Independence Day

Trinidad & Tobago Independence Day in a nutshell

Independence Day — a public holiday — marks the occasion on 31 August, 1962 when Trinidad & Tobago’s became independent from Great Britain.

The day usually begins with a parade of the various protective services at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain and in Scarborough, Tobago, with national political leaders in attendance. Firework displays often conclude the celebrations in both Trinidad and Tobago (so precautions should be taken to safeguard vulnerable citizens like the elderly, as well as pets). There also are often huge concerts just before the holiday. For many years, national awards were presented to esteemed citizens on the evening of Independence Day, but in 2017 this was moved to Republic Day.

For 2020, however, the parades and fireworks display have both been cancelled for safety reasons due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Republic Day

A few weeks after Independence Day, Republic Day (also a public holiday) marks the adoption on 24 September, 1976 of a new republican constitution (in which a President replaced the Queen of England as the head of state, and the islands became a republic within the Commonwealth), and the first meeting of the republican parliament.

Independence Day address by Dr Eric Williams in 1962

“The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote, and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others.

“Democracy means equality of opportunity for all in education, in the public service, and in private employment — I repeat, and in private employment. Democracy means the protection of the weak against the strong. Democracy means the obligation of the minority to recognise the right of the majority. Democracy means responsibility of the government to its citizens, the protection of the citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights. Democracy means freedom of worship for all and the subordination of the right of any race to the overriding right of the human race. Democracy means freedom of expression and assembly …

“All that is our Democracy, to which I call upon all citizens to dedicate themselves on this our Independence Day. This is what I meant when I gave the Nation its slogan for all time: Discipline, Production, Tolerance. Indiscipline, whether individual or sectional, is a threat to democracy.”

— Dr Eric Williams, first chief minister and first prime minister of Trinidad & Tobago (1956–81)

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