Fly with the angels, Basdeo Panday
Based on the number of individuals reaching out to me, after allowing a respectful period for the various political leaders to publicly express their sympathies at the passing of our fifth prime minister, Basdeo Panday, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share my own thoughts on the passing of this icon, this political giant, who served the people of this country for decades, but as prime minister from 1995 to 2001.
First, I thank Oma, his wife, and his four daughters — Niala, Mickela, Nicola, and Vastala — for sharing their husband and father with the world. Perhaps unwillingly so, and on occasions, I am sure, they regretted the very public space their father occupied. He belonged to all of Trinidad and Tobago. While his roots were in labour and politics, he might well be considered another father of the nation.
Panday will forever, be for me, the man who breathed life into our national anthem “where every creed and race find an equal place”.
This man, the former president of the All Sugar Workers’ Trade Union (ASWTU), a union many young people may not be aware even existed, rose with pomp and splendour to assume the office of prime minister — the first Indo-Trinbagonian to hold that office.
What I perhaps most admired, and moreso as people share their personal memories with Panday, is that he could be seen in photos with princes, paupers, men, women, children — the kaleidoscope that represents Trinidad and Tobago. This was Panday’s vision. This is part of his legacy.
It would be remiss of me to not include Panday’s enduring legacy, the United National Congress (UNC) — the party he poured his heart and soul into forming. He saw the UNC as the ray of hope for Trinidad and Tobago, the only opportunity for the country to progress.
In 1989 Panday planted the seed for success in Trinidad and Tobago. After being in the Opposition desert for six years, the UNC, under the leadership of Basdeo Panday, won control of the Government in 1995 and Panday served as prime minister from that time to 2001. Such a visionary he was that the symbol of the UNC is the sun rising above the Trinity Hills.
While this is no time for politicking, I think we, our country, should reflect on Panday’s vision. The greatest homage we can pay Panday, our fifth prime minister, is to bring our country together to a space where every creed and race can find an equal place and ask God to bless our nation.
Oma, you were the wind beneath his wings; may you and your daughters find solace at this time amid the mammoth loss you have suffered.
Bas, may you fly with the angels and continue to look over us in Trinidad and Tobago.
United National Congress Alliance
Trinidad and Tobago