Government invites public to late PM’s funeral: COME SAY GOODBYE TO PANDAY

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Basdeo Panday –

THE nation will say goodbye to its fifth prime minister Basdeo Panday on Tuesday.

Members of the public have two opportunities to pay their final respects to Panday, who served as prime minister from 1995-2001.

The first will be during his state funeral service at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando at 9 am.

The second will be after the funeral service when Panday’s body will be taken to the Shore of Peace, Mosquito Creek, South Oropouche, where he will be cremated under Hindu rites.

In a statement on Monday, the Communications Ministry said, “Following the funeral service, members of the public are invited to join the funeral procession to the Shore of Peace Cremation Site.”

The site falls under the jurisdiction of the Siparia Borough Corporation.

On Monday, Siparia Mayor Doodnath Mayhroo said, “All cremations suspended tomorrow (Tuesday) to facilitate Mr Panday’s state funeral.”

No information has been provided by anyone regarding the identity of the pundit who will officiate at the funeral. Sources said this person could be someone selected directly by Panday’s family.

Panday, 90, died in the US on January 1.

He went there in mid-December for medical treatment.

In a brief statement on December 14, his daughter Mickela Panday said, “Earlier this week, after consultation with his doctors in Trinidad and Tobago, our father travelled to the US to investigate medical concerns about his health.

Mickela Panday, daughter of former prime minister the late Basdeo Panday and her uncle Subhas Panday viewing Panday’s body at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts in San Fernando on Monday.- Lincoln Holder

She added, “We would like to thank everyone who has reached out for all your prayers and good wishes. We deeply appreciate it. Your love and support have been a pillar of strength. Our father looks forward to a bright and prosperous 2024.”

Several people sent Facebook posts to Panday and his family, extending best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

In another statement on December 27, Mickela said her father was doing well.

“My father said, ‘If you see me and a lion fighting, feel sorry for the lion’. Truer words have never been spoken.

“The last two weeks have been a perfect example of that sheer strength and determination, mentally and physically.”

On January 1, Mickela broke the news that Panday died.

“With deep sorrow, we would like to share that our loving husband and father, Basdeo Panday passed away on 1st January 2024, surrounded by his family. In life and death, he was a fighter. He passed with his boots on, keeping everybody around him on their toes with his wit and humour.”

She said, “He will live on in all of us, remembered as a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, leader, and friend. He was an inspiration to his family and everybody that knew him. We will continue to celebrate his life and treasure the time we were able to spend with him.”

President Christine Kangaloo, the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar were among the people who locally extended condolences to Panday’s family. Regionally, condolences came from Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali, Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Caricom. Panday’s body returned to TT on January 3.

On January 5, his body lay in state in the rotunda of the Red House in Port of Spain for public viewing. Panday’s body was at SAPA on Monday for public viewing as well.

Tuesday’s state funeral service for Panday will be the third such occasion for a former prime minister.

State funerals were held for two of Panday’s predecessors – Patrick Manning (July 9, 2016) and Arthur NR Robinson (May 2, 2014).

The Communications Ministry said due to limited space at SAPA for members of the public via live stream at its carpark, additional viewing via large screens will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis at Skinner Park, San Fernando.

Everyone physically attending the funeral service is asked to be seated by 8.15 am.

Parking has been made available for members of the public at Skinner Park Second Grounds, located at Todd Street, San Fernando, opposite the SAPA and next to the ASJA Boys College.

To avoid traffic congestion, vehicles will only be allowed to enter the Skinner Park Second Grounds from Cipero Street, turning onto Park Street and then taking a right onto Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall Street and another right into the Grounds.

Only specially marked vehicles with parking passes will be allowed parking at the SAPA compound and use of the Todd Street entrance to the Skinner Park Second Grounds.

Members of the public sign the condolence book as the body of former prime minister Basdeo Panday lay in state at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts inSan Fernando on Monday. – Lincoln Holder

Government officials said parking arrangements for the public at Skinner Park are on a first-come, first-serve basis. No passes are being issued for people to park there.

They said the issuing of passes for specially marked vehicles to park at SAPA was being sorted out on Monday.

These passes are expected to be reserved for Panday’s family and other dignitaries attending the funeral service.

SAPA’s car park has a total of 253 spaces.

The academy has two theatres with seating capacities of 730 and 160 people, respectively.

Panday’s service is expected to be held in the larger theatre.

Among those expected to bring remarks are Mickela Panday, Dr Rowley and Persad-Bissessar.

Caricom is expected to be represented at the funeral.

Barbados Foreign Affairs Minister Kerrie Symmonds and Caricom Assistant Secretary-General Armstrong Alexis are the only Caricom dignitaries who have so far confirmed their attendance.

Government officials hinted that other Caricom officials may attend.

After Panday’s death, several suggestions have been made about how the country should honour him.

These include awarding him the Order of the Republic of TT (ORTT) posthumously or renaming the Piarco International Airport after him.

Speaking with the media at the Red House on January 5, Mickela said the family did not want the latter.

Last March, corruption charges against Panday and his wife Oma, in relation to the construction of the new Piarco International Terminal during the UNC’s 1995-2001 stint in government, were dropped.

Similar charges were also dropped against former UNC government minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransigh concerning that matter.

The Pandays were accused of receiving £25,000 from John and Galbaransingh as an inducement or reward in relation to the construction of the new terminal.

Rowley could address possibilities of national recognition for Panday should he deliver remarks at SAPA.

On Monday, the Opposition UNC (which Panday founded in 1989) said its main offices in Port of Spain, Chaguanas and Tunapuna will be closed on Tuesday as a mark of respect for him.

The party advised its MPs and councillors to consider closing their offices for the day as well.