Hundreds pay tribute to Basdeo Panday at SAPA

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Military pallbearers carry the body of the late prime minister Basdeo Panday to the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando where his body lay in state on Monday. – Lincoln Holder

Hundreds of every creed and race turned up to pay tribute to former prime minister Basdeo Panday at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA), where his body lay in state on Monday.

Throughout the day, there was a steady flow of people coming to sign the condolence book and view the former prime minister’s body. His family, led by his daughter Mickela, was present at the opening to meet and greet members of the public and accept their wishes. She told reporters the family was living up to her father’s mantra of “country before self.” “That is not only what I myself must not only preach but also practice, so that’s what we’re doing. I always say, how do we thank every single person? I don’t know. So I use this opportunity just to say thank you.” She said her mother, Oma, was grieving immensely after losing her life partner but said she and the rest of her family would be there to support her. “She’s not going to be alone. It’s our duty to protect and look after her and we will do that so dad doesn’t have to worry.”

Radha Rampersad of Macaulay Road, Claxton Bay, came to pay tribute while proudly holding a picture of her and the former prime minister. She told reporters if not for Panday’s generosity some 20 years ago, she would not have had electricity at her home.

“I had to get a T&TEC pole to get current for $7,000. I didn’t have the money to buy it, and Mr Panday he paid for it for me, and because of him, I have current in my house today,” she said.

The photo, she said, was taken years later when she met him at the Hasley Crawford Stadium for a Kumar Sanu concert. “He was really down to earth. We laughed, we talked, we took out pictures. The same thing he was eating, I was eating because he invited me to eat with them.”

She said she would miss his down-to-earth spirit and his willingness to help others in any way he could.

Founder of the Angel Hearts Rehabilitation Centre Bryan Bissoondath said Panday’s consistent encouragement over the years for him to fight for what he believes in will always remain in his memory.

He said he still remembers the former prime minister’s last words to him: “Bryan fight them. Fight them. Don’t give up.

“Meaning to say, when you have challenges with bureaucracy, don’t let it get you down and in despair, you want to give up. Always fight for the cause of others,” he said.

Among the scores of school children visiting to pay tribute was Jisane Miller, 11. He was on his way home with his sister and neighbour when they asked his grandmother to take them to SAPA to pay tribute. He admitted he learnt of Panday following his death and has been keeping informed via his grandmother since. He said he was grateful they visited because it was his first time seeing a prime minister.His grandmother, Donna Baptiste, said she was happy the children wanted to be a part of the historic event.

“It is an event you all (the children) will not forget for the rest of your lives because only one Mr Panday there is.”

Panday died on January 1 while undergoing treatment in the United States. His body lay in state on Friday at the Red House’s rotunda and at SAPA on Monday. The state funeral will take place on Tuesday at SAPA before proceeding to the Shore of Peace for cremation.