Independence Day Parade
BY ANGELA PIDDUCK Thursday, August 30 2012
It goes without saying that the annual Independence Day Parade in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence is eagerly looked forward to by thousands who line the parade route as scores of uniformed men and women participate in this event, which can at times become a Carnival type-jump up for followers as the various military bands accompany the participants along the parade route from the Queen’s Park Savannah back to St James.
In 1998 the then Parade Commander, Brigadier Carl Alfonso, Chief of Defence Staff, shared his thoughts on the 36th Anniversary of Independence which would feature one major change in the annual parade, having more or less followed the same format through the years, from inception.
What was that change? The Brigadier explained then that, “His Excellency President ANR Robinson will not inspect the parade as customary. Not only has the President just returned to office after being seriously ill for some six months, but the mid-morning heat caused him to collapse while reviewing the parade last year from the back of an open-air jeep. The troops will be reviewed by the President from the forecourt of the Grand Stand, as they march past the salute base.
“It will most probably stay this way until a President comes along and says ‘I want to ride a horse,’ as was done by Governor General, Sir Solomon Hochoy. President Robinson is comfortable with the fact he does not have to stand in the vehicle which must be in the sun.”
The Brigadier further explained that many soldiers do not get to be on parade each year and considered himself luckier than most, having never missed a year except for 1970 and 1990 when there were no parades, and 1980, ‘85 and ‘93 when he was away on courses. To him also it was a pride and joy to carry the colours where the two persons must be about the same height.
At that interview, Captain (the Reverend) Kennedy Swaratsingh, then public relations officer of the Defence Force felt that, “the Brigadier’s military bearing would have made him a must on parade from the start. We always use him as a model as to how the uniform should look.”
When told of the Carnival-type atmosphere along the street-route, Brigadier Alfonso quickly assured, “the Defence Force certainly is not part of the Carnival atmosphere. You will hardly see us relaxing, we are supposed to be marching with the same sort of dignity down Frederick Street, into Park Street and to St James. I have heard of people enjoying themselves in a kind of Carnival atmosphere but that is not to be condoned by the military.”
Fast forward to tomorrow, Friday August 31, 2012, and the Parade Commander is Colonel RLA Smart; President George Maxwell Richards, officially attending what could be his last parade as his term of office ends next year, will take the salute from the back of the jeep; and after the formalities on the parade ground, the parade will move from the savannah, into Frederick Street, along Park Street and Tragarete Road to King George V Park. In addition to the official brass bands, steelband music for the parade will be provided by a mixed band from branches of the security forces.
The Chief of Defence Staff is Brigadier General Kenrick Maharaj, Colonel Anthony WJ Phillips-Spencer is the Commanding Officer of the Regiment, Captain Mark Williams is Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard, Commanding Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Reserves is Colonel Lyle Alexander and Group Captain Tyrone Rodulfo is Commanding Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard. The Defence Force will be represented in the parade by a male and female detachment of the Coast Guard and the Regiment, and one detachment each from the other two groups.