letter to Mr Basdeo Panday.
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
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
then few believed you were “finished.”
with your resignation as chairman of the UNC, to see the sun actually
setting on you who embodied your “rising sun” political party was
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.
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
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.
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?
we play into power hungry minds by writing of political careers and “who
thief more” and “who pad less.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.