Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 56th anniversary of independence today, August 31. Its separation from Britain was proclaimed by the People's National Movement (PNM) founder and the country's first Prime Minister Eric Williams in 1962.
Kairi Lele ("Land of the Hummingbird" in the indigenous Kalinago or Carib language), present-day Trinidad, was sighted by Christopher Columbus on his third expedition across the Atlantic Ocean. The island, along with Tobago, would be colonized by his European benefactor, Spain.
In 1797, the islands were ceded to the British Empire in the lead up to the peace Treaty of Amiens, which, was ratified by France, Spain, and Britain and temporarily brought a halt to hostilities between the warring European countries.
Just over a century later, in 1899, Trinidad and Tobago unified administratively.
And once the Federation of the British Antilles dissolved in 1961, Trinidad and Tobago began the struggle for independence from Britain, which was granted on August 3, 1962. However, the official proclamation of independence did not take place until the stroke of midnight on August 31, the same year. The British flag, or Union Jack, was lowered and the red, white and black Trinidad and Tobago flag was hoisted. More than a week of festivities marked the country's independence celebrations.
In his first Independence Day message to the nation, Williams stated that “Democracy means equality for all in education, in the public service and in private employment... Democracy means the protection of the weak against the strong... Democracy means the responsibility of the government to its citizens, the protection of the citizen from the exercise of arbitrary power... Democracy means the freedom of worship for all and the subordination of the right of any race to the overriding right of the human race."
After gaining independence, Trinidad and Tobago joined as a member of the Commonwealth by a unanimous request of its leaders and was later accepted as a member of the United Nations.
Trinidad and Tobago is currently populated by over one million people. And has the status of a sovereign Republic while holding membership to the Commonwealth, with its own head of state and a government headed by a Prime Minister.
The current Prime Minister is Keith Christopher Rowley. A member of the PNM, he has held office since September 2015.