Basdeo Panday

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The Honourable
Basdeo Panday
Sampson Nanton interviews former Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Basdeo Panday in 1997.jpg
5th Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
In office
November 10, 1995 – December 23, 2001
President Noor Hassanali
A. N. R. Robinson
Preceded by Patrick Manning
Succeeded by Patrick Manning
Constituency Couva North
Political Leader
United National Congress
In office
10 September 2006 – 24 January 2010
Preceded by Winston Dookeran
Succeeded by Kamla Persad-Bissessar
In office
30 April 1989 – 2 October 2005
Succeeded by Winston Dookeran
Personal details
Born (1933-05-25) 25 May 1933 (age 81)
Princes Town, Trinidad and Tobago
Political party United National Congress
Spouse(s) Oma Panday
Occupation Lawyer
Politician
Religion Hinduism

Basdeo Panday (born May 25, 1933) was the fifth Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1995 to 2001 and has served as Leader of the Opposition from 1976–1977, 1978–1986, 1989–1995, 2001–2006 and 2007–2010. He was first elected to Parliament in 1976 as the Member for Couva North. He is the former Chairman and party leader of the Opposition United National Congress. In 2006, Panday was convicted of failing to declare a bank account in London and imprisoned but as of March 20, 2007, that conviction has been quashed by the Court of Appeal. He was granted bail on April 28 pending the outcome of his appeal due to his health condition and the poor state of health facilities at the Arouca prison. On May 1 he decided to resign as Chairman of the United National Congress, but the party's executive refuse to accept his resignation. However, he lost the party's internal elections on January 24, 2010 to Deputy Leader and current Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar by a large margin.

Basdeo Panday is married to the former Oma Ramkissoon and has four daughters Niala, Mickela, Nicola and Vastala, one from his first marriage to (Norma Panday)(née Mohammed) who died in 1981. In 2006, he was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Princes Town, Trinidad,[1] to Harry "Chote" Sookchand and Kissoondaye Panday, who were both first-generation East Indian Arrivants to Trinidad. Kissondaye's mother, along with her mother, came on the trip via Fiji (they had missed the boat going back to Fiji, so they took the one to Trinidad instead). Sookchand's Uncle, Joseph Hardath Dube was the General Secretary of the East Indian National Association, and was responsible for enrolling Panday in Presentation College, San Fernando. Before the college enrollment, Basdeo attended New Grant Government and St. Julien Cklkl.M. School.

He was the eldest of three boys, the others being Rabindranath and Subhas Panday, another lawyer and formerly Minister in The Ministry of National Security of the Peoples Partnership Government. In Presenation College he received a Senior Certificate. He also was a football player and was said to be " a Tricky Dribbler in the Left Center field" and "prone to one-manship".[citation needed]

In 1957 he was accepted into Lincoln's Inn, London (Law), the University of London (Economics) and London School of Dramatic Art (Drama). Whilst in England, Panday worked as a labourer on a building site, a clerk at the London County Council and an electrician in order to sustain himself through University. Prior to studying and working in London, he worked as a sugar cane weigher for a year at Caroni Ltd., a primary school teacher at Seereram Memorial Vedic, Chaguanas, St Clement Vedic, Barrackpore and as a civil servant at the San Fernando Magistracy, where he took notes for Magistrates Churchill Johnston and former President of Trinidad and Tobago, Noor Hassanali.

He was also an actor and played small parts in several films, most notably "Man in The Middle", with Robert Mitchum. He also performed on the London stage in several plays, one being "The Bird Of Time" in 1961.

In 1965, Panday was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship to pursue a postgraduate degree in economics and political science at the Delhi School of Economics in India. He postponed the scholarship and returned home to practise law in Trinidad because of family commitments and the changing political situation in Trinidad.

Political career[edit]

Upon his return to Trinidad, he entered politics and ran unsuccessfully for Parliament as a candidate for the Workers and Farmers Party in 1966.

His most prominent debut into local politics was as early as 1973, when he forayed into the politics of one of the most prominent unions of the day, the Trinidad Islandwide Cane Farmers' Association (TICFA). He faced antagonism from the then leader of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Bhadase Sagan Maraj and the leader of the Union, Mr. Rampartapsingh, who had succeeded Mr. Maraj. These were the favourites of the then Prime Minister, Eric Williams, for he was concerned about the "left-wing radicalisation" of the union membership.

