PRESIDENT Anthony Carmona urged special acclaim for the Scarlet Ibis and the country’s top athletes, all of which are national symbols, in his Independence Day message yesterday. He also emphasised that this nation’s diversity is its strength.

He said our attainment of Independence saw us adopt national symbols as physical reminders of our identity, culture and our collective consciousness, and these symbols must be keenly respected. 

“In this regard, I make a clarion call to protect our national flora and fauna, especially our national birds. One such beautiful symbol is the Scarlet Ibis in flight or nesting on the mangrove trees of the Caroni Swamp. There must be no compromise in our fight to protect the Scarlet Ibis.” His words came after three men recently appeared before a Chaguanas magistrate charged with poaching the national bird. 

His Excellency also paid tribute to athletes who represent the nation. 

“It is with great pride that I salute the remarkable achievements of all our Paralympians and our athletes, especially gold medalist, Akeem Stewart and the ‘never say die’ quartet 4x400 metres gold medalists at the World Championships in London, together with the astounding victory of the West Indies cricket team against England a few days ago. 

“These athletes have all become our lightning rods in our social and human darkness. This imposing display of youth success and prowess on the international stage is a timeless and timely gift to a nation celebrating Independence. 

Our athletes deserve nothing less than the best in good times and in bad times and our patriotism demands that we must never be fair-weathered supporters.” Carmona made a plug for disabled citizens as he hailed the population’s diversity. 

“Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we celebrate our differences and we rejoice in diversity, simply because we understand that it is our differences that make us ‘Trinbago’.” He said that if we are all the same then the same disappointments, the same challenges and the same obstacles could devour us whole. 

“We must enable each other and make our diversity our forte on the world stage.” He said that in the quest for real, genuine inclusiveness, we must be informed about the needs and aspirations of people less fortunate, particularly persons with disabilities. 

“Individually and collectively, we must continually ask ourselves, how as a Nation will we be judged? Will we be judged by how we treat the strong and the powerful among us? No, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, we will be judged by how we treat and care for the weak, the disadvantaged, the marginalised and the voiceless.” Carmona said Independence is an apt time to renew the national watchwords, Discipline, Produc tion and Tolerance. 

The president concluded by urging TT nationals to be ambassadors to the world of Trinbago values. 

“We must continue to play a meaningful role in regional, hemispheric and world affairs so that our celebrated values of hospitality, tolerance and life-affirmation, forged in the march to Independence and beyond, are recognised, preserved and celebrated.”