Mickela Panday, centre, greets a Parliament staff member on Friday during the public viewing of her father’s body at the Red House, in Port of Spain. – Faith Ayoung
JOHN Humphrey, long-standing friend of former prime minister the late Basdeo Panday, believes the time is right for Mickela Panday to test the political waters.
He said the goodwill being shown after the death of her father is the opportune time for her to relaunch her desire to continue the Panday dynasty by becoming the second person in the family to hold the ultimate seat of political power as prime minister.
Especially, he said, as there are sentiments for the leaders of the “two monolithic parties” to exit office and name successors.
The Panday legacy – which started with Panday in 1972 as a then-opposition senator and later as Couva North MP from 1976 – came to an end in 2010 when Kamla Persad-Bissessar ousted him as political leader of the United National Congress (UNC), a party he founded. Persad-Bissessar went on to be elected prime minister between 2010-2015.
Mickela who would have served as the MP for Oropouche West since 2007, and Panday’s brother Subhas Panday who also served as Naparima MP, were not returned as candidates in the Persad-Bissessar slate. Subhas later returned for a stint in the Senate.
Humphrey said his aspiration is to take her to Whitehall, the official Prime Minister’s office.
Humphrey lauded “Mickela’s genius” interaction to meet and greet people who lined the streets of Port of Spain to view, for the last time, the body of her father who died on January 1.
He believes that Mickela, who has already followed in the legal footsteps of her father, as a lawyer, already had his blessings as the political leader of the Patriotic Front which was launched in 2019, has the passion to take TT into a new realm of politics.
During her interaction, mourners asked Mickela whether she would follow in her father’s footsteps.
Her quirky reply, similar to what one would expect from her father, was: “Do you want me to?”
When a similar question was posed by the media, she said she would leave that up to the public to decide.
Mickela did not respond to calls to her cell phone on Saturday, and when Newsday visited the family’s Bryan’s Gate home, Phillipine, security guards said the family were bonding for the first time in a number of years and wanted a bit of privacy before Monday’s viewing of the body at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando and Tuesday’s state funeral and cremation.
Humphrey said before his friend of 55 years died, he placed Mickela and her political fortunes in his hands and she has committed.
“She said she wants to go all the way. I asked if she understood all the way meant being prime minister like her Dad, and she said she did.
John Humphrey –
“I will be 91 years of age in February and while I have life I will guide her and expound the vision that her father and I had for this country before former president Arthur NR Robinson appointed the late Patrick Manning as prime minister and he ended that vision. Robinson appointed Manning as prime minister in 2001 after the UNC, the then incumbent government, and the PNM tied with 18 seats each.
“What we have are two monolithic parties that are doing nothing for the people of the country. Things are only getting worse. The new year has started with the most atrocious crimes which will continue because you have a flourishing drug trade and the result of this is young, frustrated people picking up arms and killing each other.”
Humphrey, who said he has already written a constitution for the party, said he will not advise Mickela to build another monolithic party.
“What I am advising her to do is to mobilise her generation and let each constituency find suitable young people to contest and win their seats so they can control the government.”
He agreed with the recommendation from former president Anthony Carmona for Panday to be conferred with the Order of The Republic of TT (ORTT), posthumously.
However, he was not in agreement with the state funeral.
“I know Basdeo would have hated this state funeral. That is just for all the hypocrites to come out and exploit the popularity of the deceased.”
The ORTT was offered to both Panday and former prime minister Patrick Manning in 2014 under Persad-Bissessar’s administration.
Manning formally wrote Carmona who was the sitting President at the time and kindly rejected the offer.
Carmona said Panday never did and it can still be conferred on him posthumously.
“I am one hundred per cent in agreement with that suggestion. That’s the highest honour a country can bestow on any of its citizens. I don’t agree for the Piarco International Airport to be named after him. He would not want that at all.”
Humphrey said because Panday was a man of humility, he would have refused any kind of awards and honour.
“Now that he has gone, I think it is very appropriate.”