Equal Opportunity Commission pays tribute to Panday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Basdeo Panday – File photo

THE Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) has joined the chorus of tributes being paid to late prime minister Basdeo Panday.

In a statement on the weekend, the EOC recognised Panday’s legacy of national service.

It said the commission was created by the Equal Opportunity Act of 2000; legislation passed during Panday’s administration from 1995 to 2001.

“This act reflected his belief in social justice, equity, and the removal of barriers for all persons and was designed to prohibit certain types of discrimination and to create a mechanism by which persons who have been discriminated against can access relief quickly and cost-effectively.

“It was at the time, and even today, a progressive piece of legislation,” EOC said.

In its statement, the commission remembered Panday’s quick wit and “very profound statements” that, the EOC said, went to the heart of his vision for a unified and equal society.

“Most notably, having been sworn in as prime minister and asked how he felt about being the first Indian prime minister, he replied that the only Indian prime minister he knew was the one in India, and as far as he knew, he was the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, conveying the message that he was first and foremost a Trinbagonian prime minister for all its citizens, and not of a particular race, religion, creed, ethnicity, or geography.

“Such statements by a leader certainly capture and promote a spirit of unity and equality among the multi-faceted and diverse group of people that is Trinidad and Tobago.”

The EOC also said the act was “born out of former prime minister Panday’s belief in the need to transform Trinidad and Tobago into a more just and inclusive society, where people are treated based on their individual merits and abilities and are not divided based on group identity.

“The act and the Constitution both express unequivocally aspirations for a society based on equality and justice, that is, non-races, non-sexes and non-discriminatory.

“It is a vision that the commission hopes will continue long after former prime minister Panday’s passing.”