Put T&T first
Fifty years later, Eric Williams, who was the central figure as Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962, is occupying centre stage again, this time in relation to complaints about his absence. The complaints are coming, principally, from the People's National Movement (PNM), the party Eric Eustace Williams founded and led until his death in 1981, after 25 unbroken years as head of a PNM administration.
It cannot fairly be claimed that Dr Williams has been excluded from images, recollections and commemorations connected with this 50th anniversary of Independence. Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie, the People's Partnership lead planner of the anniversary events, personally attended a PNM-related commemorative event and literally walked the talk that Eric Williams remains a monumental figure in T&T history, whose place and contribution no government of any different party should aim to downplay.
For its part, the PNM, which opted for its own mirror-image exercise, including a flag-raising on Thursday night at party headquarters at Balisier House, has expressed dissatisfaction with the play given to Eric Eustace Williams in the official programme.
The feeling is inescapable, however, that since the PNM has not noticeably cherished Dr Williams' legacy, even downplaying his memory in its own 2006 50th anniversary event, it is seeking, with its new-found enthusiasm for its founder on this auspicious occasion, to score political points today.
As stated in this space on Thursday, "We wish that the Government had seen the wisdom of putting the planning of the Jubilee celebration into the hands of an independent national committee, reaching across social divides in ensuring broad participation in designing a truly national celebration. Instead, we have got yet another event managed by centralised government resulting, inevitably, in political one-upmanship."
In spite of that, if only for this momentous period in the country's history, all differences should have been shelved and the politicians, no matter their party ties, could have joined ordinary citizens in presenting a unified face, displaying a level of maturity as expected at the age of 50.
"There are certain things within the country where we have to put country first, whatever the occasion may be," stated Harrypersad Maharaj, president of the Inter-Religious Organisation, commenting on the current bickering between personalities in the ruling People's Partnership and the opposing PNM.
He also raised the matter of the absence of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley from last Sunday's National Day of Prayer, along with other Members of Parliament. "You're talking about prayer for the nation and there is fighting about politics," said the IRO president.
But, in a further demonstration that the men and women in the street have no problem when it comes to national unity and putting the country first, people came out in their numbers to celebrate Trinidad and Tobago's 50th anniversary of Independence both at the function at Woodford Square on Thursday night and at the military parade at the Queen's Park Savannah on Friday morning.
They also lined the streets of Port of Spain as the various arms of the protective services made their way out of the Savannah, showing that John and Jane Public's loyalty is to T&T.
We wonder if the same could be said for the politicians who, time and time again, cannot put their petty differences aside, no matter the occasion.