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A day divisions were forgotten (with CNC3 video)
To open his prayer at the inauguration of T&T’s fifth president yesterday, Fr Clyde Harvey said, “Let us put aside all that divides us.” His words were wise, but maybe unnecessary as the audience seemed to have forgotten divisions long before Harvey began his prayer.
Harvey was one of four religious leaders representing the Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths and the Inter-Religious Organisation who offered prayers during the invocation yesterday at President Anthony Carmona’s inauguration.
From the podium in the middle of the field, Harvey may not have seen the audience, which came from all walks of life, and who were dressed in school uniforms, saris, shalwar kameez, snakeskin suits, satin gowns, dashikis, gele headwraps, and regular going-out clothes (jeans, leggings, sneakers and shiny tops).
But Fr Harvey would have heard, as did all the other dignitaries, the screams and applause coming from that very same mixed crowd, however. Natalie Skinner, of Five Rivers, told the T&T Guardian she brought her two-month-old daughter to the event because she wanted her “to be a part of history.”
Mary Peters, 79, of Arima came with a “clique” of six including 94-year-old Thelma Waldron. The three walking sticks between Peters and her friends did not stop them from making it up the stairs and into the bleachers. They came to see the new president, they said. And the fact that Carmona was from a “rural area” won him even more favour in Peters’ eyes.
She didn’t forget former president George Maxwell Richards, however, and had some particular, unity-themed wishes for him: “I wish him to be neutral. No partisan business.” Peters and her companions did not wish “partisan business” for Carmona either.
Patricia Bissessar, principal of the Santa Flora Government Primary School (Carmona’s alma mater), was accompanied by 60 students, 40 parents and seven teachers and a large blue and yellow banner reading: “Santa Flora Government Primary School: Nothing but the Best.” Even though students were allowed to come in half-day, she said, they still came in the morning.
One such student, Christoph John, 12, said the best part was “when Mr Carmona was entering and he and his wife and children were waving at us.” His friend Dareen Ganga said the best part for him was “Mr Carmona coming up in the drive way.”
Not far from the Santa Flora students were another bunch from La Brea RC where ten-year-old Leah Weekes said the most exciting part was the president taking the oath. Her fellow student Tarique Gobin, ten, said he loved the military parade and thought Carmona was “cool.”
The students and their multicultural surnames and faces were a microcosm of what was to happen during the “cultural presentation” section of the programme. Again, the divisions were already forgotten: traditional Hindu dancers, belly dancers, Malick drummers, the Lydian Singers, parranderos and numerous steelbands performing everything from Whitney Houston to Suhani Raat to Super Blue.
Carmona’s inaugural speech probably tied everything together best when he pointed out that in 1985 Pope John Paul II was impressed by the way races and religions lived peacefully side by side here, demonstrating “spiritual enrichment in a world riddled with spiritual bigotry.”
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