and Tobago was granted independence from Great Britain, giving the people of a fledgling new nation the freedom to chart their own destiny.
Today, we contemplate the many achievements over the past 59 years, and the progress we have made in advancing our democracy. Looking back, it is safe to say we have indeed come a long way, but we still have far to go.
No doubt the combined cultures that exist here in Trinidad and Tobago, drawing from the greatest of ancient societies across the world, have equipped us with everything we need to build a great nation. We have weathered multiple storms, holding steadfast to the principles espoused in our national anthem. We are a people forged from the love of liberty.
Side by side we will forever stand as one people.
We have seen cruelty from past administrations seeking to silence and oppress the voices of the people who disagree with the Government of the day. However, we found solace in the rights enshrined in our great constitution that have defended our rights and freedoms throughout the years.
Most memorably we recall the attempts to criminalize industrial action through the Industrial Stabilization Act – A move that is still remembered today.
However, nothing of the past can compare to what our citizens are being subjected to today. It is an insult to our constitution and the pioneers of our independence that on Independence Day 2021, all our citizens’ rights are suspended for no good reason.
The Executive Arm has full authority to utilize these emergency powers but with good reason. Implementing the State of Emergency – the ultimate legislative tool rendering all rights and freedoms non-existent must only be used as a last resort.
Therefore, this Independence Day is a solemn one. For whilst we mark 59 years an independent nation, we do so with none of our constitutional rights and freedoms. I however remain confident in the collective will of our people to get through this dark period in our history.
We draw the strength and resilience from our forefathers who would have weathered many great storms to safeguard the rights and freedoms we once enjoyed. This is why, even as we face great uncertainty, I am confident that together, we will get through this crisis.
Today whilst our nation battles the Covid-19 pandemic, we are led by an incompetent Government incapable of leading us out of this crisis. The past two years have been difficult. We have lost loved ones, friends, colleagues. And thousands have lost their livelihoods.
We are at a critical juncture, aside from dealing with Covid-19, we are well on our way into a major Economic Pandemic. Our livelihoods, our wellbeing, even our very democracy have all never been under greater threat than they are today.
We cannot do as the PNM Government is doing, burying our heads in the sand, locking down the country, and hoping the virus goes away. There must be a clear plan to create jobs, generate revenue, and develop the right environment to encourage new business development. The UNC has a prepared plan that will ensure resilient economic recovery and growth ensuring a rebounding economy.
Today, on the 59th anniversary of our independence, I call on each citizen to recommit to work to rebuild, restore and renew our great nation. We will face the challenges today as we have done in the past, side by side. United, we will overcome the challenges before us, and rebuild and renew our nation. Whilst our rights and freedoms remain suspended on paper, these are God-given rights and they can never be taken away by any individual.
Thank you, and Happy Independence Day, Trinidad and Tobago.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition