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Mickela’s move for political power

Published: 
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Mickela Panday

“I intend to continue to meet with those who are willing to put country before self to improve the lives of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”—Mickela Panday

Those were the closing words in a March 11 press release issued by Mickela Panday, daughter of former prime minister Basdeo Panday, in response to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar declining to meet with her on what was supposed to be an attempt to unite the Panday-founded UNC political party.

Today Mickela is doing as she says—staging her first Meet and Greet titled ‘It’s Time,’ at Gaston Courts, Chaguanas.

The advertisement of this gathering appeared on Facebook two weeks ago sparking speculation on whether the younger Panday was about to form a political party or following in the footsteps of her father with a modern-day Club 88.

(In 1988, Basdeo Panday, along with Kelvin Ramnath, John Humphrey and Trevor Sudama, were expelled from the NAR after a disagreement with then prime minister ANR Robinson. Panday then founded the Club for Love, Unity and Brotherhood (CLUB 88) which later became the UNC.)

Her social media posts don’t give away much of what exactly is expected to take place today. But one can interpret it as an open forum meeting in which the public can come and speak freely on the socio-political issues affecting them.

The sub-slogans “It’s Time to be heard; time to effect change; time to make a difference and time to improve people’s lives, however, gives the inclination this ‘meet and greet’ might very well be a precursor and ‘feel out’ event which may lead up to the launch of a new-branded political party.

Daddy Panday who has tirelessly argued the need for constitutional reform may have hinted this when he said in a recent interview that the formation of a new political party could only succeed if it guaranteed constitutional reform.

But if this is the closeted plan, can the “Panday brand” stand in 2018? Would it really be a ‘new party’ per se if her father were to be involved at some level? Can Mickela lead independent of her father, a seasoned politician, should she ever become prime minister? And what of the allegations of corruption that hovers over the family’s name? Can the ‘Panday brand’ be trusted?

What the analysts say

Political analyst Bishnu Ragoonath told the Sunday Guardian he believed the meeting was an attempt by Mickela to feel out and get a sense of what kind of support was out there for her if she was considering launching the political party on her own.

He did, however, issue a warning to the young Panday, saying she had to be careful that she was not led astray, as not everybody present at today’s meeting would legitimately there to support her.

Some, he said, might well just be there to ‘macco,’ while others may come as spies.

He said numbers should not fool her and allow this to be a deciding factor in forming a political party.

“She is going to have to sift her audience to determine who might not be and who might genuinely want to join her on her journey for change or whatever it is she is pushing for,” Ragoonath advised.

But this meeting, he reiterated, is certainly one to gauge and test the sentiment out there. Would it be a one-off meeting or the beginning of many? That, he said, will be interesting to see.

The ‘Bas-kela’ effect

Making a point of reference, Ragoonath recalled his own initial reaction to Mickela requesting talks with Persad-Bissessar. He said he wondered on what basis would the opposition leader had to have talks with Mickela Panday.

“The whole thing about this initiated ‘talks’ for Mickela was because she is Basdeo Panday’s daughter. Mickela Panday does not have a constituency as such nor an electoral base. So all I could see her coming there with and requesting a meeting was simply on the merit, she was Basdeo Panday’s daughter.”

In regard to how independent Mickela can be if she were to lead a party, Ragoonath said one couldn’t be separated from the other.

“Regardless of how you go forward or when you go forward, that ‘Panday Brand,’ will always be there.”

He spoke of a recent event at which both he and Mickela attended and said during her presentation it was like watching Basdeo Panday all over again.

“So you really cannot separate Mickela from her father. The ultimate question is, if Mickela forms a party, what role is there for Basdeo Panday? Because I don’t think that he will just sit on the sidelines and leave her alone. So clearly, he is going to be a player. How much of a part is he going to be allowed to play and whether the same people she is trying to attract are going to come back and say “‘same ole’ ‘same ole.’”

The bite of the past

Another political analyst, Reginald Dumas said if today’s meeting went well, it might be encouraging to have follow-up meetings in different parts of the country to viably test the waters.

“Based on the feeback from these meetings, the conveners would know if a new party should be formed and what that new party should represent,” Dumas said.

He does not believe that any decision has been made yet on the part of Mickela and as such, he warned that jumping to the conclusion that a new party was going to be formed by the younger Panday might be premature.

Speaking to the issue of her father pulling strings in the background if Mickela is ever to lead this nation, James said he did see him playing a role as her father and as a person who had a great deal of knowledge on politics.

However, whether he would be pulling strings or not, depended to a large extent what kind of person Mickela was, he said.

Dumas lamented that things were not what they ought to be in T&T. He said the institutions of the country were collapsing and “when the intuitions of a country go you have no country.”