It was in this context that Basdeo Panday came to the fore. Basdeo Panday was able, through backdoor negotiations with the then union leader of TICFA, and then subsequently with the then Prime Minister, Eric Williams concerning the wages and salaries of sugarcane workers, to claim control over the union as the undisputed leader of TICFA. In May 1973, he became the President General of All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers' Trade Union. In 1975, he spent two weeks at the Golden Grove Prison for leading a march with trade unionists which was deemed illegal.

Basdeo Panday's ambitions did not stop there. Exploiting the fractural divisiveness that existed within the then opposition of the Democratic Labour Party, Panday formed an alliance with other union members, George Weekes and Raffique Shah. The three formed the United Labour Front and in 1981–1986, he was the Opposition Leader.

He co-founded the National Alliance (with A. N. R. Robinson Political leader of the Democratic Action Congress, Lloyd Best of the Tapia House Group, to fight the 1981 elections, and later co-founded the National Alliance for Reconstruction with Robinson and Karl Hudson-Phillips Political Leader of the Organisation for National Reconstruction. Following a convincing electoral victory in 1986 he was made Minister of External Affairs and International Trade. Panday acted as Prime Minister in 1987 while Robinson was out of the country. In 1988, Panday, along with Kelvin Ramnath, John Humphrey and Trevor Sudama were expelled from the party after a disagreement with Robinson. It was claimed by them at the time by them all that Robinson was high-handed and authoritarian concerning with dealing with them and decision.

He then founded the Club for Love, Unity and Brotherhood (CLUB 88) which became the United National Congress. In 1992 their candidates won more seats in that year's election than the then NAR. On such a basis, the members of what was to become the UNC, argued this in parliament to become the opposition members (newcomer Hulsie Bhaggan defeated political heavyweight Winston Dookeran for the Chaguanas seat), but the party only won 13 of 36 seats nationally. It improved this margin to 17 in the 1995 General Elections elections. It could not form the majority in parliament to form the Cabinet, so, with the support of the two seats held by Robinson and the NAR, Panday was appointed the country's first Indo-Trinidadian and the first Hindu Prime Minister. A.N.R. Robinson became the first Tobagonian to become president.

Under the leadership of Mr. Panday the UNC went on to win the 2000 election but internal strife in the party forced another election in 2001 which resulted in a tie between the UNC and the PNM. That December, President A.N.R. Robinson awarded the PNM the post of Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Legal problems[edit]

On May 31, 2005, Panday, together with his wife, Oma and former UNC MP Carlos John and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh (chairman of Northern Construction Limited) were arrested on corruption charges. The State alleged that the Pandays had received TT$250,000 on December 30, 1998 from John and Galbaransingh in exchange for giving Northern Construction a construction contract for the Piarco Airport Development Project (PADP). Panday refused bail and chose to remain in prison for a short while.

Panday, Mrs. Panday and John were placed on TT$750,000 bail, while Galbaransingh was placed on a $1,000,000. This was called a punitive bail both by supporters of the UNC and by former Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj, a sometime political opponent of Panday. On June 7, 2005, bail was reduced to TT$650,000. A day later, Panday accepted bail after being jailed for over a week.

Ironically, the evidence for the charges laid against him was the product of two administrations, one of which was Panday's, and, in this administration, the evidence of the charges was due to investigations done by a U.S. private investigator hired by the Ministry of legal affairs when Basdeo Panday was Prime Minister.The law's amendment, under which Basdeo Panday was charged, also was a product of the Basdeo Panday administration.

On March 20, 2007, the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction against Panday for failing to declare a London bank account, based on the possibility that he may not have received a fair trial.[2]

The three Court of Appeal judges agreed that there was in fact a real possibility of bias by Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls in his April 24, 2006 ruling, which found Panday guilty on three counts of failing to declare a London bank account to the Integrity Commission for the years 1997, 1998 and 1999, respectively, contrary to Section 27 (1)(b) of the Integrity in Public Life Act 1987.[3] Information that surfaced later on, linked Chief Magistrate McNicolls to a multi-million dollar land deal and a company associated with one of the main witnesses in the Basdeo Panday trial.[4] This information, along with the fact that Chief Magistrate McNicolls refused to give evidence for the criminal prosecution of the Chief Justice, which caused that prosecution to fail, were the main arguments used by Panday's lawyers in his Appeal Court hearing.

