"We are ready. We are anxious. But we are ready," Communications Coordinator Felipe Noguera said yesterday as the National Secretariat for the Fifth Summit of the Americas prepared for the biggest event this country has ever hosted, which starts today with the opening ceremony at the Hyatt Regency at 5 p.m.
Noguera said the country 'understandably' went through some growing pains, as it prepared for the event but stressed that the Secretariat wanted to thank the population for being extremely cooperative through the various exercises such as the dry runs.
US President Barack Obama, host Prime Minister Patrick Manning and 32 heads of government will participate in the Summit which ends on Sunday at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. Only the heads (not their delegations) will attend the Sunday dialogue.
Questioned on the apparent "chaos"and "confusion" surrounding the accreditation as well as other aspects of the planning for the Summit, Noguera said: "Look, I am not going to make any excuses. We are a small country attempting to host a very big event. We are stretching our capacity beyond what we thought were our limits. And we are trying to be as inclusive as possible with our population so that they can not only be aware of what is taking place, but that they could also benefit. You can't expect to do something like this without making some mistakes."
He added: "But we ask for the forbearance of the population...and (for it) to work with us because we are growing in this experience together."
Asked whether the chaos also caused in part by the "late minute culture' of Trinidad and Tobago, (which had four years to plan for this event), he said the leadership from the Prime Minister to Minister of Trade Mariano Browne to the National Coordinator Ambassador Luis Rodriguez and Deputy Coordinator Beverly Khan have all been extremely disciplined and from my experience their level of professionalism is comparable to any at this level internationally'.
He said while there were some errors such as the "unplanned fire drill (on Tuesday)...which happened due to circumstances beyond our control, but "we responded very well though not perfectly". He noted that the building was evacuated and there was no incident.
Noguera said the Secretariat had to bring in and to train a lot of new people in the area of protocol and accreditation. He said it also had the help from international advisors, especially Canada, for which we are very grateful. "But," he said, "the transfer of know-how takes time, of which we haven't had a lot". He said, "apart from the security issues, the areas of accreditation included the adaptation of the software, the attempt to include as much of the population as possible in the events where they could participate. This proved to be daunting. And the main reason...it is the safeguard and maintain the integrity of the security process to ensure that both the Heads of State and Governments and other guests are provided with the level of security that is expected, while at the time ensuring that the population is not left vulnerable in terms of their protection and safety."
He said the Secretariat was documenting and filming for archival purposes the preparations of the Fifth Summit of the Americas so the Secretariat can leave this legacy for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, from which future Governments can benefit.