PM challenges citizens to be the change they want to see in T&T
In his address to the nation on the 57th anniversary of its Independence, Prime Minister Keith Rowley took an opportunity to highlight the highs and lows of the country’s recent history.
Amongst the highs, the PM counted the recently concluded Carifesta 2019, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with Barbados, and our athletes’ success at the Pan American Games.
Of Carifesta, he said, “We saw thousands of our citizens blending together with other Caribbean peoples in a festival to celebrate the great spirit, which continues to evolve into a distinctive Caribbean culture.
We demonstrated, that in spite of the history of how we all arrived here, and our language and ethnic differences, there is a unique richness of spirit which resides, within all Caribbean people.”
Rowley also cited the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados from which joint initiatives will be developed for the exploitation of hydro-carbon resources across our maritime boundaries.
The PM used this as an example of ‘Caribbeaness’, saying the government plans to discuss further cooperation with the Barbados government across various areas.
He said, “The potential of a new, cooperative Caribbean framework is indeed laudable. I summarised it last weekend as being ‘All good for Barbados, and All good for Trinidad and Tobago.’”
PM Rowley said, “There is also the high of this country’s successes at the recently concluded Pan American Games in which our athletes came home with 12 medals, including two gold, and a praise-worthy standing among all performing countries.”
The Prime Minister used his address to criticise ‘doomsters’ he said were spreading a negative story line that the country was in crisis. He said these people choose to relay stories of ‘unnecessary bitterness, manufactured social conflict, racial tension, even gleefully predicting our collective failure.’
The PM said despite claims to the contrary, the government’s stand of proceeding with a series of legislative crime-fighting measures demonstrates a determined will to bring order.
Prime Minister Rowley said crime is now a universal disease and that it was identified years ago and attempts were made to isolate Trinidad and Tobago, but that in recent times the country’s borders were left porous. He said the current crime situation is the result of that.
Addressing the recent backlash he received for his comments on public servants, Rowley said he hoped this could encourage discourse about the Public Service and the role it will play in the ‘New Society’ – ‘our re-focusing on higher moral values, and morality in public and private office; achieving a safer country, through authorities solving and citizens consciously preventing crime; the financial comfort of all, and citizens experiencing a progressively-improving quality of life; and a creative and innovative society.’
He said the Public Service has to be the backbone of such a society.
Rowley said his government ‘continues to embrace the great Vision outlined by this country’s Founding Father, Dr Eric Eustace Williams, at our independence, in 1962. We strive towards fixing and maintaining our institutions, the education of our people, the decolonisation of their minds, and improvements in the quality of life, overall.’
The PM referenced over 100 grants and services that are available through the government ministries and agencies, many of which he said are more supportive than those in developed nations.
He pointed out that all benefit from free health care, education, various State subsidies and facilitations.
PM Rowley said, “The watch words, within Dr Williams’s Vision of Discipline, Production and Tolerance are still so relevant and alive today, having the same significance of fifty-seven years ago, and are, no doubt, needed now, probably, more than ever. Independence, unless “it is a sham and an imposture”, Dr Williams wrote, means a clean slate, and the throwing off of the burdens of the past but we cannot sidestep the burdens of the present and hope to succeed.”
Rowley said that In other parts of the world, ‘progressive citizens, rather than pelt stones, are using stones to build paths to a New Society. Let’s all work to converting the lows of partisan political rivalries, just as they confront us, into the highs of harmony, mutual respect and a permanent space for moral values.’
‘Let’s seek to bring out the best in ourselves, always.’ He implored.
PM Rowley said that we must always be mindful that 21st-century trends demand that we fix those unproductive aspects in our lives and that we all innovate, create and seek to discover.
The PM encouraged citizens to consider individual responsibility, saying that trends in this Century are demanding an evolutionary shift from the culture of dependency and entitlement to a new role for the citizen, that of individual responsibility i.e. people taking charge of their lives, rather than waiting on others or the state for relief.
PM Rowley, in closing, challenged citizens to consider how they could re-create, change, solve, and invent.
He said the times are now demanding that citizens create their own New Society, in which they both own the change they want and the future they think is possible.