2005 — 2010[edit]

Basdeo Panday and the Ambassador of Finland

In September, 2005, Panday nominated Winston Dookeran (current leader of the Congress of the People) as his successor as political leader. Panday himself was nominated for the party Chairmanship. On October 2, 2005 both Panday and Dookeran won their posts unopposed (see United National Congress). Since appointing Dookeran to succeed him, the UNC was been divided with many members calling for Panday to hand over power absolutely to Dookeran in the form of the Leader of the Opposition. Panday failed to do so, and with the Opposition MPs split 8-8 on the issue, Panday has remained as the leader of the Opposition.

In February 2006, Panday invited estranged former Attorney General, Ramesh Lawerence Maharaj back into the UNC. This led to divided opinion inside and outside the UNC and saw the revocation, by Panday, of the appointment of Senator Robin Montano, a vocal opponent to the return of Maharaj. Following this came the resignation from the Senate of Roy Augustus. Panday replaced Montano with Dr. Tim Gopeesingh, a loyalist and CEO of the UNC and Augustus with former Trinidad and Tobago sprint star Ato Boldon. Boldon stated that he was first invited to become a senator by FIFA Vice-President and Deputy Political Leader of the UNC, Austin "Jack" Warner.

Now in the twilight of his political career, he was re-called as co- leader of the United National Congress (Then United National Congress-Alliance)with Austin "Jack" Warner after unsuccessfully contesting the elections.

In 2007, the UNC Alliance lost in the general elections. Many critics blamed the newly formed party Congress of the People of 'splitting the vote'.

In a move that sparked controversy, Basdeo Panday was suspended from parliament in April because he was not sure if he was going to use his laptop computer during a debate. When asked by speaker of the house if he intended on using the laptop for the debate, Mr Panday replied "I do not know." Panday argued that in a debate, one is never sure if they will speak and if they would need the use of a laptop. The speaker created more controversy when he announced the next day that Panday would be suspended till December.

Since early 2009 Basdeo Panday was challenged for the leadership of the party by a small coalition of Opposition MPs led by the party's deputy political leader, Austin "Jack" Warner and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj[5] informally known as "RamJack G". Jack Warner is also taking Panday to court over Panday's allegations that Warner is a drug lord.[6]

2010 — present[edit]

On January 24, 2010 Basdeo Panday lost in his bid to be elected Political Leader of the United National Congress once again. He suffered a colossal defeat at the hands of new Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He did not contest the post of chairman hence he no longer sits on the executive of the United National Congress. On 25 February 2010 His Excellency Prof. George Maxwell Richards, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago revoked the appointment of Hon. Basdeo Panday as Leader of the Opposition and replaced him with Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar after the majority of Opposition MPs and citizens indicated their support for her. Mr. Panday did not participate in the general elections held on May 24, 2010, which the UNC won and hence end his term as a Member of Parliament.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Basdeo Panday". Members of Past Parliaments. Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Loutoo, Jada (2007-03-21). "Appeal Court quashes Panday’s conviction". Trinidad Publishing Company Limited. Retrieved 2007-03-27. [dead link]
  3. ^ Cummings, Stephen (2006-01-16). "Trinidad's opposition leader set to go on trial". Caribbean Net News. Retrieved 2007-02-19. 
  4. ^ Bahaw, Darren (2007-03-14). "Panday seeks bias ruling against McNicolls". Trinidad & Tobago Express. Retrieved 2007-03-15. [dead link]
  5. ^ Ramdass, Anna (2009-03-26). "Ramesh gets a chance:UNC MPs vote to fire Chief Whip, but Bas wants him to explain behaviour". One Caribbean Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-03-26. [dead link]
  6. ^ com, ttgapers (2009-08-16). "Jack Warner taking Basdeo Panday to court". ttgapers.com. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Patrick Manning
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
1995–2001
Succeeded by
Patrick Manning
Preceded by
Roy Richardson
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
1976–1977
Succeeded by
Raffique Shah
Preceded by
Raffique Shah
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
1978–1986
Succeeded by
Patrick Manning
Preceded by
Patrick Manning
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
1991–1995
Succeeded by
Patrick Manning
Preceded by
Patrick Manning
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
2001–2006
Succeeded by
Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Preceded by
Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
2007–2010
Succeeded by
Kamla Persad-Bissessar
Preceded by
Non-existent
Political Leader of the United National Congress
1989–2005
Succeeded by
Winston Dookeran
Preceded by
Winston Dookeran
Political Leader of the United National Congress
2006–2010
Succeeded by
Kamla Persad-Bissessar