“I do not know how the meeting will go today but I do hope there will be focus on the institutions of the country—how those that can be restored will be restored and the people that run these institutions, because it’s now a situation in this country where the guards themselves are attacking the citizens.”

The political DNA

He questioned where one could repose confidence as time after time, politician after politician had asked for the nation’s trust only to quickly disappoint them

He said Mickela must be able to persuade the public that she can really make a difference, but he was not sure how convincingly she could do that given the political DNA from which she was hatched.

Retracing history, Dumas told the Sunday Guardian if Mickela intended to continue pushing talk of “no more corruption,” she’d better be prepared to answer the public’s questions on matters of corruption that occurred during her father’s period in office.

He said from the “gift” alleged to have been received by Panday from former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey to his conviction, though he was subsequently acquitted of the charges, left in the minds of public uncertainty and distrust. (See sidebar at right.)

“You see, Mickela cannot come to play this role and project herself to be better than those who are there now if there are question marks over her and her family’s head. I do hope that people raise hard questions and comments. People need to know why they should believe she is different,” Dumas concluded

Efforts to contact Mickela Panday for a response were unsuccessful.

 

THE PEOPLE SPEAK

Will you vote for Mickela Panday if she forms a political party and runs for the 2020 general election? If so, why?

Bruce A Pouchet
Only if Bas have no part in it.
Phillip Matheson
Will we vote on issues and stop seeking personalities? Should we begin to deal with matters of state then we can hold politicians accountable. When we continue to go along with “personality politics” we will continue to get our hopes dashed and mud slinging.
Cas Nel
Apples ‘nuh’ fall far from tree.
Mario Ali Xavier
To answer that question now would mean using superficial reasons such as family relations or ethnicity. To properly answer we need to know her ideologies and what she represents in order to make an informed decision.
Erline Andrews
I’ll be inclined to. I’m desperate for new/younger/different.
Thomas Armoogan
I’m satisfied with the Government at the moment, not interested.
Kerwyn Benedict Fox
Yes...she seems to have integrity; not the superficial
Krys Tal
No. She talks a good game but what is her experience? What is her track record in public service, charitable ventures or at the very least leadership of any organisation through any major restructuring?
Anne Fridal
Would have to hear her policies and observe who she will include in her party [but probably not], crime, and corruption, jail for bandits etc, etc, etc.
Tracy Donald
Trinidad politics has become a quick pick, I’m now officially afraid to vote.
Trevor Williams
Competent, intelligent, isn’t dragging the weight of corruption. The two past leaders are colossal failures who are sure to fail again.

BAS THE CHARISMATIC, CONTROVERSIAL LEADER

Words like “Neemakaram”, “parasitic oligarchy” and phrases like “Politics has a morality of it’s own” will forever be synonymous to the country’s fifth Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

No longer an active politician, Panday’s colourful political history, wit, charm, and outspoken way have all earned him the description of this country’s most charismatic and controversial politician and post-Independence leader.

Perhaps we will owe that to his background in drama. He did attend the London School of Dramatic Art while attending London University, where he studied law and economics.

A former trade unionist, Panday fought relentlessly for the rights of workers, eventually earning him the title of President General of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union (ATS&GWTU) in 1973. He remained in this role until he became the prime minister of T&T, three decades and one year after first entering politics in 1966 with the Workers’ and Farmers’ Party.

He was a founding member of the ULF, NAR, and UNC and served as opposition leader five times between 1976 and 2010.

But the trusted name and reputation of Basedeo Panday became sullied during his tenure in 1995 when he led this country.

The man once perceived to stand on truth—even resigning from the NAR party on the basis it practiced oligarchy, himself was accused of same when it was alleged he underhandedly accepted money from former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey.

In 2006 at a court hearing Panday admitted to the court it was Duprey who gave his wife Oma 119,183 pounds sterling (TT$1.2 million) in November 1997, representing scholarships for two of Panday’s daughters who were studying in England.

But when Duprey took the stand, he admitted to giving the money to Mrs Panday, not as scholarships, but as financial assistance.

Panday was convicted that year, facing three charges under the Integrity in Public Life Act of 1987 with failing to declare to the Integrity Commission, the assets of the account amounting to approximately $1.6M held at the National Westminster Bank at Wimbledon Hill Road, London, for the years ending 1997, 1998, and 1999, while he was prime minister. He was subsequently imprisoned, however on March 20, 2007, the Court of Appeal quashed that conviction.

With the embarrassing turn of events, on May 1, 2007, Panday resigned as chairman of UNC, but the party’s executive refused to accept his resignation.

He eventually lost the party’s internal elections on January 24, 2010 to then deputy leader, now former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. This scandal left and remains a lingering disfigurement on the UNC administration.

In 2012 he was acquitted of charges, on the ground that the magistrate was biased and the conviction was deemed “unsafe.” Panday continues to make public appeals for constitutional reform.

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