Trinidad and Tobago cannot be said to be a country at peace with itself – so Government needs to roll up its sleeves, put its hand to the plough and get down to the business of good governance for T&T.
That was the “auntie tantie” advice yesterday from President Paula-Mae Weekes to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his new Cabinet for the term ahead. (See editorial on page 12)
Weekes spoke after new Cabinet ministers were sworn into office at President’s House, St Ann’s and said she gave the advice since when she is in such company, “… The auntie-tantie jumps out.”
Weekes said a change of government is a serious juncture in any country’s history.
“The electorate has returned the immediate past government to power, thereby affording it the opportunity to continue, complete, redirect and, where necessary, correct plans and policies, even as it conceives and executes new initiatives,” Weekes said.
“Many long-standing matters remain to be addressed, among them Tobago self-government, constitutional reform and racism. I shall speak to the last of these in the near future. Recent issues sit on the front- burner, for example, COVID-19 and illegal immigration, and new ones are bound to emerge as the Republic marches boldly into this decade.”
She continued, “To say that the electorate reposed its trust in its representatives to mitigate or solve these issues might be hyperbolic. Constituency by constituency, voters elected their Member of Parliament to represent them and seek their interests, but let us not ignore the fact that while some exercised their franchise enthusiastically, many did so out of a sense of duty, unhappy with the alternatives on offer, perhaps feeling the pressure of Hobson’s choice. Yet others declined to vote.
“I do not want us to forget, even for a moment, that at this time T&T cannot be said to be a country at peace with itself. Those of you who took the oath this afternoon gave your solemn promise to conscientiously, impartially and to the best of your ability discharge your duties and do right to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-will. This is your touchstone and you will be judged unsparingly.
“A democracy functions best when its standard-bearers are true to their oaths of office, fulfilling their duties and upholding the expectations of the high offices to which they have been elected or appointed. Failure simply is not an option.”
Noting that the usually more lively proceedings had to be muted due to COVID-19 restrictions, Weekes said the background was suggestive of the enormity of Government’s undertaking.
“… The sacrifices that you will have to make to do your job well and the weight of the expectation of our people. Now please, don’t bolt for the doors. Public service can be a most rewarding vocation.”
She congratulated Rowley and his team, saluted all victorious at the polls and thanked all candidates. She said it was heartening and refreshing to witness the significant number of young people putting themselves forward in parties old and new.
Weeks said she was particularly pleased to administer the oaths of office at the President’s House, as there had not been a swearing-in of a Prime Minister there since 2002, nor of a Cabinet since 2007, “and I’m sure that this magnificent and historic building was happy to welcome you back.”