By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI
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On September 24 we celebrated the 42nd anniversary of T&T’s gaining Republican status. On the evening of Wednesday, September 19, I attended a gala concert, titled ‘A Cultural Exchange Experience’, by the renowned Chinese traditional orchestra of the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theatre, and the National Steel Symphony Orchestra of Trinidad and Tobago, at NAPA.
Before the performances commenced, the National Anthems of China and of T&T were played. Standing in front of me was a Chinese couple who sang lustily when both anthems were played. I was reminded of the pride that many of us, whose forebears came to T&T, have in our diverse heritage.
I am proud to say that I was born in this blessed country. I am also proud of my African, Venezuelan and Indian heritage. The challenge we all have is to translate such pride into action to build our Republic. The road to Independence in 1962, and to taking over the reins of our country 14 years later on August 1, 1976, was long and arduous.
Let us never forget all those who laboured selflessly for the birth of our nation. With the right to self-governance comes responsibility—for all of us. Each of us comes to the table with gifts/talents, which we must put to use if we are to build the common good. Let us not add to our woes.
You will have read that on September 16, volunteers gathered 3,439 pounds of mostly plastics, 50 tyres, a baby’s pram, car parts etc. at the mouth of the Maraval River on the foreshore. This Republic Day, let us resolve to have pride in our country and stop such dreadful habits of disposing waste anywhere and everywhere.
The words of the President of India, His Excellency Ram Nath Kovind, are pertinent. On India’s Republic Day in January 2018, he said: “Nation building is a grand project. But it is also the compilation of a billion smaller projects, each as sacred. Nation building is also about building a family, building a neighbourhood, building a community, building an institution…
Our Republic cannot rest without meeting the basic needs and essential dignity of our less well-off brothers and sisters. It is our sacred obligation to eliminate the curse of poverty in the shortest possible time. This is non-negotiable for the Republic… The principles of compassion, of assisting those in need, of building capacities of our neighbours, or even of those further away, underpin our society. These are the very principles that we bring to the international community…”
As a Republic, we are still in the process of development. Our Republican Constitution provides us with a framework within which we can promote/enhance our development. Until we achieve Constitutional Reform, we must seek to work within the parameters of this Constitution, and to address the deficiencies of the very institutions embedded in this Constitution. Who is really guaranteeing the protection of our fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined therein?
We cannot ignore the fact that we are facing some trying times with many persons having lost their jobs or about to lose them. Each day crime and the fear of crime continue to impact adversely on the psyche of many.
The list of social ills is growing exponentially. In the face of our difficulties, let us remember the words of the Catholic Bishops as contained in their Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men (and women) of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” It is imperative that we promote the dignity of each person.
T&T is a multi-religious country. The values and virtues underpinning our various religions should spur us to act in our respective spheres of influence to build a better nation.
I call on our leaders to put aside their differences; stop the blame game; stop making excuses; and use the creative genius of our people, including our youth, to take us forward into the 21st century.
As my father used to say, future generations will not forgive us for poor governance—profligate spending; wanton waste of human, financial and environmental resources.
And while we take stock of the areas to be addressed, let us celebrate our many accomplishments.