In an address to the nation last night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she requested acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith grant today as a national holiday in honour of all the athletic performances at the Olympic Games in London over the past two weeks, but especially to honour Walcott’s gold medal.
“I have received so many calls from so many quarters, asking in what way shall we commemorate this occasion to express the immense joy of every citizen of this great nation,” she said.
“Our Olympic athletes not only validated our belief and faith in their superior sporting talent, but once again proved to the world that Trinidad and Tobago is a force to be reckoned with, winning one gold and three bronze medals,” she said.
“A new generation of citizens are privileged to feel what we felt all those years ago,” she said, recalling that it was 36 years ago that athlete Hasely Crawford brought home the country’s first Olympic gold medal.
“Small though we are, far away though we may be, we are a people of passion,” she said.
Walcott’s motorcade will begin after a reception ceremony at Piarco International Airport. The Prime Minister invited the nation to take their holiday to greet Walcott at the airport or along the path of his motorcade.
His flight touches down at 9.45 a.m. and then the motorcade continues along the Eastern Main Road to Arima, through to Sangre Grande and onto Toco Composite School, where he will also be honoured with another “special announcement” to mark his achievement.
With regard to the clean-up efforts in the northern part of the island, Persad-Bissessar said she and the relevant Ministers will continue their tours today. Persad-Bissessar described the dichotomy of the two events on Saturday—Walcott’s gold and the landslips that left two dead—as the best of times and the worst of times.
She extended her continued sympathy over the loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage in the western part of the island. Persad-Bissessar and several other Ministers will continue to tour the affected areas today for further damage assessment. She said she was “heartened” by the sense of “neighbourliness” in the affected areas.
“I have just completed a second tour and while the situation was vastly improved from yesterday, our citizens in the north of our island have so much to do by way of clean-up and renovation,” she said.
She said several ministries were being allowed to access emergency funding.
“And I instructed the Ministry of National Security to deploy more manpower. I have asked that several updated reports be made available directly to me so I could ascertain how our resources are being deployed,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said a hotline would also be established for feedback as the situation unfolds.