Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on all citizens, regardless of race, colour or creed, to live together as one. Persad-Bissessar made the call while delivering the feature address at yesterday's Emancipation Day ceremony, at Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain. Dressed in yellow African garb, with a bright green headpiece, Persad-Bissessar said a prerequisite for any successful and unified nation was for its people to be fully integrated into "the collective whole." She said this year's celebrations sought to "reawaken" the spirit of liberty. She said: "I am not speaking about denial of heritage or the suppression of identity," she said. "Rather, 'I belong here,' must echo with conviction from the lips of every citizen. 'I have a valuable part to play in the development of T&T,' must be the sentiment and stance of every citizen."
Persad-Bissessar said emancipation "set in train" the arduous journey to self-determination, independence and the building of an egalitarian society and as such there was no reason to create "artificial borders" around T&T's diverse cultural heritage. "We must jealously protect the freedoms for which our forefathers have sacrificed," she said. "For many of them, liberty came at the price of their own lives....We must work diligently together, to do right, to protect common interests and ensure peace and prosperity for all." The theme of Emancipation Day celebrations also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the black power revolution in T&T, which Persad-Bissessar described as a "significant milestone" in the nation's history.
"Government has recently recognised the efforts of a central figure of the 1970s movement, for his contribution to the people of T&T," the Prime Minister said. "I speak of none other than People's Partnership member, Chief Servant Makandaal Daaga, who is now our Caricom Cultural Ambassador Extraordinaire. "I salute you, Ambassador Daaga." Persad-Bissessar also dedicated this year's theme to the people of Haiti, who, she said, were still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake of January 12. Noting that Haiti was the first colonial territory to abolish slavery, she said Haitians should be praised for their courage and determination. "Their war of liberation greatly influenced a tidal wave of action in the Caribbean, which eventually led to freedom for the enslaved Africans," Persad-Bissessar said.
"I stand in solidarity with them as they overcome yet another challenge to their liberty." After Persad Bissessar's speech, citizens were treated to Eintou Springer's production, titled Freedom Morning Come, as well as the popular Canboulay procession. Scores of men, women and children, dressed in colourful African attire participated in yesterday's celebrations. Many onlookers, also in ethnic wear, braved the mid-morning sun to witness the cultural celebrations throughout the streets of the capital city.
Police officers were on hand ensuring that all went according to plan. A number of senior state and government offiicals attended the observances.