JTUM head: Unity best tribute for Panday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

JTUM president general Ancel Roget, at right, and union members raise their fists in salute to the late Basdeo Panday as the former prime minister and labour leader’s body lay in state at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts in San Fernando on January 8 – Lincoln Holder

Since his passing, there has been national discourse about how the country should pay tribute to the late Basdeo Panday.

For the Joint Trade Union Movement’s (JTUM) president general Ancel Roget the most fitting homage to the former prime minister’s legacy should be unity among all to ensure a better standard of living. Roget was among hundreds of people who visited the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA), San Fernando, on January 8 to sign the condolence book and view the Panday’s body lying in state.

Since Panday’s passing on January 1, there have been calls for the Piarco International Airport to be named after him and for him to be given the country’s highest award, the Order of TT. However, Roget told reporters at SAPA these were off target for a man of Panday’s esteem.

“The most fitting tribute the country can give to the late, great Basdeo Panday, former prime minister and former labour leader is to unite to ensure that the people themselves get a better standard of living. The people themselves get a fair share of the economic pie, the salts of this earth which they are not now getting. The struggle against oppression, the struggle against the dictatorship that is taking place right now,” he said.

“Once we unite, we will be able to live the legacy of Basdeo Panday. While all of those things are good, the reality, where the rubber hits the road, is where people’s lives are improved. Once we get that message, we would be on the road to progress and that would make him smile from the heavens.”

Panday, the country’s fifth prime minister, served as the president-general of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union from around 1973 to 1997. Viewing his body at SAPA, Roget and other JTUM executive members raised their fists to the former prime minister as a gesture of “power to the people.”

In keeping Panday’s legacy alive, Roget assured JTUM will continue to play its role in this fight. He added the current administration and Prime Minister should take a page out of Panday’s book in leading the country.

“With so little, he did so much. Why? Because his was a care for the people of TT, a genuine care for the suffering masses, the downtrodden, the unemployed, the underemployed and those who were oppressed. That is the legacy.”

Panday’s daughter and spokesperson for the family, Mickela, has since dismissed calls for the airport to be renamed saying she believes he would not want that and would rather see constitutional reform. In March 2023, Panday, his wife Oma, former cabinet minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh were freed of corruption charges related to the construction of the Piarco International Airport, after two decades before the courts.

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has also proposed renaming the Shiva Boys’ Hindu College in Penal after the late prime minister once his family approves.