WHAT is the state of our republic as we observe the annual Republic Day holiday today? Instead of being able to focus on a far-ranging debate and collective discussion of the reforms needed to improve our country, it seems we are weathering the effects – literally – of crisis after crisis.
Republic Day has always taken a back seat to the annual Independence Day commemoration. The latter celebrates the moment we became a free country; the former is more symbolic, marking the moment we dispensed with the monarchy as the titular head of state.
Even when we became independent on August 31, 1962, we retained a governor general who served as the representative of the British monarchy until this arrangement was abolished on August 1, 1976. (September 24, 1976, was the day our Parliament had its first session under the new republican constitution.)
But while Republic Day is normally a muted affair, this year it is a particularly sombre one, coming as the country nurses a series of wounds which have all but dimmed our ability to celebrate.
The economy remains ravaged by covid19, which marches apace on the strength of the delta variant, unbridled anti-vaxxer sentiment and irrational vaccine hesitancy or outright resistance. Health officials are sparring with religious organisations over their role in fanning the flames.
The hot weather is typical for petit careme, but this year we have seen extreme patterns, and who knows what is in store due to climate change?
National awards, which were shifted from Independence Day to Republic Day by former president Anthony Carmona in order to breathe new life into today’s holiday, will again not be presented. Last year, there was no official explanation for the cancellation, though the country was only just in the throes of covid19. This year, there is again no explanation, even though the public had been invited to submit nominations.
Perhaps this seemingly dysfunctional state of affairs is due to the fact that the Government has more pressing issues to handle.
Confusion attends the appointment of the highest law-enforcement officer in the land. One thing is clear in all of the commess: the country is no closer to having a substantive commissioner of police, as crime threatens to spiral and as a state of emergency remains live.
Nor is the clarity that might be brought by the courts on the many issues now before them on this matter a source of comfort: ironically, the legal wrangling could go all the way to the London-based Privy Council, raising the prospect of further delay.
It is contemplation of our relationship with colonial-era institutions such as the Privy Council that is missing.
Instead, officials are focused on putting out fires day to day, instead of addressing the long-term reforms needed to bolster our society moving forward.