Dignitaries salute Panday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets mourners upon her arrival at the Shore of Peace Cremation Site, Mosquito Creek on January 9 – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

MANY dignitaries at Basdeo Panday’s funeral at SAPA, San Fernando, on Tuesday afterwards gave Newsday their views on the event and memories of him.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (leading her MPs, all wearing white) told Newsday, “May he rest in peace. He will be forever remembered. He was one of the great sons of our soil. So may he rest in peace. Thank you.”

Planning Minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson told Newsday Panday’s funeral had gone well and it was always an honour to attend a state funeral.

”I think he got a fitting send-off, as a man of the people.”

She said Panday had been able to maintain his common touch and deal with dignitaries.

HOPE party leader Tim Hamel-Smith told Newsday, “It was an absolutely great event to have a state funeral put on here. I don’t think they could have done it better. I think all the right people gave their tributes.

“That song by Kees at the end said it all, you know: ‘I did it my way.'” He was recalling a heartfelt performance of Frank Sinatra’s anthemic ballad My Way, by singer Kees Dieffenthaller, at the end of the funeral.

The former Senate president said the song epitomised Panday’s life.

“His way was lovely. His was the way of love, in everything he did. I think that’s why he drew people to him.

“He pulled the country together in a short time.”

Hamel-Smith hailed Panday for fresh legislation like the Equal Opportunity Act.

Mervyn Assam and Carlos John, former government ministersThe state funeral of Basdeo Panday former prime minister held at Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando on Tuesday January 9, 2024. – Photo by Roger Jacob

“It’s a symbol of where we are and how much better we could do, as symbolised by Mr Panday. I think his memory needs to be treasured. We need to learn the lessons he taught. His life was a lesson as to how we go forward.”

Former PNM finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira told Newsday the celebration of Panday’s life had been well put together in a short time.

“One cannot complain.”

However, she lamented an earlier incident involving herself and Hamel-Smith, a former Senate president.

“I didn’t think he was treated with the respect that he should have been – but that is beside the point – having to appear to be jumping over fences.”Nunez-Tesheira became the target of criticism and the subject of numerous memes on Tuesday when she was caught on camera climbing over a railing to get into SAPA. She and Hamel-Smith (who escaped most of the cameras and much of the criticism) were not invited to the funeral.

“But anyway, that is not the point. I thought it was well done, well executed, and I thought respect and regard was shown to him (Panday) as a former prime minister, for whom I also had regard, even if you are on the opposite sides.”

Businessman Jack Warner, a former People’s Partnership (PP) minister, told Newsday, “If we don’t receive Mr Panday’s request for constitutional reform, then we would have failed him.”

Asked how he thought the funeral service had gone, the FIFA former vice president said, “Very well!”

Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher-Harewood told reporters, “It was not a solemn ceremony, but it was enjoyable. It was nice hearing all the tributes.

“I want to take this opportunity to convey God’s blessings and the courage and strength to his family.”

On crime, she asked the public to continue to support the police, saying, “We can and we will take control of this.”

Former UNC trade minister Mervyn Assam told Newsday, “I think whatever took place today, he was deserving of everything – all the tributes, al the music, all the people who came, the officials. I think he deserved it, and I think his memory will live for a long time.

“I think his greatest passion was trying to help people emerge from poverty, from any kind of deprivation. That was his passion. Uplifting people.”

Attorney Devesh Maharaj told Newsday it had been a tremendous function to celebrate Panday’s life.

“When I sat and I listened to all the contributions made by the speakers and reminisced, I remembered my own personal interactions.

“His life was so large and so big, with so much to talk about.”

He viewed Panday’s death as signalling a changing of the guard.

Maharaj recalled Panday’s constant refrain of constitutional reform.

“In his last years he kept championing that, and I think the powers that be need to take that on board with all earnestness. If the society is to move forward and grow and develop and evolve, constitutional reform is a must. We have to keep asking for that.

” Thank you, Basdeo Panday.”

Deputy Speaker Esmond Ford told Newsday, “As we know, it is a new chapter. He has been promoted to glory. We have lost a patriot, we have lost a legend, we have lost an icon, we have lost a man who really was a man of the people – East Indian, African, Chinese, Caucasian.

“Like everything else, you can say the bad things about him, but I think there are more good things than bad things that can be said about Basdeo Panday. I trust his legend would live on.”

Forde was glad the Government had offered a state funeral and this offer had been accepted by Panday’s family.

Former PP government senator David Abdulah, now leader of the Movement for Social Justice, told Newsday the funeral was a very fitting tribute to Panday.

“The tribute by President Kangaloo was excellent, as of course was Mickela’s (Panday’s daughter) eulogy. The entire ceremony was very tasteful and very reflective.

“The Hindu rites and all the other prayers by the other religious heads and so on all went very, very well, and it was an appropriate send-off for someone who served this country tastefully and well for very many years.”

The pyre containing the body of former prime minister Basdeo Panday on fire at the Shore of Peace Cremation Site, Mosquito Creek on January 9. – Photo by Jeff K. Mayers

Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi told reporters, “I thought today was a remarkable occasion. I thought Mickela did justice to her father’s legacy. I thought President Kangaloo was simply fantastic. I really hang on to the words where she reflected on Mr Panday’s personal life in being a father and what a father is, as an example to daughters and society etcetera.

“One thing that always struck me about him was his humility.

“He was such a witty, charming, intelligent, ferocious individual, depending upon the side that you met.”

Al-Rawi said as a child he had known Panday as a friend of his grandfather, former San Fernando politician Lionel Seukeran.

“I grew up calling him, ‘Uncle Bas.’ I have always had profound respect for him. We embraced the fact that we had political differences, although I dare to say I don’t think he had as many differences in his later years as he had before.

“I do celebrate his life, and I thank his family in particular for the service they allowed him to have. As a person in public life, I can tell you that balance is extremely difficult, and you only do that with the blessing of your wife or significant other and your kids.

“To Mr Panday! Let’s celebrate his legacy.”

He was happy the funeral took place in San Fernando West, his constituency, and said through his ministry 900 employees helped with the event.

“Minister Browne just distinguished himself, (with) his usual understated charm and charisma.”

Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne told Newsday, “I am honoured TT has been able to come together, conduct itself with respect and regard for a life of service in honour of Mr Basdeo Panday.

“This was very much a team effort, which continues. It has really been an honour and a privilege for the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs to work with the Panday family and other stakeholders such as the Defence Force and Ministry of Communications to ensure these proceedings were conducted with quality.”

He pointed out that this was TT’s first state funeral under Hindu rites.

“It was important that we got it right, and I really believe there was a sense of solemnity and formality, and there were some other very touching moments as well, all with great respect and regard for the Panday family and his life of service.”

Former PP finance minister Winston Dookeran told reporters he had learnt a lot from Panday, whom he had known for over 30 years.

“He was a person who was able to grasp the moment, and he grasped the moment in all different ways. I think what was said today was true: he remained who he was, from the beginning to the end.”

Dookeran said Panday had fought many battles and had encouraged him to get into politics.

Dookeran felt everything said about Panday minutes earlier had been true. “I think all the speakers said that he said life was about making yourself happy and making others happy in the process.

“I think that was a basic, philosophical aspect of Mr Panday over his life.

Dookeran said Panday took things in stride, while able to show where he was going.

“So although sometimes you think he is upset, he really never was upset.”

He told Newsday the function had been well done, hailing the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.