Just so Bas?


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Category: Trinidad Politics 07 May 06


Open letter to Mr Basdeo Panday.


Dear Mr Panday:


The dust has settled on the debate set off by the imbroglio of your prosecution, imprisonment and bail. It was big news because you are Mr Basdeo Panday—former trade unionist representing thousands of sugar workers, former prime minister of T&T and former chairman of the Opposition UNC.


Two weeks ago, you were an open target for us all. Pinioned, behind bars, vulnerable, facing two years of hard labour in prison. We all had a go at the man whose rapier mouth once had the power to make and break political careers.


Even then few believed you were “finished.”


But with your resignation as chairman of the UNC, to see the sun actually setting on you who embodied your “rising sun” political party was disconcerting.


I mean, we still had our gloves up, thinking you had one more trick up your sleeve; that you would be the power behind bars if need be.


Just so Bas? It was so simple to escape the barbs. (Some deserved admittedly).You simply pulled the rug from under our feet, by doing the right thing?


Last week, I wrote that you were partially to blame if the Central Statistic Offices numbers showed rural Indo Trinidadians were among the poorest and most illiterate in this country, that there were people in your constituency who had never seen a toothbrush in their lives.


I wondered as I read the political analysts mulling over political maneuvering, over this contender and that, whether it was naïve to wonder why no-one ever discussed the buttresses of political systems and politics—THE PEOPLE who put politicians in power. Why no one debated that this party, this minister, this policy, was stronger than on education, poverty, health, crime?


Suck it up


Instead we play into power hungry minds by writing of political careers and “who thief more” and “who pad less.”


Never mind if it was only words, but in your resignation letter in which you said politics is about improving the lives of people, (read touchingly by your lovely daughter—you still have clever moves in you Bas) you restored people’s causes—of voiceless pregnant girls in rags and boys holding guns in Couva and Laventille back into politics.


You acknowledged that people in public life have to be seen to be exemplars and resigned because you couldn’t take the UNC with the “yoke of my conviction hanging around its neck” into the next election.


We assumed you would as the youngsters say “suck it up” and be back like some kind of indestructible super hero with a shrug of your shoulders and another exasperating quip. But you walked. Now that we can neither dehumanise you nor see you as larger than life we are forced to confront the real thing. A flawed human being who has messed up, emerged gaunt and ill from a 24-hour stint in prison, a worn down man who has also achieved greatness, impacted on thousands, from weeping former sugar workers who remember what you did for them, to the Baptists who haven’t forgotten your acknowledgement of them.


Never mind that you could have done more than your former government posse. You restored pride and belonging to your largely unlettered, essentially un-intellectual, formerly invisible community with your post as prime minister. Because there you were, quick, urbane, charismatic as comfortable in your skin as a leader in a multi ethnic society, they too, began to share their rotis and wear kurtas without apology.


As for the regrets, the lost potential of what you could have done. You can’t have it all Bas and you can’t do it all. But even as you exit from politics, walk off into the sunset all but the absolutely churlish have to rise and salute you.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur