Sister: Rename airport after my brother Basdeo Panday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Leela Panday, sister of former prime minister Basdeo Panday at the family home in St Julien Village, Princes Town on Wednesday. – Photo by Lincoln Holder

Although its construction and outfitting was mired in controversy and scandal, the Piarco International Airport should be renamed in honour of former prime minister Basdeo Panday.

This was the view of Leela Panday when asked what national honour should be bestowed on her brother for his lifetime of service first as a lawyer, then a trade unionist and finally as a politician.

Panday died at 90 on January 1 at a hospital in Florida.

Speaking at the family home in St Julien’s Village, Princes Town on Wednesday, Panday said she hopes something of national interest could be named to preserve her brother’s legacy.

“I would suggest the airport, which he built during his tenure as prime minister, be renamed in his honour,” she said.

Amidst swirling accusations of corruption in the construction of the airport and protests by some members of the  Panday cabinet that he was not doing enough to treat with the accusations, Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was fired. Two of his cabinet colleagues – Ralph Maraj and Trevor Sudama – later resigned.

Arising out of the airport scandal, charges were laid against government officials and business people related to the alleged theft of $19 million,  after an investigation by Canadian forensic investigator Robert Lindquist.

The case, in relation to the airport construction, against Panday, his wife Oma, former government minister Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh was discontinued by DPP Roger Gaspard.

For Leela, the transformation of the old airport into the state-of-the-art facility under Panday’s administration is his legacy to this country.

“I think that (renaming of the airport) would be deserving of his memory,” Leela said.

She said the death of her brother was not only a great loss to her family members, but to the rest of the country.

“He was and will always be the best prime minister we ever had.”

She revealed that although she had a different mother from him, the Pandays took her in after her father died

“I was eight or nine, and they gave me the best life that I could ever have and shaped the person who I am today.

“Had it not been for them, I would have fallen by the wayside. Personally, I am grateful to him and my brother Subhas, for what they have done for me. They have lifted me, moulded me and made me into the person I am today. I will always be grateful.”