Mickela Panday seeks to shift voters away from tribal politics

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Political leader of the Patriotic Front Mickela Panday during the launch of her party in
2019. PHOTO BY Yvonne Webb

Mickela Panday, political leader of Patriotic Front (PF), wants TT to be a place where people and their politics were not divided along racial lines as that division is one of the issues that keeps the country from advancing.

In an e-mail interview with Newsday she said, “I do not believe in promoting tribal politics. It has stalled this country’s progress for too long. My base will be all patriots who want a better TT. Those who believe in fairness and equality. Those who believe in accountability, transparency and meritocracy. Those who believe that everybody should have opportunity and that TT and all its people deserve better.”

On May 25, on what would have been her late father’s, Basdeo Panday’s, 91st birthday and her party’s fifth anniversary, Panday announced her party’s intention to contest all 41 seats of the next general election.

When she launched her campaign at Twin Walls, San Fernando, she said, “We seek candidates who will listen to the people, who will be a true voice for their constituents in the halls of power. If you believe in our values and are passionate about serving your constituency, we encourage you to step forward.”

With the ideas of accountability, transparency and meritocracy in the forefront, Panday is hoping to draw those who believe in fairness and equality to serve the country under her banner.

Panday said she planned to build and expand on her father’s political support base.

The elder Panday was a lawyer, economist and actor but, he was predominantly a trade unionist. He was the president general of the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and Factory Workers Union which eventually expanded to include workers from other industries to become the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union.

The sugar workers from central and south Trinidad as well as the union became his main political base at the time.

He was a founding member of several political parties, including the United National Congress (UNC), and was prime minister from 1995-2001. He was removed as UNC leader in January 2010 and bowed out of electoral politics in May of that year.

His daughter served as MP for Oropouche West from December 2007 to April 2010.

Panday told Newsday TT was a democracy, so no political party owned anyone’s vote.

She said if people who voted for a particular party in past general elections decide to vote for her party in the next, it will be because the party gave them a viable option.

She said her focus was on winning the 2025 election, not weakening anyone’s chances.

She said the UNC had lost the last two general elections without any party splitting the vote.

“I would hope that those who say that are not implying that all we can only ‘pull fenceline UNC supporters’ because that would be to say that all other voters don’t have a mind of their own and that the youth don’t have a very important role to play. Both of which would be incorrect and very ill informed.”

Panday made a similar announcement to run for the next general election on June 25, 2020 at a news conference at the PF’s office in Chaguanas. But less than a month later, the Prime Minister announced the election would take place the next July.

Panday said it was impossible then for the party to run the kind of campaign it wanted to during the “silly season” and so decided the party would not run for any seats at that time.

In a previous interview, Panday said she had tried contacting UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar without success before announcing her intention to contest all 41 seats.

When asked why the party decided to run for the election now, she said it was the right time.

“Political parties that intend to stay the course are not built overnight. Most of all you don’t form a party simply to fight elections. That being said, I believe that neither politicians nor political parties should foist themselves on people.

“The people have made a call to the Patriotic Front and we have answered. This is a very dark time in our nation’s history and people are crying out for genuine change to take us out of the abyss which we now find ourselves. Now is the time.”

She added that the party intended to contest all 41 seats because it will fight to win and form the government, not to come in second. And since the PF was a national party, it will represent all the people of the country.

Panday said she was looking for competent, dedicated people who were willing to put the country and their constituents before themselves and who will be an example to youths thinking about getting involved in politics.

When asked if she would be willing to form political alliances to find such people, she gave no definitive answer, but said she was focused on citizens and finding solutions to their problems.

“As I have always said we are willing to listen to anyone who has the country’s interest at heart and who is willing to put country before self.”


When Panday launched PF on her father’s 86th birthday in 2019, he gave his full support. He said, “It is no coincidence this party is also being launched on my birthday and it will turn out to be the best political party in the Caribbean.”

A year later he became the party’s campaign manager. He died in the US on January 1.

Panday told Newsday her father was very proud of all his four daughters and always reminded them of that. She said she was proud of his legacy, which she expected would “live on forever,” and that he had a great impact her my life.

“He was caring and loving and always 100 per cent supportive of whatever path in life we chose. We miss him dearly, but having his blessings on the way forward gives me a lot of comfort.

“That said, it is a different time in our nation’s journey, and I must carve out my own path and make a difference in my unique way. It is a balance between respecting his memory and recognising my own individuality which is second nature.”

Panday, who played a leading role in her father’s state funeral, said she was carrying on her father’s “legacy of open, transparent and fair governance.”

She added that there was no political will by the government or the opposition to implement and enforce campaign finance reform legislation because they were not interested in accountability and transparency, and both wanted to maintain a financial advantage.

Panday said her vision was to transform TT into the best place to live. And for it to be a place with a globally competitive technologically advanced and diversified economy that would sustain the highest standard of living for all citizens.

She wants TT to be a place where people had equal opportunities and did not have to suffer for basic necessities such as food, water and shelter.

Panday is an attorney, an author, a member of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, the Organisation For Socio-Economic Development charity, The Basdeo Panday Foundation and a founding member of the Youth Empowered Society.