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President Weekes appeals to citizens: Nurture seeds of love
As T&T continues to grapple with major issues such as crime, domestic violence and corruption, the country’s first female President Paul-Mae Weekes yesterday appealed to citizens to walk side-by-side with her in rebuilding our once blessed land and to plant and nurture seeds of love to turn our nation’s negativity around.
This was the message Weekes sent to the nation in her inauguration speech at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, after she was sworn in by Chief Justice Ivor Archie as the country’s sixth President.
Weekes’ historic moment was witnessed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, his wife Sharon, outgoing president Anthony Carmona and his wife Reema, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Cabinet ministers and Opposition members and hundreds of citizens who packed the North and Grand Stands to witness the gala event.
Weekes said many have beset us with dismal stories, “telling us that T&T is currently close to the point of no return…crime, corruption, racism, a dismal public services and an ineffective judicial system” and “other problems are so thick on the ground” that we feel all is lost “if we are not there already… a failed State however defined.”
Responding to those commentators, however, Weekes said our citizens have two choices, “We can lament, blame, criticise and allow despair to overwhelm us, or mobilise forces and resources to step out boldly and make T&T a better place.”
Weekes over the course of her life she has never lived in “an ivory tower” nor “wore blinkers.”
“I too drive with my windows up or doors locked in broad daylight…or at least I used to. I have lost two cars to thieves and have waited hours for medical attention for a relative at our hospital.”
She said she was also painfully aware of the country’s current murder count, noting that many victims are “women and children slaughtered in acts of domestic violence.”
“We speak all the time about how violent our society may become,” she said, adding such violence has been embedded in everyday talk and is now common place in interactions at schools, markets, businesses, rum-shops and homes.
But Weekes said citizens need to speak to each other pleasantly to increase one’s persuasiveness and if someone has a difference of opinion it can be expressed without savagery and attacks.
She said she was also cognisant of the volatile tension in East Port-of-Spain, while she has seen people affected by mental illness and sleeping on the streets due to homelessness.
“And if I needed to get to Tobago in a hurry, I could not be certain if or when I would arrive. So I comprehend fully the state of the State and so understand why I think you have every reason to despair.”
In going forward, Weekes said her mission “is to infect” everyone with the right and positive spirit and called on citizens to choose option two by triumphing their darkness with light.
Weekes said this was not a mission for the faint-hearted, as we would need to “stiffen the sinews, summon the blood, dissect the teeth and stretch the nostril wide and bend up every spirit to its full height,” which would not be accomplished overnight.
“We must trust in time. We will reap the benefits of our efforts. So be a light at your home, instil discipline, model good behaviour. You can be a light in your school, pay more attention to the lessons in your home, protect the vulnerable, respect those in authority. “Light can be seen in a community, where people care for their environment and are tolerant of the views, beliefs and practices of others.”
In the search for this light, Weekes said citizens must put country before self, party, family and tribe.
“Let us not fool ourselves, at times this would take serious sacrifice…it is the work of patriots.”
She said we also have to re-engineer the view that it takes a village to raise a child, adding love for T&T, Weekes said, has to also be planted, nurtured and buttressed every day.
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