Your Excellency Tim Stew, High Commissioner for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,
The Honourable the Chief Justice Mr. Justice Ivor Archie and Mrs. Archie,
Senator the Honourable Christine Kangaloo, President of the Senate of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,
Senator The Honourable Bridgid Annisette-George, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,
Fellow Members of the Cabinet,
Members of Parliament,
Your Excellencies, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, other Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and Representatives of International Organisations resident in Trinidad and Tobago,
Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice and Lady Byron,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, it gives me great pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and in so doing, reflect on the strong bilateral relations between Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom.
On this milestone 90th Birthday, I wish to recognise the full and remarkable life of Her Majesty, who over her nine illustrious decades has been the embodiment of formidable grace and courage. It is with admiration that I note the indefatigable spirit of Her Majesty, who continues to carry out her official duties unfalteringly, as the longest reigning British Monarch.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth the Second has bridged historic changes at the national, regional and international levels. Her Majesty has embraced these changes, which have included challenging economic periods, the transformation of traditional institutions and technological advancements. Throughout these stages, her willingness to ‘move with the times’ and renew the Monarchy has certainly won her the respect of her people and has lent to her popularity as the quintessence of British national identity.
We might recall that Her Majesty, as an 18-year-old princess, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II. While it may be challenging to reconcile the image of the elegant Queen of today with the coverall clad mechanic and military driver of 1945, we must acknowledge the unwavering commitment of Her Majesty, even at such a young age, to selflessly serve her country, which is an attribute that has certainly endured throughout the decades. Her Majesty continues to be a pillar of strength and continuity to the United Kingdom and the entire Commonwealth.
Your Excellency, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom have enjoyed fifty-four years of strong diplomatic and bilateral relations which continue to be reinforced through our shared values and commitment to good governance. Our cooperation, within bilateral and multilateral arenas, in the areas of security, education, trade and development is a testament to that commitment.
Notably, the United Kingdom has been a key investment partner of Trinidad and Tobago, particularly in the energy sector. I acknowledge the recent oil and gas discovery by British based company Range Resources Ltd., which shows the continued and active engagement between our two countries in that field. As you would be aware, over forty British firms have been based in Trinidad and Tobago and we look forward to deepening our trade and economic ties, particularly at this juncture, when the Government of Trinidad and Tobago is making strides to diversify the economy.
Another area of mutual interest which the Government has prioritised is treating with corruption as a fundamental mandate. Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley has indicated a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and to this end, Trinidad and Tobago is pleased to join the United Kingdom in advancing this issue through participation in the Anti-Corruption Summit to be convened by Prime Minister David Cameron next month in London. Trinidad and Tobago is also appreciative of the collaboration with the United Kingdom on campaign finance reform.
It is clear that there needs to be global action to address the issue of corruption, as it is a borderless challenge which impacts millions of lives. We are therefore happy to partner with the UK and the international community to break the culture of corruption which has long crippled the full development of the world’s economy.
Further discussions on this and other areas of mutual interest and concern between our nations and within the wider regional context will most certainly be had between our delegations to the Ninth UK-Caribbean Forum, next week in The Bahamas. It will undoubtedly be an excellent opportunity for us to share ideas and reinforce our relationship.
Certainly, the challenges of Small Island Developing States, Climate Change and Security will feature prominently on the agenda and we are pleased to have the UK as a steadfast partner for cooperation on these matters.
Your Excellency, Trinidad and Tobago nationals have also benefitted from numerous scholarship opportunities made available by the United Kingdom over the years. Indeed a significant number of our national scholars continue to make the United Kingdom the choice location for study. This investment in human capital has yielded significant returns to the socio-economic and cultural landscape, not only of our twin-island Republic, but also that of the United Kingdom.
I cannot close without mentioning the recent men’s T20 World Cup Final in Kolkata, India. The UK’s national team “cooperated” with our West Indian team to produce one of the most memorable finales in sports competitions in recent times. We are proud that our regional team was victorious and commended the UK side on their formidable performance.
In closing, High Commissioner Stew, I take this opportunity to transmit warmest greetings to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second on the occasion of her 90th birthday and best wishes for continued good health and happiness.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now invite you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and to the strong bilateral relations between Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom.