Public pays tribute to Panday in Port of Spain

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Members of the public line up outside the Red House, Port of Spain, to pay their last respects to former prime minister Basdeo Panday on Friday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

SCORES of people lined the streets of Port of Spain on Friday morning to pay their respects to former prime minister Basdeo Panday.

The event saw police and members of the Defence Force blocking off streets and diverting traffic. A military street escort began shortly before 9 am at Broadway, with the national flag draped over the casket that carried Panday’s body.

People seemed to have put their political differences behind them, and used their phones to capture the event.

They only spoke kind words. “He was a good one,” an onlooker said. Another agreed, “Yes, and we all know he had a way with words.”

As the body arrived at the Red House to lie in state for the day, members of the regiment band played Frank Sinatra’s classic My Way.

Panday, 90, died on January 1 at a hospital in the US. His body will lie in state at Red House from 10 am-6 pm and, on Monday, for the same period at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) in San Fernando.

The funeral is set for Tuesday at SAPA under Hindu rites. Panday was this country’s fifth prime minister and founding leader of the United National Congress. As well as being a political leader, he was a trade unionist, attorney, actor and economist.

His parliamentary journey began as an opposition senator for the now-defunct Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in 1972 and ended in 2010.The public also joined relatives, friends, and well-wishers to view the body and sign the condolence book at the Red House.

Mickela Panday, daughter of former prime minister Basdeo Panday, greets members of the public who came to pay their last respects to him as he lay in state in the rotunda of the Red House on Friday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

One of his daughters, Mickela Panday, later greeted people who had gathered outside. She thanked the public for the outpouring of love. Since his death, she said, Panday had received more love, “which I did not think was even possible.” Mickela added that the love from the people has helped and given the family the strength to cope. On the suggestion that the Piarco International Airport be named after him, Mickela said she would try to think of what he would have responded if he was alive.

Mimicking his voice, “What you naming anything after me for?”

She said he would instead have wanted constitutional reform.

“It was never about him. It was not about his name. It was about country before self. He believed constitutional reform would have helped the country. I am echoing his sentiments as I thought he would have said it.”

On the proposal to rename Shiva Boys’ Hindu College in Penal in Panday’s honour, Mickela said: “It is great if it will inspire the youths, because he was interested and loved them. He believed the youths were the future of this nation.

“He believed that education was the way out of poverty and that people could change and have control of their lives. It is a wonderful honour, and we are very grateful, and I thank them on his behalf.”

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha made the name-change proposal.