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Dear Editor: T&T’s celebrates 60 years of “Independence”—but are we truly independent?

“[…] It is quite an accomplishment to celebrate a 60th anniversary but can we as a people truly say that we have all really enjoyed the benefits of being an independent nation?

“There are many positive achievements, most of which can be ascribed to our sportsmen and women, our cultural artistes, our academics amongst others—but if an analysis is done on the state of our economic, social, cultural, law enforcement, justice and political apparatus, the negatives therein would outweigh the positives…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the significance of Independence Day and the growth necessary for Trinidad and Tobago as a nation state was submitted to Wired868 by Bryan St Louis:

Photo: A fireworks display in Port of Spain on Independence Day.
(Copyright CPop Designs/ Flickr)

Six decades ago, on 31 August 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation. 

When someone says they are independent what they really mean is that they have the freedom and ability to make informed decisions in life without having to ask other people for permission, help or money and they take full responsibility for all their activities. 

Can this statement be attributed to our nation Trinidad and Tobago?

It is quite an accomplishment to celebrate a 60th anniversary but can we as a people truly say that we have all really enjoyed the benefits of being an independent nation?

Photo: Prime Minister of Trinidad Dr Eric Williams (standing) addresses the opening session of the Independence Conference at Marlborough House, London on 28 May 1962.
The talks lasted about two weeks and resulted in Independence for Trinidad and Tobago.
(Copyright AP Photo/ Staff/ Laurence Harris)

There are many positive achievements, most of which can be ascribed to our sportsmen and women, our cultural artistes, our academics amongst others—but if an analysis is done on the state of our economic, social, cultural, law enforcement, justice and political apparatus, the negatives therein would outweigh the positives.

Additionally, after 60 years of independence, we still have an inequitable education system, intolerable road conditions, an inefficient public transport, exorbitant food prices, floods every time rain falls, poor and unreliable health services, an inadequate water supply, high crime rate, an inefficient justice system, an underdeveloped and unsustainable agricultural sector, an unidentifiable national cultural identity and a lack of sustainable employment.

Whilst they keep saying we are all in this together, those who have continue to thrive whilst those who don’t suffer. As a result, the average citizen does not have an equal opportunity to access the various public facilities and amenities—all this against the background of billions of dollars of our national patrimony squandered on unsustainable areas of growth over the years.

Photo: Police officers monitor protest action in Barrackpore.

As an independent nation we still cannot get our politics right as our politicians continuously blame each other amidst allegations of corruption and misbehaviour in public office and do not accept accountability for their failures, whilst in office, to meaningfully address the issues affecting the citizenry. 

Instead, opportunities to promote racial strife, religious conflict and intolerance, political isolation and victimisation are exploited by politicians who, at election time, conveniently remember our Constitution as it relates to the right of citizens and these words from our national anthem: “Here every creed and race, find an equal place”.

Will it take another 60 years for those in authority to put party politics aside and seriously address the issues of corruption, inflation, crime, proper representation, inappropriate political appointments, indiscipline amongst our youths, poor and inefficient public services, sustainable infrastructural and economic development and all the other issues which impact on the lives of our citizens?

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright Newsday)

What about the outdated labour legislations affecting our industrial relations landscape? When will they be amended to make the playing field level and provide that much needed protection for working class citizens?

Our nation has gained Independence but based on the foregoing there is an absence of leadership to achieve our national objectives. As ordinary citizens we do not have any impact on the operations of our government which is controlled by politicians who operate as monarchs. Instead of operating as servants of the people, they operate as the owners of the nation.

So, as we celebrate this important milestone in the life of our nation, it is incumbent upon us as citizens to understand that we have the power to determine the course of our nation and ensure that we become truly independent. 

Photos: Patrons enjoy the festivities during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Surely being independent means more than a celebration of activities, fireworks and a parade. Once that is the focus then being independent would become insignificant and would only be remembered when we commemorate 31 August 1962—which to many is just another day on our calendar and another opportunity to enjoy a public holiday.

We would only achieve political and economic freedom and appreciate the real value of independence, when we as a people do everything necessary to mobilise and organise so that we could bring about that revolutionary change in our Constitution and governance systems.

In the process, we would create, build and develop a system of governance which would take into account the views, needs and aspirations of the ordinary citizens of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Trinidad and Tobago.

About Bryan St Louis

Bryan St Louis is a former education officer for the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU).

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2 comments

  1. I agree that after sixty years of independence and many positive achievements (mainly in the field of sports/culture/academic) we are still facing lots challenges. Some of which are threatening to erode all of our past gains. But isn’t this how life generally pans out re. the peaks and valleys/ highs and lows we all experience at varying stages in our existence. This is the point at which patriots rise up (non-violent) and defend this country from those various ills (be it evil corrupt politicians/public officials, criminals, unproductive workers and generally individuals etc who do not have public interest or the good of this country at heart ) that confront us on a daily basis. Maybe our first port of call should be to get familiar with those three guiding words our founding father suggested. Production, Tolerance and Discipline may hold the key to a better TNT. Happy 60th Trinidad And Tobago….We Can Do Better, if We Try(Black Stalin)

  2. An unrelentingly depressing picture of the current T&T reality. To what end, Mr St Louis?
    Is the negativity likely to galvanise us all into action?
    I say balance required that you shift attention—if only briefly—to the “many positive achievements, most of which can be ascribed to our sportsmen and women, our cultural artistes, our academics amongst others” if your goal is to make things better