Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday "respectfully" disagreed with President George Maxwell Richards.
Richards, addressing both Houses of Parliament, stated that "except for the steelpan, we have been consumers rather than innovators, and we must be careful not to miss out on getting in at the ground level of the new scientific exposure, and here, university education matters".
However, making a statement on behalf of the Government, Persad-Bissessar said this country had earned for itself a perception of progressive dynamism, and around the world, the majestic red, white and black, had grown to become a symbol of innovativeness, creativity and an indomitable spirit of unity.
"Mr Speaker, if I may respectfully agree to disagree with his Excellency the President when he said that apart from the steelpan, there has been no innovativeness in Trinidad and Tobago, I respectfully disagree. Yes, the steelpan is one symbol of innovativeness, the only musical, acoustical instrument invented in the last century, but Trinidad and Tobago is known throughout the world for innovativeness, creativity, the diversity of our people, the harmony, the unity in diversity which represents Trinidad and Tobago."
This elicited applause from the Government benches. She said everywhere she had travelled and all the people of other countries she had spoken with expressed in clear, unmistakable terms that this country could feel a sense of pride over the distance it had come and the manner in which it continued to march forward.
Persad-Bissessar said she wanted to thank the President for his usual "forthrightness" in giving an overview of the coming year in the life of the Parliament.
However, the Prime Minister, in pointing out that the President and others have been referring to this address as his last, stressed there was nothing to prevent him from being re-elected as President.
"There is no constitutional bar...to a third term. The Government has taken no decision on this matter and, therefore, whilst his Excellency may have appeared to be saying that this is his last address, I would say that since no decision has been taken on the matter, this is indeed only the last official statement in his second term of office."
Richards's first term ran from 2003-2008, and his second term spans from 2008 to 2013.
She said she was sure the President's deep concern in education and his dedication and service to citizens would ensure he would be involved in the country's progress and development.
"We offer his Excellency our sincere gratitude for his decade of service," the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister also thanked those who departed from Parliament and whose contribution had helped to put the Government in a better position than it was two years ago.
She cited former senators retired Brig John Sandy, Nicole Dyer-Griffith, Verna St Rose-Greaves and Danny Maharaj. She welcomed their replacements, Larry Howai, Marlene Coudray, Jamal Mohammed and Ganga Singh.
The Prime Minister also said she wanted to recognise the father of the nation, Eric Williams, a statement which brought applause from the Opposition.
Persad-Bissessar said her Government had set new standards of parliamentary democracy in answering questions on time, in seeing debates through the end and in upholding the values which underline nationhood.
"As we begin this session of Parliament, I ask that all members hold rigidly to their oaths while, at the same time, remain conscious of our responsibility to lead by example and conduct ourselves in a manner that will continue to earn the approval of our citizens," she said.
"Indeed, even as we hold rigidly to opposite sides of the political divide, we must summon the maturity and the courage to act in a manner that serves the national interest over partisan interests," she said.
The Prime Minister said over the new session, Government would push forward with its commitment to reform the criminal justice system and introduce further measures that will enhance the capacity of the protective services to detect, solve and prevent crimes.
She promised that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan would bring details of the legislative agenda and shed light on the multipronged attack on crime.
"Our focus remains on ensuring that the victims of crime are afforded swift justice, the perpetrators of crime are made to feel the full weight of the law and protective services are afforded the institutional and physical resources to carry out their duties," the Prime Minister stressed.
She said the next budget would present a clear view of the economic reform agenda.
"Now, the time has come to restore the full strength and capacity of the economy, ensuring that each and every citizen stands to contribute and benefit, not just a privileged few," the Prime Minister said.
Also at yesterday's sitting, Nela Khan, MP for Princes Town, was elected Deputy Speaker.