Grateful nation says farewell: THANK YOU, BAS

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FINAL BLESSING: Relatives of former prime minister Basdeo Panday say a final prayer before his cremation at the Shore of Peace cremation site in La Romaine yesterday. – Jeff K. Mayers

PRESIDENT Christine Kangaloo said TT has much to thank former prime minister Basdeo Panday for.

Kangaloo made this statement when she paid tribute to Panday at his state funeral service at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA), San Fernando on Tuesday.

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

He went there in mid-December for medical treatment.

Kangaloo said her role was “to give thanks on behalf of a grateful nation for Basdeo Panday’s service to TT and, by extension, to the Caribbean and the international community.

She added, “Where Basdeo Panday is concerned. There is much to be thankful for.”

Panday showed grit and determination, Kangaloo continued, allowing people to rise above their circumstances and defeat any obstacle in their path for a better tomorrow.

“I thank Basdeo Panday for the example that his life is to our young men and women of how to have a good time, to let go completely to the joy of the moment. Not in dark alleyways or in dangerous company but in the safety and in the bosom of our families.”

She thanked Panday for being an exemplar to fathers “of how to love and nurture daughters to become self-actualised women who are not afraid to challenge the status quo but will claim their due and rightful place in what was once called the world of men.”

Kangaloo praised Panday for being part of an era that allowed citizens to be their best.

She said Panday also taught the population that “if we choose, we can disagree without being disagreeable with one another.”

Kangaloo said, “I thank Basdeo Panday for never giving up the political fight and for becoming the first person of the Hindu faith and the first person of Indian descent to become prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”

She added that in doing this, Panday broke down barriers and cleared the way “for others to aspire to even greater heights than he himself achieved.”

Kangaloo said Panday’s best trait was “being an example of a real human being, for being a complex man, often prudent, sometimes rash but never pretending to be what he was not.”

She thanked Panday for having the courage to be his authentic self.

Kangaloo prayed Panday’s family find consolation in TT’s love for him.

She said when Panday died, TT lost more than its fifth prime minister.

“We lost one of the largest and most colourful figures in modern history. We lost a man who blazed a trail like few others him ever had and like few others ever will again.”

Kangaloo said Panday was a feisty fighter who never retreated from a battle.

Panday, she continued, won and lost battles over his career in public life.

“At times, hurting his opponents. At times, hurting himself. We lost a man who yielded no ground in his 90 years.”

Kangaloo said Panday lived his life to the fullest and “set the national landscape on fire.”

Mickela Panday, daughter of former prime minister Basdeo Panday and other relatives weep as the pyre with Panday’s body is lit at the Shore of Peace cremation site in La Romaine yesterday. – Jeff K. Mayers

“Basdeo Panday was a man who fascinated a region with his charm and enthralled a nation with his wit.”

Recalling her personal experience as an MP from 2007-2010, Kangaloo said, “That wit could turn from delightfully charming to devastatingly caustic at the drop of a hat.”

She remembered Panday was often reading a book during parliamentary sittings when he was not speaking in a debate.

Kangaloo said some government members thought he was daring them to disturb his peace.

“Woe betide the unsuspecting soul who dared to do so. We all learned early on not to trouble the lion when he was at rest.”

Kangaloo said, “Even though the lion has now entered into another state of rest, many of us who learned that lesson were so traumatised today we remain a little apprehensive about saying anything even remotely critical of him lest we awake his ire once more.”

She described him as one of the brightest meteors in TT’s galaxy.

“As a meteor blazes its trail across the sky. It burns everything in its path, for that is the nature of a meteor’s existence.

Against that background, Kangaloo said it is not surprising that Panday burnt bridges at times but built indestructible bridges with his friends and his family, “who he loved more than life itself.”

An example of that love, she continued, was Panday accompanying his daughter Mickela to many public events.

“What an example he was to fathers everywhere.”

Kangaloo wishes TT’s fathers could emulate Panday in this regard.

“What the nation saw between him and Mickela in public is what every member of his family felt away from the public glare.

Panday, she continued, was both a public figure and a man with an immensely private life.

Kangaloo said Panday’s family is more devastated by his death than the rest of TT.

She recalled that Panday never showed any hatred towards anyone and showed mutual respect, even his most bitter political opponents.

Kangaloo said this quality seems unheard of in “today’s political environment of so much bitterness and so much acrimony.”

She added, “We can believe in vastly different things yet be civil to each other.”

Kangaloo told the gathering of a conversation she had with Panday when she was inaugurated as president last March.

She remembered him congratulating her on her speech.

Kangaloo said, “Having gotten me where he wanted me, he then said, ‘I’m afraid to tell you that you will get nothing done without constitutional reform.'”

Constitutional reform, she continued, was a subject close to his heart.

“Where constitutional reform was concerned, he was like a boa constrictor, with its prey in its grip.”

Kangaloo said Panday believed it was necessary to change the governance arrangements to improve the quality of life of the population.

In delivering the eulogy at the service, Panday’s daughter Mickela also thanked him for his service to TT.

“Thank you, Dad, for your unwavering commitment to your country, your people, your family, friends and loved ones.”

As prime minister, she continued, Panday had many achievements.

These included the passage of the Equal Opportunities Act and the creation of the Interim Revenue Stabilisation Fund, which is now the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.

Mickela also said as prime minister, Panday “kept crime at the lowest that this country has ever seen in recent history.

She said, “Dad never spoke the language of race, publicly or privately.”‘

“He was equal in his treatment of everyone. Both (in) his public and private lives.”

In a video tribute, Panday’s political colleague and friend John Humphrey reiterated a promise he made to Panday to support Mickela’s political ambitions.

“This I will do until the day the Creator calls me.”

Caricom Assistant Secretary General Elizabeth Solomon praised Panday for his contribution to regional integration.

She said one of Panday’s major regional achievements was the role he played in establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice in 1999.