Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley justified cutbacks in funding for Divali Nagar celebrations at the event's closing ceremony in Chaguanas last night.
However, the PM pointed out that the Divali Nagar is a beacon of hope and a beacon of the expression of the best in T&T.
In delivering the feature address, Rowley said cuts were made in all areas of national spending, including operations at the Ministry of National Security.
“In recent times we have had to reduce that contribution because of affordability issues and I know there are those who felt that the reduction represents a lack of appreciation for the importance. It is not so at all," Rowley told the gathering.
"Across the board in Government expenditure in Trinidad and Tobago we have had to make reductions in expenditure, but we have maintained a significant contribution because we understand that this event is a significant contribution to nation-building."
He added, "As I speak to you now, among the cutbacks that we have made, or had to make even in the face of rampant criminal conduct and the requirement to do more in the area of national security ... but when we look at the cost and expenses we have had to ground four helicopters in National Security because we could not afford to keep them in the air. It is not a question of reducing our contribution to TUCO, or to Pan Trinbago, or to the Emancipation Support Committee, or to Divali Nagar, it is a reduction across the board in every single area of expenditure so as to maintain our involvement in every area until better can be done.”
Rowley also praised nationals for coming together to assist recent flood victims out of their own volition.
“That, ladies and gentlemen, was our nation at its best and it demonstrates that in our society the fibres to make that fabric exists.”
He called on all to ensure that the differences that exist amongst nationals can be used as a unifying force rather than an element of division.
He said countries elsewhere in the world are being pulled apart because of differences, but said T&T nationals must be grateful souls in many ways.
“We have just experienced a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that shook us from Charlotteville to Cedros and when it was all over we could not point to one injured citizen. Ladies and gentlemen, we must be a grateful people regardless of whom we look to as our God, we must be grateful. We saw a people who would tell that within minutes they went from the warmth and comfort of their household, some in their beds and within minutes they had water up to their shoulder. Fortunately, once again we could not point to a single loss of life.
"Whilst some may say that God is a Trini and some might believe that he is not, the one thing that we can say is that we don’t have reason to believe that we are not a blessed people and we must continue to be a grateful people.”
He said there is no place in T&T for racism, discrimination and oppression and no place for thinking that only some can succeed. He said the success of one must be the success of all.
- by Shashtri Boodan. Photo by Shashtri Boodan.