Thunderous cheers, whistles and applause greeted a smiling President Paula Mae-Weekes, as she entered the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, yesterday to commemorate the country’s 56 anniversary Independence parade.
Since being inaugurated in March as the country’s first female President this was Weekes’ maiden Independence parade before hundreds of spectators who were dressed in their patriotic colours of red, white and black seated in the Grand Stand.
Among the spectators who gave Weekes a round of applause were Gail Mc Intyre and Deryck Boodoo.
Mc Intyre, 45, admitted that Weekes was the main reason she attended the celebrations.
“This is the first time I am seeing the President in the flesh and I have no regrets coming here today. I feel so patriotic and elated. As a woman, our President has inspired me in so many ways,” Mc Intyre said.
“I know today would have been special with our female President doing the inspection and it really was,” said Boodoo, who lives in San Fernando.
Attending the celebration were Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife, Sharon, who also received cheers from the public.
Among other public officials who witnessed the event were Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, National Security Minister Stuart Young, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, Government ministers, Opposition MPs and members of the diplomatic corps, who sat in the VIP area in the Grand Stand.
This was also Griffith and Young’s first parade since being appointed to the posts earlier this month.
The CJ came alone although his wife’s name was listed on the official programme.
From 8 am, Weekes, who is also Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, made her grand entry into the savannah in a specially decorated military vehicle surrounded by an escort of the Mounted Branch, to the sounds of trumpets. She was invited to inspect the hour-long parade which consisted of the police, air guard, coast guard, prisons, fire service and traffic wardens among others.
Accompanying Weekes during the inspection were Chief of Defence Staff Commodore Hayden Pritchard, Parade Commander Colonel Darnley Wyke and her Aide-de-Camp Major Leslie Ann Mohammed.
All three sheltered from the blistering sun as they stood under a canopy of the military vehicle.
Following the inspection, the protective services marched past Weekes who honoured her with a presidential salute.
Then there was a display of vehicles from the T&T Police Service, Coast Guard, Fire Services, prisons, St John’s Ambulance and T&T Regiment which ranged from hydraulic lifts, motorbikes, buses, fire engines and ambulances which wowed spectators.
One of the highlights of the parade was when two helicopters in national colours flew overhead.
There was a 21-gun salute in honour of the 56 anniversary of Independence during the National Anthem, bringing the curtain down on the event at the Savannah.
The parade, however, continued along a designated route in Port-of-Spain and ended at the St James Barracks.
Weekes, who was dressed in a stunning red and black dress, then shifted to the nearby National Academy for the Performing Arts where she gave a toast to the nation.