The Office of the Parliament hosted its gala Independence Ball entitled “Journey to Independence 1962-2012” to commemorate this country’s growth from British rule to that of independence and democracy.
It was one of several activities which the Office of the Parliament has organised in recognition of this significant milestone. There were also plans for an independent mobile parliamentary exhibition tracing the development of Parliament, which would commence in San Fernando and journey throughout TT.
Speaker of the House Wade Mark and President of the Senate Timothy Hamel-Smith greeted guests as they arrived, including gender activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, businessman Gary Aboud, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and his daughter Mickela, and former Health Minister Jerry Narace. Excuses were made for Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley who was unable to attend the function.
Addressing the gathering, Mark said the aim of each of the planned events was to highlight the role the Parliament has played in the journey of nation building, a central role which it must continue to play in the future.
“It’s a reflection of our journey as an independent nation, one must understand that the stage for self governance was set prior to 1962. This was manifested by heightened political activity, the clamour for proper and effective representation, the growth of political parties, groups and influential leaders, limited constitutional reform, moves to a more representative legislative council, elections and the rise and fall of West Indian Federation,” he said.
Mark said national pride and patriotism was at its peak and any reference of the time since attaining independence would be incomplete without mentioning 1976, when TT became a Republic on September 24, when the first Parliament met under the new Republican Constitution.
“It is a Constitution which fosters and encourages a truly democratic representative government,” he said.
Mark recognised this country’s first Prime Minister, the late Dr Eric Williams, first President Sir Ellis Clarke, and the first leader of the Opposition Dr Rudranath Capildeo as key players who helped to build this country.
“There are also persons here this evening who have made critical contributions to our democracy during the last 50 years — Prof Selwyn Ryan, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Dr Linda Baboolal, Basdeo Panday, Gregory Aboud, former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who has had the most contributions (352), and is the longest serving Member of Parliament — we do hope to see him back in Parliament soon,” as he quipped that while serving in the Senate for the last 19 and a half years, he had made 355 contributions.
Mark said while the journey had not always been an easy one, citing the 1970 Black Power uprising and the 1990 attempted coup, the country had persevered as a nation, and was better off for it.
“Our national watch words ‘Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve’ are as pertinent today as they were 50 years ago. We have aspired and achieved much. Most recently we witnessed the achievement of our Olympic team and the young Keshorn Walcott (Walcott won gold at the London Olympic Games in the javelin event). It is an award that all TT can look to with great pride and admiration. It is hoped that by commemorating this journey, citizens of this nation will be reminded and enamoured with a renewed commitment to upholding the principles and traditions upon which this great nation was built,” Mark said.
He urged all Parliamentarians to remain vigilant and uphold the principles of this country’s democracy and to remember the great responsibility with which they had been entrusted.