Trinidad & Tobago celebrates 53 years of Independence

The twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago today celebrates 53 years of independence from its last coloniser, Britain. “Trinbago” as it is affectionately known, lies just off the coast of Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.

The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from 1498 when Christopher Columbus arrived until 18th February 1797 when the British landed ashore with a fleet of 18 warships which led to the capitulation of the then Governor Don José Maria Chacón. By that time Trinidad was a country with a population of 17, 718 of which 1,082 were Amerindians, 2,151 were of European ancestry, 4,476 were “free blacks and people of colour” and 10,009 were slaves.

Tobago, the cigar-shaped island was owned by various European colonizers over the centuries including the British, Dutch, French and Spanish. Eventually after numerous colonial struggles, the British augmented its hold over Tobago and it became one half of the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889.

On August 31st 1962, Trinidad and Tobago lowered the British flag and replaced it with the now iconic black, red and white standard led by its first Prime Minister Eric Williams. Widely regarded as “the Father of the Nation” and leader of the political party the Peoples’ National Movement (PNM), Williams served as PM from 1956 until his death in 1981.

Trinidad and Tobago became a republic within the Commonwealth, severing its links with the British monarchy though it has - inexplicably for some - retained the Privy Council as its final Court of Appeal. In May 2010 Trinidad and Tobago elected its first female Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who leads the People’s Partnership.

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a prominent member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is the seat of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which was established in 2005 and is intended to eventually replace the Privy Council as the final Appellate Court.

“Together we aspire. Together we achieve” is the national motto of Trinidad and Tobago and as Soca News joins in the chorus of Independence Day wishes, we remember the words of Eric Williams in his 1962 Independence Day address:

“Let us take our stand in the international family on the basic principles of international rectitude. When our time comes to vote, let it always be a vote for freedom and against slavery, for self-determination and against external control, for integration and against division.”
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