Historically, Trinidad and Tobago, jointly and separately, have been difficult islands to govern.
In 1812, for example, in his celebrated injunction to Goulburn, as quoted in DJ Murray's The West Indies and the Development of Colonial Government -1801-1834, Sir Robert Peel, a UK prime minister, wrote: "You will immortalize yourself if you will frame a constitution for Trinidad – it has baffled all your predecessors who have uniformly left it as they found it, governed by Spanish law and petitioning for English. Trinidad is like a subject in an anatomy school or rather a poor patient in a country hospital and on whom all sorts of surgical experiments are tried, to be given up if they fail and to be practiced on others if they succeed."
We find also, in James Millette's Society and Politics in Colonial Trinidad, the following quote about the state of Trinidad at the beginning of 1802: "Deprived of a coherent system of Spanish law by the conquest, Trinidad, at the mercy of expediency and convenience, floundered from crisis to crisis. In time the island became a byword for capricious government, an object of unbounded amusement in erudite and vulgar circles alike."
The abolition of slavery in 1834 and the annexation of Tobago during the years 1883-1889 only exacerbated the above-mentioned governance difficulties.
But while, to date, we have survived as functioning societies there can be little doubt that caprice, experiment, and floundering are still the major building blocks of our governance DNA, so to speak.
So, welcome to the presidency, Your Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona. Your job description is clearly specified in the Constitution. Nevertheless, the ship of state which you are about to captain by virtue of Section 74 (1), and others, has for the last 20 years or so, been immobilised and becalmed in the port of domestic politics. This ship must now leave port and venture into uncharted waters.
I pray that you will summon and live up to the strengths of your given name, Thomas Aquinas, also the name of the great Church philosopher who once said: "If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
Philip C Nunez