The People's National Movement (PNM) is indelibly woven in the fabric of Trinidad and Tobago and the party is free to not associate with any other entity in celebrating the country's 50th independence anniversary.
This was stated by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday night at the party's 50th Independence anniversary celebrations at Balisier House in Port of Spain. A short distance away at Woodford Square the People's Partnership government was having its own celebrations.
Rowley also said he was proud of the country and the people who had done well over the last 50 years as he looked forward to the future.
"We have come a long way together. We are one people moving forward together as Trinidad and Tobago," Rowley said.
Earlier, the MP for Diego Martin West identified the PNM's significance in the Independence movement.
"To all those who believe that this celebration of the 50th anniversary is not a big thing, there is no way they can honestly celebrate Trinidad and Tobago's 50th year unless they want to be purely haters and leave the PNM out of this country's history and development because we are intertwined and indelibly woven in the fabric of Trinidad and Tobago. And they could put that in they pipe and smoke it," he said to cheers from the crowd at Balisier House .
After he said he was glad to see the crowd gathered because it was a sign of the importance supporters lent to the occasion, Rowley said: "And to those who believe that we are gathered here is a mark of divisiveness, the last time I checked it was still a free country and freedom of association was guaranteed under the constitution."
He said his party tried to encourage and was prepared to work with others to make sure that this golden jubilee celebration would be grand but "some people just don't know what to do even celebrating a birthday."
Rowley said the PNM has viewed the event as an important milestone and recognised that some persons have contributed to the current state of the country.
Earlier in his address, Rowley recounted his days as a 12-year-old who attended primary school in Mason Hall, Tobago barefeet along with 483 other pupils, when the country gained Independence in 1962.
Rowley also recalled the uncertainty the country faced following the declaration of Independence when Britain sought out the then Common Market.
He said 50 years on, the country faced some of the same concerns with Europe in danger but was doing so with more confidence.
"Independence in Trinidad and Tobago is not to be taken for granted. (They have been) 50 successful years, not 50 perfect years, but 50 successful years ...the one thing we must never do is sell ourselves short and not recognise our successes," he said.
Before he addressed the gathering, Rowley led a candle light procession of a few hundred supporters from downtown Port of Spain to Balisier House. Among those in the procession were PNM chairman Franklin Khan and other PNM members including Mariano Browne, Donna Cox, Patricia McIntosh and Overand Padmore.
Rowley's address was preceded by several cultural performances, including Mavis John who sang "God Bless Our Nation". See Page 17