Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha secretary general Vijay Maharaj. – File photo by Roger Jacob
In a major homage after his death, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) executive has proposed renaming the prestigious Shiva Boys’ Hindu College, Penal, in honour of former prime minister Basdeo Panday.
The proposal came on Thursday from Maha Sabha secretary general Vijay Maharaj, during the central executive monthly meeting, which paid a special tribute to Panday, who died on Monday while having medical treatment in the United States at 90.
“This is a lasting tribute to the dedication and the struggle for a better nation, and as the nation’s first Indian, Hindu prime minister,” Maharaj said.
“The renaming is not just symbolic, it is not a symbolic gesture. It is an affirmation of our cultural identity, a celebration of our shared heritage and a recognition of our contribution to those who have shaped the destiny of our nation.”
Before being etched in stone, Maha Sabha legal adviser Dinesh Rambally said, the proposal must go through the appropriate channels.
Firstly, he said, it would need to be passed by the executive at a meeting on Thursday which immediately followed the tribute. If successful here, he said the secretary general will then write to the Ministry of Education about the change. However, Rambally said, the name will only be changed if the former prime minister’s family agrees.
“Having spoken to Ms Mickela Panday on renaming the school in honour of her father, she identified that she has no objection in principle to this. In fact, she welcomes it. She’s very happy at this new proposal.”But she wanted to speak to her mother and other siblings to get their views and to get them on board,” Rambally said.
“We, through myself, have given the assurance that subject to their word, we will proceed with the ceremonial aspect of renaming the school and an accompanying memorial function only after full consultation with her and her family.”
During his tribute, Maharaj described the former prime minister as one who always sought the best interest of the nation’s children. He said Panday’s challenge of the Concordat in 1995 paved the way for religious bodies to enter the education system with schools.
“Basdeo Panday did, not only for the Indian community but ASJA, open three schools — the Muslim community. The Anglican community opened, in east Trinidad, Trinity College and Bishop Anstey. In central Trinidad, pastor Winston Cuffie opened Miracle Ministries.
“Basdeo Panday did not – I repeat – look after only the Indian community. He was looking after TT and he had the foresight to see the churches were the ones that would educate our children. And today it has played itself out and it continues to play itself out in the awards and the kudos our children get for our schools.”
He said Panday always understood and acknowledged the Maha Sabha’s mission, which focuses on educating and uplifting children out of poverty.
In the days after Panday’s death, numerous people have called for the Piarco International Airport to be renamed in his honour. It’s not a unanimous call, as some believe such a move would be an insult to his legacy, given allegations of corruption which dogged the construction of the new airport terminal.
Caricom and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne told Newsday on Thursday this issue was not before Cabinet at this time.
“The focus at this time is on ensuring that former prime minister Panday is given a respectful send-off in keeping with his distinguished service to our country, in full collaboration with the bereaved family,” Browne said.