• 31 AUG 2023

Prime Minister’s Independence Day Message 2023

Message to the nation from Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the occasion of Independence Day 2023

Fellow Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,

I extend greetings today on behalf of the Government of this great Republic, my family and myself, as Prime Minister, on this our sixty-first year of our Independence from Britain.

Within recent times, our nation has experienced some ups and downs, particularly, the menace of increasing levels of crime, drugs, and violence, alongside the personal trauma that many suffer from the still, lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which are among our general areas of concern.

Another significant area is the recent Local Government elections, which, in conclusion, may be offering us some interesting insights into the mindset of some citizens and, probably, the mood of our Republic.

In the main, the electoral process has been finalised, so it is now time to move on to the promised legislated reforms, which propose to devolve significant aspects of Central Government authority to municipal bodies, creating, in effect, greater citizens’ participation in our cherished democratic process.

I feel assured that these reforms will improve the lives of citizens, build new lines of communication among neighbourhoods and communities, creating new avenues for people’s involvement in the process of government.

Some citizens have been complaining, for some time, that they feel far removed from “the Government” and, overall, they hold a sense of being remote and excluded. This has been a perennial grievance. The opportunity to seriously address it is with us now so let us grasp it enthusiastically and make it work towards building that better nation we often talk about.

We, legislators, must now acknowledge that there are many citizens who do feel marginalised, even so alienated that they see their lives as having little value to the majority. We need to reach out to them by giving them hope and the very real prospects of a better tomorrow.

The proposed Local Government reform measure is one response. It is just another step in building a new process of citizens’ participation and confidence in our democracy, involving the population further in the process, activating citizens’ sense of nationalism, offering more opportunities and building our national identity.

Every citizen recognises that we must make demands of the Government as we expect responsibility and accountability, from the country’s leaders – but at the same time, we also accept, as citizens, some responsibility for our personal choices as we are collectively and equally answerable for our individual contributions to the society and the nation-state.

This country is at a crossroads in an increasingly more difficult world, where every citizen should now look, inwardly, asking him or herself some deeper questions about our very existence in Trinidad and Tobago.

Today, as we celebrate our sixty-first Independence this is a good point to begin.

I suggest that we should all carry with us some questions as a daily mantra: Who am I? What am I doing here? How am I contributing to my land, Trinidad and Tobago?
That inward look will help us to define who we are, and our personal worldview. It should help us to shape our ambition and influence our attitude and general behaviour.

We should be asking ourselves: What ethical principles do we embrace daily? How do we determine right from wrong? Where does integrity reside, in our personal life? As a citizen do I show respect for others and the law and its regulations? Do I respect the rights of my neighbours and others? Do I give an honest day’s work? Am I punctual, at all times? Do I pay my taxes? Am I saving and investing enough from my earnings? Am I a conscious, productive, patriotic citizen? How do I contribute to improving Trinidad and Tobago? Do I build something or plan to leave something for my children and grandchildren? How much time do I spend on social media and how much of that is an engagement in learning and truth or is it only or always about hate and anonymous misconduct?

It is said that many countries become failed states, not because of an absence of resources, but because of the mindset of citizens, in spite of their education, training and wealth.

We, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, can boast of our greatness. Given our historical experiences, as a people we have achieved a lot. Overall, we enjoy a quality of life that, in some areas, meets world standards; we can point to the world-class Point Lisas Energy complex, a model which has been replicated in other parts of the world; we created the world’s first gas-based economy; we can point to our successes in the Arts, our invention of sweet Pan, our Carnival, our successes in literature, even a Nobel Prize winner, our other citizens of international renown. This September, we assume the presidency of the UN General Assembly, and the list goes on and on.

Our education system created a productive generation and is now under review, which will prepare the next with perspectives for the 21st century.

At this point, I want to appeal to the Broadcast media — Radio and Television to review their programming, with a more indigenous cultural perspective, in mind. We can find many positives if we look in their direction and grant them a little space to grow into our support bases.

Fellow citizens, I salute our great Republic, saying to all citizens, have an enjoyable and reflective Independence Day 2023.