Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago:
This year, two national holidays are juxtaposed, that of Independence and of Eid. As this religious festival is now being highlighted on our national calendar, we can flow easily into consideration of the contribution of the Muslim community to the development of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is considerable and in several spheres of our life, including at the highest level of leadership in our relatively young nation. Whatever is happening elsewhere in the world, we in Trinidad and Tobago have had a history of inclusion of people of all faiths in the building of our nation. Freedom of religion is a pillar of our Constitution and it is a right enshrined – “freedom of conscience and
religious belief and observance” – in Section 4 (h).
This is not just a paper contract but a reality which is lived out daily in the conduct of our business, personal and otherwise. It is important that we be ever mindful of these facts and be guided by them, especially as we see what is taking place in other parts of the world, sometimes in the name of democracy.
A number of Islamic nations are under siege and I have no doubt that during the period of prayer and fasting, which is coming to a close, this situation would have had a central place in the petitions of Muslims in our country. Would that these circumstances did not exist in Middle and Far Eastern countries, but they do and while we need not dwell on them, they give us good reason to appreciate the human rights and freedoms that we enjoy in our own country. These are rights and freedoms that we, whatever our religious persuasion, or absence of it, must never yield up, for we do so at our peril.
This freedom to pursue our daily lives without prejudice because of our religion or particular sects thereof, should inspire us to be ever more resolute in defending our country against those who would seek to introduce, subtly or otherwise, elements that would take us down a path of erosion of these very rights. Let no one change or impede our pursuit of peace.
As I have said, in the past, your discipline of restraint, evident during the days of Ramadhan, is a good example to be emulated by all of us, especially if it transcends the borders of season and becomes a way of life.
I commend this way to the national community as my family joins me in extending Eid greetings to all.
May God bless our nation.
George Maxwell Richards.