Good evening to you all and thank you for being here to celebrate a momentous occasion – the silver jubilee of our great party, the United National Congress.
An anniversary is a time for celebration but it is also a time for reflection on where we have come from and how we intend to continue moving in a progressive direction.
Today on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of our party I have chosen an interfaith service to bring us together in an atmosphere of spirituality, remembrance and introspection.
Who would have thought in 1980 when our founder the Honourable Basdeo Panday envisioned this political movement that our sun would have risen to meet the expectations of so many and be called upon to rescue the nation in so many ways, so many times. And so today, as we mark the 25th Anniversary of the United National Congress let us express our prayerful gratitude for the vision of Basdeo Panday and the government we hold responsibility for today.
This moment for us in the UNC gives us the opportunity to remember the ideals that brought us together, and the work that has kept us together for so long.
The UNC has become what I believe to be a true reflection of what our nation aspires to be. We are diverse – different, yet bound together as a national family. We came from different places – yet we all pledge allegiance to one mother Trinidad & Tobago.
We worship in different ways, and preserve different customs we inherited from our ancestors – yet we all stand together, in defence of each other, and appreciating each other, at all times.
We are all different, yet we are all the same; and today we gather together as children of God to give thanks for the blessings that have helped us to grow and develop. That is why I have always recognised the power and divinity of almighty God … and that is why I have always urged you to take my hands, put God in front and walk behind.
Such guidance has brought us this far and will take us safely into the future. As a national political party, driven by the interests of people, and led by vision of prosperity for all, our party has been able to grow in its 25 years to achieve something most others have tried and failed to achieve.
We are a party that has been able to provide an equal space and membership for everyone, regardless of their social standing, their heritage and culture, their ethnic origin.
We are a party not separated by geography, ethnicity, class or creed but one that is connected by a common purpose of equality, justice and empowerment.
Today we can feel proud that the United National Congress is the most representative political organization in the country.
It is the reason it took this political vehicle to make it possible for a village girl like myself to aspire and attain the goal of being your Prime Minister today. You can all feel proud that it was the United National Congress that elected the nation’s first female Political Leader. It was the United National Congress that elected the nation’s first female Opposition Leader. And it is the United National Congress that elected the nation’s first female Prime Minister. I say all of this with humility, it is not a statement about myself but about the kind of political organization which the United National Congress is today.
We are home to many and to all and sundry, black, white , brown, green and in between. The colour of a man’s skin, the gender of anyone, is of no consequence under the rising sun.
Because the United National Congress was born out of a deep love for Trinidad & Tobago, an appreciation of the ideals of inclusiveness,a reflection of the diversity of the people who comprise our great nation and a commitment towards seeing development as being the entitlement of all not a privileged few.
Every step along the way when our party represented the national interests, time and again, people trumped narrow political interests. And in the end, the victory of the people was realized.
In just a few weeks we will be expressing our gratitude to the Almighty again as we commemorate the anniversary of another important milestone in our party and the nation’s political history. The fourth anniversary of our term in office.
And while this is neither the time nor place to speak about the achievements you have elected, know this, we are ready to talk about the walk we’ve made over the past few years. Yes, there has been huge strides. There has been a level of people centered development the likes of which this nation has never before witnessed. Our political philosophy saw this development being manifested where it mattered most – in roads where none existed, in schools where there were none, in box drains where they were desperately needed, in bridges that connected communities fro the first time, in water where none had flowed before now, in health centers where there was none in sight for miles upon miles, in social programmes, in old age pensions, in scores of thoughtful, compassionate ways development came to where it mattered most. We didn’t seek to change the skyline we were more concerned with the breadline, in the generation of jobs and creating new opportunities.
Having inherited a depleted Treasury after a period of squandermania, we guided Trinidad and Tobago to a stable, growing economy, one lauded by every major global financial institution and where major investors from markets such as China are eager, ready willing and on their way to pour billions of dollars here. But more on all of that when we celebrate on May 24th.
My fellow UNC members, with faith in the Almighty, and the will and determination to do what our country needs, we in this party have been able to make all things possible. And this is why I said when I started that commemorations such as these must always place God at the forefront, while we walk behind.
Do not let the daily commitments and stress of our daily lives create barriers between you and God.
Engage your family in prayer and spirituality so that together we may overcome the negative influences in our society that sometimes make us feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.
Twenty five years ago when you gave our founders a mandate to create our great party you displayed faith and trust in the future.
Today, the ones who stood in solidarity on that first day must be filled with pride, looking at us all having stood the test of time.
Together, we have been able to cast aside our history of oppression, suffering, indignity and sacrifice and today we demonstrate that despite our small size we can rise and look forward as one people, committed to nation building with God as our guide.
We are an example to the global community as a country where liberty is protected, freedoms are upheld and the right of each citizen to reach out to opportunities is passionately promoted. We must never let negative forces divide us and must always remain true to our founding principles of creating a better society not for one group, but for every woman, man and child.
Almighty God has blessed us with all that we require; we must continue to keep God as our guide, every moment of every day. That is the only way our nation of many religions and cultures would continue to be blessed with the harmony we see here today. Let us pledge today to remain united, to be our brother’s keeper, to raise tomorrow’s generation with the divinity of God as an integral part of their lives.
We must ensure – as we are doing this evening – that cultural and religious differences must never separate us from one other; instead, let us make our celebration of diversity the collective strength that benefits our nation and all humanity.
In all of the battles we have fought, it is the battle that we will fight to build a legacy worthy of the future that will be our biggest.
And all of us here, and all of the citizens of our country who make up the United National Congress, standing together can build that future!
As I conclude, please join me in prayer:
forgive our faults and bless us,
and our nation,
with success, unity and peace of mind.
We know you in many forms and by different names
and we also recognise your omnipresence.
Bless us with the power to include you in all that we do;
lead us to the right path of spirituality and bless our party,
our people and our nation
so that we may continue to live in peace and harmony