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  • Trinidad and Tobago citizens celebrate their independence from Britain, proud of their flag

    Trinidad and Tobago citizens celebrate their independence from Britain, proud of their flag | Photo: ipi.freemedia.at

Published 31 August 2019
Opinion

Trinidad and Tobago proclaimed its independence from Britain on Aug. 31, 1962.

Trinidad and Tobago is celebrating its 57th anniversary of independence, 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.

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Regarding the commemoration of the country's independence anniversary, Primer Minister Dr. Keith Rowley delivered a message to the nation Friday, in which he expressed his satisfaction on how the Caribbean identity and its diversity was represented during the Carifesta festival held recently in Trinidad.

"We demon­strat­ed, that in spite of the his­to­ry of how we all ar­rived here, and our lan­guage and eth­nic dif­fer­ences, there is a unique rich­ness of spir­it which re­sides, with­in all Caribbean peo­ple", Rowley said.

He also vowed to follow the legacy of Er­ic Eu­stace Williams and commited to higher goal of decolonization.

"I wish to re­peat that the gov­ern­ment, which I lead, con­tin­ues to em­brace the great Vi­sion out­lined by this coun­try’s Found­ing Fa­ther, Dr Er­ic Eu­stace Williams, at our in­de­pen­dence, in 1962. We strive to­wards fix­ing and main­tain­ing our in­sti­tu­tions, the ed­u­ca­tion of our peo­ple, the de­coloni­sa­tion of their minds, and im­prove­ments in the qual­i­ty of life, over­all."

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.

The Caribbean nation, along with Barbados, Jamaica, and Guyana, were the first four signatories to establish the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in 1973. 

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.

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