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Trinidad & Tobago President calls for better actions: ‘Yuh big and yuh have sense’

Columbia University

T&T President Paula-Mae Weekes

By Renuka Singh/TT Guardian

Petroleumworld 01 02 2022

A year of disaster and misfortune, with more hardship, illness and death than at any time in recent memory.

That is how President Paula-Mae Weekes initially summed up the last 12 months but then went on to show the other side of the same coin and praised healthcare workers, the hunters’ groups and all who went above and beyond to do help in times of need.

Despite the tough year though, the President called for citizens to remember the hits and misses, heroes and hurts of 2021. She also slammed those who were less helpful in the past year.

“For many, 2022 could not come quickly enough. Last year was by some accounts, an annus horribilis—a year of disaster and misfortune, with more hardship, illness and death than at any time in recent memory. Our very way of life was disrupted,” Weekes said.

In a departure from the usual stoic Presidential messages, Weekes warned citizens not to throw out the “champagne with the cork”.

“Despite its scandalous provenance, the saying “Out with the old, in with the new” is always appropriate on New Year’s Day. The inclination is to discard or leave behind the last twelve months, especially those parts that were grim and eagerly embrace the fresh possibilities, opportunities and perspectives glimmering on the horizon,” Weekes said.

Weekes said that aside from COVID-19 and its consequences which were the root cause of much of the trouble and suffering and In addition, “the country weathered constitutional conundrums.”

She said that the country also registered “yet another unacceptable murder toll, including grisly killings of our womenfolk and assassinations of our prison officers, bore the heart-breaking loss of three young children to fire, experienced the destructive and deadly effects of climate change, discovered fourteen corpses in a boat off Tobago and endured much more.”

“But in justifiable haste to put the old year in the rear-view mirror be careful not to throw out the champagne with the cork,” she said.

“Individually and collectively, we must revisit the occurrences and experiences of the past year, and there were good ones tucked in between, in order to extract the salutary lessons that can serve as a cautionary tale, constructive model or source of inspiration,” Weekes said.

“Like the pearl hunter, we dive to the bottom, collect what we can and surface, treasure in hand,” she said.

Weekes quoted the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said “nothing beautiful in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration.”

“The trials and tribulations of 2021 brought out in many of us, resilience, creativity and ingenuity that we may not have known we possessed. We pivoted like a boss, discovering new ways of doing old business and better yet, conceiving entirely new businesses,” she said.

“This indomitable pioneering spirit is surely one to bring into the new year,” Weekes said.

Weekes said that in reaction to COVID-19, there were incredible acts of selflessness still being demonstrated by our frontline healthcare workers.

“Gruelling shifts, psychological trauma and vulnerability to contracting the disease were par for the course, and yet they soldiered on for the good of us all,” she said.

She said that apart from the healthcare workers, many good Samaritans emerged, including the Bilda Boyz who thoughtfully provided chairs and tents for weary vaccination-seekers, businessmen who offered their premises free of charge to be used as vaccination sites, and the many persons who provided hampers for the needy.

“And we cannot forget those who did their best to follow the regulations to a T, sometimes to their own inconvenience and discomfort, in the hope of safeguarding the health of their families, co-workers and themselves,” she said.

“And then, we had those that didn’t give a damn about others and apparently even about themselves, courting infection by disregarding the regulations, cramming stores for the sake of a bargain, wearing masks like necklaces and even going to the extent of utilising fake vaccination cards,” Weekes said.

“It goes without saying which attitudes need to be left behind and which go forward,” she said.

Weekes called on people to pay close attention to the rising death count which shows that the unvaccinated are more impacted by COVID-19 than the vaccinated.

“It is a fact we ignore to our peril. Even we laymen have noticed that the numbers of the infected rise significantly shortly after indiscriminate gatherings in large number. Our personal actions and behaviours are inextricably linked to the future of our nation. The writing is on the wall, ‘yuh big and yuh have sense’,” she said.

“Removing our Covid blinders for a moment, we recognise the civic-mindedness of the Hunters Search and Rescue Team which altruistically assists law enforcement in searching for missing persons, the citizen who instinctively protected and comforted a young girl at the scene of the murder of her father and the countless, nameless others who operate quietly in their sphere to alleviate the distress of others,” Weekes said.

She said that 2021 saw an outpouring of social and political activism, and said it was “heartening to see our citizens shaken out of their usual apathy and taking a position vigorously campaigning to bring about the change they desired.”

“If this fervour can be sustained, harnessed and actioned within the confines of the law, the regulations and good sense, it will be to our benefit as a society,” Weekes said.

“As we step into the new year, cautiously optimistic, we reconcile ourselves to living with the pandemic for some time to come, but let the emphasis be on the word ‘living’. Commit to living purposefully, living intentionally, living unselfishly and living joyously. Only in that way will we be able to fulfil our vision of a peaceful and prosperous Trinidad and Tobago. I wish you a safe, productive and happy New Year and may God bless our nation,” President Weekes said.




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