PORT of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing says while, as an independent nation, Trinidad and Tobago has much to celebrate, far more still needs to be done to foster a greater level of national pride.
Lee Sing was speaking yesterday at the launch of the Military Tattoo Village at Woodford Square in Port of Spain. The week-long event is being hosted by the Ministry of National Security and will feature music, skills, drills and tactics by the Regiment, Coast Guard, Police Service, Fire Service, Prisons Service, Cadet Force and other arms of the Ministry. It opens daily at 11 a.m. and runs until Sunday.
"As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Independence, we in Trinidad and Tobago have much to celebrate—50 years of unbroken democracy," Lee Sing said.
"Not too many countries who got their Independence in the period that we did can boast of unbroken democracy.
"Democracy in Trinidad and Tobago has seen some difficult times. We have had 1970 which we resolved, we had 1990 which we resolved and we had our 18-18 tie in the Parliament which we resolved. In two of the challenges which confronted us as a country and as a nation, the military was asked to intervene."
Lee Sing said citizens owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of this country's military for ensuring that our democracy remained intact.
"Our country has grown in every manifestation. The public service institutions remain protected and independent of the Executive.
"When we think of the good Trinidad and Tobago, I am reminded of the calypso "Portrait of Trinidad" and, for the most part, it remains whole and intact. It is still a very good commentary on what Trinidad and Tobago is all about. 'Our scholars continue to sit and pass every test, our athletes are rated among the best'."
Lee Sing praised the team which represented Trinidad and Tobago at the recently concluded 2012 London Olympics.
"I did not see (among our citizens) the divisions that are so obvious within our political, religious and cultural sectors. What I saw were young men and women determined and united behind a red, white and black flag, and an anthem that underscores 'Here every creed and race find an equal place'."
In an interview with the Express moments after declaring the Military Tattoo Village open, Lee Sing was asked whether he felt enough had been done to engender a feeling of civic pride among citizens in the run-up to the 50th anniversary celebrations. He said civic pride is not something which could be turned on with the flick of a switch.
"The country has got to learn to live civic-mindedness every day, every week, every month and every year.
"If you look at the Jamaicans, one thing they have over all the Caribbean is their loyalty to the yellow, green and black (national flag), their love for their anthem and their love for their music. Years ago, the Jamaicans had decided it's Jamaica for Jamaicans and they took that concept wherever they have gone in the diaspora.
"Trinidadians, on the other hand, seem to be everything other than Trinidadians. (Foreign Affairs Minister) Mr (Winston) Dookeran recently, in an address at the Jamaican High Commissioner's residence, said he remembered (former Jamaican prime minister) Michael Manley coming to Trinidad and Tobago in the seventies.
"Manley was asked 'what does Jamaica have that we don't have? And his response was 'Jamaicans'.
"In Trinidad and Tobago everybody is an Indian or an African or a Hindu, a Muslim or a Catholic. But you rarely hear us say that we are Trinidadians and Tobagonians and that is where the difference is in terms of this issue of civic-mindedness."
Lee Sing lamented that there are still too many young people who do not know basic facts about this nation's history.
"They don't know that Dr Eric Williams was this country's first prime minister. The list goes on and on. We have a long way to go but if we start now, by the time we celebrate the second 50, we will be far better off."