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TRINIDAD | Basdeo Panday turns 87, threatens to 'get back in politics'

  • Written by Wiredja Newsdesk
  • Published in Politics
Panday and his wife at his 86th  birthday celebration in 2019 Panday and his wife at his 86th birthday celebration in 2019
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, May 25, 2020 - Former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Basdeo Panday turned 87 on Monday and promised guests at his birthday party that, not knowing what the government was doing with the economy, “I may have to intervene in the politics myself. I certainly cannot sit down quietly. I am ready and I am at a stage where I can handle anything.”

Speaking on his birthday on Monday, Panday, the wily elder statesman of Trinidadian politics said, “We are in a terrible position. I am not in the government and therefore, I do not have all the facts and I don’t know what they are doing and how they are going to deal with the economy. I may simply have to wait and see.

Panday who celebrated his birthday with family and close friends in an intimate setting at their home, said as the general election was due, he could not stand idly and watch the country continue along its current path.

Panday said he will be supporting his daughter, Mickela Panday and her party the Patriotic Front (PF). “I will certainly join her. I will certainly be her adviser and I hope she contests all 41 seats,” he said.

Last year, Panday celebrated his birthday with the launch of the PF and noted then that this was no coincidence. He said the PF will turn out to be the best political party in the Caribbean.

Panday, who served as prime minister from 1995 to 2001, added that the PF has a new structure of choosing candidates and it would not be that of the current system employed by political parties.

He explained, “The parties choose someone from within the party even though that person is incapable of doing anything. There are people in parliament who can do nothing to develop the country.

“The PF will invite people who are capable of running the country properly, they do not have to be belong to the PF. We need to call upon the young, bright, intelligent, hardworking people.”

Panday, in offering sage  advice about life, called for more love and unity in TT. “The secret is being happy. If you capable of being happy, life can be so enjoyable.

“Once you have hate, bitterness, greed, envy and spite in your heart, you can never be happy. Because if I hate you, then all day I will be thinking about how to hurt you.”

Union Restrained from Evictring Panday

On Friday, Justice Robin Mohammed imposed an injunction on the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) restraining it from interfering or preventing Panday from using the office.

The trades union was trying to evict the former  prime minister from his offices at Rienzi Complex in Couva.

The judge also granted an order reinstating Panday’s occupation of the 930 square feet office in the building’s north-eastern corner of the ground floor.

Panday’s attorneys Vasheist Maharaj and Karuna Maraj sued the union’s trustees Narad Sohan, Christopher Ramlal and Reiza Mohamdally after he was evicted from in 2019.

The injunctions granted by Mohammed are until the substantive lawsuit is heard and determined. The matter has been set for July 21, for a case management conference.

In his ruling, Mohammed said the court was unable to ascertain the nature of Panday’s occupation of the office space so the issue had to go to trial. He also did not rule out a site visit to Rienzi Complex so that other issues raised can be determined.

He also said it was evident that third-party rights were introduced when Panday’s claim was filed, as he pointed to a rental agreement between a holding company and the union which includes the office the former prime minister occupied.

In weighing how to maintain the status quo, Mohammed said Panday could suffer greater damage and loss if the office space he occupied was no longer in existence.

“If the said office space is not preserved and if the claimant is successful at trial, the said office space will no longer be available to him for his use, access and occupation,” the judge said of his decision to grant the injunction.

In support of his lawsuit, Panday said when he became president general of the union in 1973, he realised the ATSGWTU did not own its own building and it was during his presidency that Rienzi Complex was built to house its offices.

He said he continued to maintain an office space at Rienzi until his resignation in 1995 when he became prime minister.

Panday said he was told by the then general secretary, Sam Maharaj, that the union passed a resolution to honour his contribution to the ATSGWTU, making him honorary president general for life, and together with that accolade he would be given an office space at Rienzi Complex, also for life.

He denied being notified of his removal as honorary president or any of the rights bestowed on him by the trade union.

Panday says he has renovated the 930 square feet office at a cost of more than $120,000. He also denied his occupation of the office was by virtue of a tenancy or that he was indebted to the union for rent due on the office space.

The union’s former president said it was to his “horror and dismay” that the union, on February 21, put “locks with huge chains” on the front door to the office, preventing him from getting access to it.

“This has caused me great distress as I have many of my important documents and papers stored in the office. In addition, I have many important and significant gifts that are of great sentimental value kept in that office. Further I am unable to attend to my many commitments as many of my files and other important documents are housed in my offices,” Panday said.

He accused the union of acting “maliciously and out of spite for me and with the intention of humiliating me and injuring my proper feelings of dignity and pride and causing me to be held up to ridicule and contempt before my family friends and the general public.”

“I have been subject to humiliation and suffered great anguish and mental distress,” he said.

After Panday was evicted, the union’s current president general Nirvan Maharaj claimed the union took the decision to evict Panday as he had accumulated over $500,000 in unpaid rent since 2012.

Maharaj claimed the union requested payment from him over 50 times but was ignored.

In July 2016, the union evicted the UNC, saying the party failed to pay increased rent from $12,000 to $25,000 per month.

  • Countries: Trinidad_Tobago