National pride alive
By Lara Pickford-Gordon Saturday, September 1 2012
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Street prayer: Spiritual Baptists pray at the corner of Tragerete Road and Victoria Avenue before heading to Balisier House, Port-of-Spain on Thursday...
Fifty years after TT attained independence from Great Britain, national pride is still very much alive.
This is the view of Juliana Chambers, wife of former People’s National Movement Prime Minister George Chambers (1981-1986), who was a guest at the People’s National Movement (PNM) 50th Independence celebrations and commemorative flag raising ceremony held at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain midnight Thursday.
Chambers, whose husband received TT’s Highest Award, the Order of the Republic posthumously last night at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, did not want to comment on the honour during the wee hours of yesterday morning as she left Balisier House.
However she was pleased with the event at the PNM headquarters. “This was a very enjoyable evening here because I was present in 1962,” she said with a smile. Asked how it felt to be present in 1962 and at the observance 50 years later, “the pride that was there in 1962 is still there now.”
Chambers, who walked slowly with a cane was front and centre with PNM political leader, Dr Keith Rowley; chairman Franklin Khan and others for the reenactment of the flag raising. At 11.59 pm, the Union Jack was slowly lowered by a member of the cadet force to cheers and ringing of bells. TT’s flag, the red white and black, was hoisted quickly soon after. Adding to the scene were portrayals of historic figures —Robert Paris portrayed Eric Williams, the country’s first Prime Minister, Jocelyn Bodden the Princess Royal Mary and George Hadeed represented the Governor General–Sir Solomon Hochoy.
“Yea, yea,” some shouted while others whistled and cheered to show their pride. Prayers were said by Dean Knolly Clarke of the Anglican faith and Mother Yvette Adam of the Spiritual Baptist faith and then the National Anthem was sung with gusto by all in attendance. There was a shout of “hip, hip, hooray” led by Rowley, the Opposition Leader.
The flag raising was the culmination of a celebration which began with a procession led by members of the Spiritual Baptist faith from St Vincent Street, outside the Red House, the traditional seat of Parliament, to Balisier House. It continued at Balisier House with a cultural programme and address by Rowley.
In his address, Rowley said the country had done well in overcoming obstacles. He said after gaining independence there were concerns about our produce (citrus, bananas, sugar) on the European market and there are concerns today with the economic problems in Europe.
Rowley said the country had matured and was more confident to face the future and challenges. “Independence in Trinidad and Tobago is not to be taken for granted. And 50 successful years, not 50 perfect years but 50 successful years. We had hurdles in the way and we could have failed, but we didn’t fail we succeeded.”
He called for citizens not to sell themselves short and to celebrate success. Alluding to the lack of unity between Government and Opposition in the celebrating TT’s golden anniversary, Rowley said, “There is no way they could honestly celebrate TT’s 50th year and leave the PNM out of this country’s history and its development. We are intertwined and indelibly woven into the fabric of TT and they can put that in their pipe and smoke it.”
Rowley said the PNM was willing to work with others to ensure the celebration was the grandest but “some people just don’t know what to do even with celebrating a birthday.” He was happy to see the attendance and said this showed people acknowledged the importance of independence.
There were many PNM officials both past and present at Balisier House for the celebration. Among them was Port-of-Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing who was originally scheduled to address the celebration at Woodford Square hosted by the Ministry of Planning, but pulled out after being accused by Minister of National Security Jack Warner of trying to set him up.
The PNM’s celebration began at 7.50 pm with a procession led by members of the St Ann’s Spiritual Baptist Church of Spiritual Metaphysics from McBean, Couva and Mother Yvette Adam of the Water of Life Spiritual Baptist Tabernacle, Couva. Some TT cadets provided a lively drum beat to accompany the hymns being sung as supporters sang and chipped. During the procession, Adam stopped and blessed some streets. Among the stops were at Park and Edward streets,Victoria Avenue and Tragarete Road.
Holding a bouquet with a candle, she sprinkled water at each side of the street and rang a bell. “We summon the Holy Spirit at each street corner. That job was given to the Spiritual Baptists,” she said in an interview. Also at the front were: Franklin Khan, Deputy Political Leader (party and election matters) Joan Yuille-Williams, MP for Laventille West, Nileung Hypolite.
former Finance Minister Mariano Browne, Opposition Chief Whip, Marlene Mc Donald, Reginald Vidale of the Eric Williams Memorial Committee carried a portrait of Williams during the procession. Vidale said, “he (Williams) has come tonight. He was the architect of our 50 years of independence. We have to celebrate him. He gave us the first step.”
As the procession headed up Victoria Avenue towards the PNM headquarters, the words of the hymn “When the saints go marching in” were changed to “when PNM go marching home. When the PNM go marching home. I’d like to be in that number when the PNM go marching home.” A cultural programme took place from 9.30 pm featuring calypsoes and dance until it was time for the flag raising.