milestone: Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, followed by his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, inspects an honour guard at the Port of Port of Spain after his arrival for a two-day visit yesterday. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Pomp at port as British royals roll in

By Julien Neaves

PRESIDENT George Maxwell Richards and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar conveyed best wishes to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee to Prince Edward yesterday.

He in turn toasted this country on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Independence.

The Prince and his wife Princess Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, arrived yesterday aboard Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Fort Rosalie at the Cruise Ship Complex at 6a.m. on the first day of their two-day official visit as part of an Eastern Caribbean tour to celebrate the Jubilee and Trinidad and Tobago's Independence.

At a little after 10 a.m. they were met by a Guard of Honour consisting of members of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment. After they inspected the Guard the Prince stood atop the saluting dais.

On hand to meet them with port officials were Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications Surujrattan Rambachan and National Security Minister Brig John Sandy, British High Commissioner Arthur Snell and other officials.

Following a brief cultural show they were taken by motorcade to Knowsley, Queen's Park West for a courtesy call on Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards and to attend the President's Award ceremony.

In his remarks, Richards said this country, as a member of the Commonwealth "family of nations", was pleased to share in the "most important milestone in the reign of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II".

"On behalf of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, I offer congratulations to Her Majesty and wish her continued good health and countless blessings. Her Majesty's reign, from accession to the throne in 1952, has been marked with a settled assurance of grace and of understanding of people of every social condition, not only within her realm but everywhere in the world," he said.

He noted that the Princess Elizabeth Centre, to be visited by the Princess today, bears the former title of the Queen and "itself a testimony to Her Majesty's generosity".

Richards explained that The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is the forerunner of The President's Award with the name being changed when the country became a Republic in 1976.

President's Award National Director Patricia Pierre-Joseph explained that the award programme is for people 14-25 to receive support in pursuing a skill, including sport, music or culinary arts. The majority of winners were from Naparima Girls' High School.

The Prince, who assisted in distribution of awards to the 25 Gold Award winners, congratulated the awardees and encouraged them to make a difference to other young people. A gold award winner himself, he told the awardees: "And when you walk out of this room just walk a little bit taller, just feel a little but proud for what you have achieved."

He then personally greeted them and their parents, teachers and supervisors.

Gold award winner Ansara Baig told the Express: "I just feel so honoured to meet the Prince and the President. (The Prince) was really nice to come and greet us and my parents and my sister."

The Prince also thanked the President for his "very kind comments and remarks" to Her Majesty and promised to pass them on for the Diamond Jubilee. The next item on the itinerary was the Prime Minister's luncheon hosting the Earl and Countess of Wessex at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's which was attended by Cabinet ministers, members of the business community, diplomatic corps and other public figures.

Persad-Bissessar in her remarks said this country remained committed to the Commonwealth and noted Her Majesty the Queen has had a "very distinguished tenure" at the helm of the Commonwealth, making a number of references to her visit in 2009 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

She said this country looked forward to deepening partnerships in the areas of tourism and European Union issues which impact Caribbean states.

Persad-Bissessar also toasted the Queen, sending "best wishes and warmest congratulations". The Prince, during his toast to the President and people of this country, praised her for "very active involvement" in the Commonwealth.

He noted that Independence was a moment to reflect on all this nation managed to achieve.

"God's blessings to Trinidad and Tobago in the future," he said.

The Royal couple had two other scheduled engagements with the British High Commission before a busy schedule today. They depart tonight to continue their Eastern Caribbean tour.

The following was the scheduled menu for the Prime Minister's luncheon hosting Their Royal Highnesses at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's yesterday:

Amuse Bouche (bite-size appetiser): Caribbean snapper mousse with cilantro crème fraiche on a cassava biscuit.

Appetiser: Spinach and romaine leaves with sun ripened tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, palm hearts and poached pears in a herb olive oil and lime dressing with mauby smoked duckling.

Main Course choices:

1. Five spiced and saffron dusted salmon fillet tropical pan seared, finished on a ginger cream velouté , with tropical fruit salsa.

2. Garlic and geera marinated lamb cutlets, tamarind jus

3. Chicken "Wellington", tender chicken breast, topped with a forest mushroom duxelle, baked in a flak pastry crust, presented on a foie gras, port wine sauce.

Sides

1.Saffron rice pilaff with spinach and tomatoes

2. bell pepper stuffed roast okra

3. corn basket with caramelised onion

4. bodi and carrot bundle

Desserts

1. Lemon grass and coconut cream infused crème brûlée with coconut ice cream

2. Caribbean fresh fruit salad in sugar cane syrup

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