Thursday, April 10, 2014

Panday won't attend Robinson's funeral; can't find a way to pay homage to former president

File: Former PM Basdeo Panday: "I do not have a spiteful bone in my body. During my political life, I had no political enemies. I only had political opponents."
Basdeo Panday and ANR Robinson fought many political battles as allies and against each, culminating in the dismissal of Panday as Prime Minister on December 24, 2001 and the appointment of Patrick Manning following the 18-18 tie in the general election of the same year.

On learning of Robinson's death Wednesday Panday offered condolences but said he feels there is no reason for him to attend Robinson's state funeral or pay homage to Robinson.

"A loss of any human being is a loss to all humanity, and in that sense I express my condolences to his surviving family. As you know, I was instrumental in him becoming both prime minister and president. But I think that issue would not be as kind to him, for some of the things he did while in office."

Panday's reference goes back to 1986 when he disbanded his United Labour Front (ULF) and joined with other opposition leaders at the time to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). The new party comprised the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR), TAPIA, Robinson's Democractic Action Congress (DAC) and the ULF led by Panday. 

The ULF was the official opposition in the 1981 Parliament holding eight of the the 36 seats in the legislature with DAC holding the two Tobago constituencies; the PNM won the other 26. ONR, which was led by Karl Hudson Phillips, had no  seat after the 1981 election but had won 22 per cent of the popular vote, a figure much higher than ULF, DAC and TAPIA combined.

On the matter of leadership, Panday determined that despite Robinson's two seats as opposed to his eight and the ONR's strong support, the best leader would be Robinson and he told his supporters he was doing it for the country.

The overwhelming victory for the NAR (33-3) in 1986 was a combination of the support for each of the leaders but also the collapse of the PNM government led by George Chambers. Robinson's track record was seen as a major contributing factor although in the mood of the country at the time, Panday might have led the NAR to an easy victory if he had won the endorsement of the other NAR leaders. He was not willing to take that chance; the country was not willing to elect an "Indian" leader, he told JYOTI a few years ago.

Once the party was in government there were strong divisions, which led to Panday's departure with some loyalists like John Humphrey, the late Kelvin Ramnath, Trevor Sudama, Raymond Pallackdrarrysingh and Govindra Roopnaarine. 

Out of that political schism the UNC was born and in 1995 the party made a political deal with Robinson to form a coalition and Panday became prime minister. In that sense, taken at face value, Panday made Robinson Prime Minister in 1986 but Robinson returned the favour in 1995. The two arch-rivals never really got along and Panday tried to solve the problem by offering Robinson the presidency, which he accepted.

The PM-President relationship was stormy and when the 2001 general election returned an 18-18 tie Robinson asked Panday and Manning to work out a political arrangement. When they failed and told Robinson they would abide by his choice of PM, Robinson chose Manning over Panday.

Commenting on the matter Wednesday to local media Panday said, "It is an issue he dealt with and he dealt with it in a particular way, and that’s it. There is nothing one can do about that. I don’t have anything against anybody and I am not powerful enough to forgive anybody for anything and there is no need for me to do so anyway."

Panday said although he could not think a way to pay homage to Robinson there is no animosity towards Robinson. "I do not have a spiteful bone in my body. During my political life, I had no political enemies. I only had political opponents," Panday told the Express newspaper.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai