The sense of deep disconsolation expressed by Nicole Dyer-Griffith over the abysmal turnout of notable figures at Sunday’s Memorial Day observances in Port of Spain is a matter for our collective reflection as a nation.
Mrs Dyer-Griffith is the wife of the current Commissioner of Police. Like him, she is also a member of the last administration, and former aspirant to the position of political leader of the party of which she had been a member, the Congress of the People.
Those facts aside, Mrs Dyer-Griffith writes with pain, that this was the first time she had to miss this solemn occasion because she was out of the country. She conveyed shame and disappointment at the turnout for the laying of the wreath at the Cenotaph. From the government, she counted just the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security. Not even the other members of Government felt sufficiently persuaded about the symbolism involved to rouse themselves into attendance.
Members of the Opposition were nowhere to be seen, likewise, other high government and state officials, and members of the 14 regional corporations across Trinidad.
It was a lament also picked up by the incumbent Mayor of Port of Spain, whose attendance was conspicuous, as against the absence of others in similar local government high offices.
Depressingly, however, this is a perennial problem, this absence of a required sense of nationalism, of patriotism and non-partisanship across the board among the office holders in our State institutions. The Prime Minister attended out of a sense of responsibility. Were the tables turned, perhaps it would have been the other way around. The same pattern obtains, whether it is the National Awards, the Independence Day activities at the Queen’s Park Savannah and other similar occasions requiring a rise to the acceptance of the need for a true spirit of nationalism.
The continued failure among the different sides in the parliament to truly honour the assault on the country’s democracy with the storming of the Red House in 1990 is another crying shame. There remains to be a resolution on the need to remember the 24 recorded lives which were lost in that murderous misadventure, and for the Members of Parliament to lead the country in standing united in saying “never again”. The eternal flame which was established on the grounds of the Red House to mark this dark chapter in our parliamentary history is not seen as the symbol of patriotism and of respect that it ought to be.
When, however, the current Prime Minister accepted the invitation of his predecessor to attend the funeral of the anti-apartheid giant, Nelson Mandela, and he took with him the current Attorney General, it appeared we had turned a corner in this regard. They joined leading representatives of other Caricom-member states in what turned out to be a regional delegation. But alas, the seedling of nationalism signalled on that occasion has withered on the vine.
Our Memorial Day shame is therefore so negatively contrasted with reporting from the British event on which we reported: “Royals, parliamentarians turn out, as UK remembers war dead.”
We owe it to ourselves to take example here.