Forgotten warrior: the story of Bindul
Photo : Bindul
In 1990 Samaroo Siewah launched his first volume of Basdeo Panday’s Speeches. Titled “An Enigma Answered,” the book was launched at the JFK Lecture Theatre, St Augustine Campus, UWI, following the dismissal of Panday from the NAR Government.
Mukesh Babooran, a calypsonian and pichakaree singer, was invited to do a cultural item. The chorus of his song was:
I doh fraid no Bindul or Charlie,
No Tom, Dick and Harry,
But Panday you are my hero.
Bindul, Charlie and Harry were foot soldiers of the UNC and were always ready to defend Panday and his programmes and policies. They were not fictional characters but real men who were active in the political culture of the UNC and its leader. The trio, born in the Barataria/San Juan district, were known throughout the country for their hard work and commitment to the party. Their one mission was to rescue the Barataria/San Juan constituency from the clutches of the PNM and take it to the UNC.
A retiree and formerly employed with the Ministry of Health, Bindul was born Enol Hanoman Parsan in 1953 on 12th Street, Barataria. His legally registered name is Errol Parson. This anglicised version of his name became his identity and he recalled occasions when others looked at him in shock when he responded to his name.
Bindul’s great grandmother came from India with two sons-Parsutam and Parsan. She bought a property at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Eastern Main Road, Barataria. This was done so that her sons would be able to access education at the Roman Catholic primary school in the vicinity.
Barataria was a settlement along the Eastern Main Road and behind the houses were empty lands. There were a few Africans families from Barbados and the majority of people were Indians. “Even Laventille had a large number of Indians,” Bindul informed me.
Bindul’s great grandmother was approached by a Chinese shopkeeper to buy her parcel of land. “The offer was so good that my great grandmother did not hesitate to sell. At that time a corner spot was ideal for doing business. With the money received from the sale she purchased a larger parcel of land next to the lot she sold and more than 20 lots on 12th Street which included the home,” Bindul said.
Bindul shared with us:
“My grandfather, Parsan, walked along the bank of the river from 3rd Avenue to reach the parcel of land. There was no road and there were only two families-an African man who lived alone and another family.
“Parsan, my grandfather, grow crops and mind cows. He had thirteen children altogether. He also plant garden and later open a shop selling dry goods.
“Samcharran, my father, had seven children-four boys and three girls. I was the last among the boys and when my father died I was four years old,” he said.
“At five years I went to the El Socorro Hindu School. I always like school because I was a bright student,” he said with pride and conviction. “There was nothing that the teacher teach that I did not understand,” he continued.
In standard four Bindul was transferred to the Barataria RC for enrolment. “I like school very much. I was always among the top three students in the class. But I remember children laughing at our names and the roti that we bring from home wrap in up in brown paper.”
Bindul became a hero in school when he decided that he would have to fight back to earn his respect. “A student was accustomed teasing me. Hurt by the constant taunting, I spring on the student and cuff and kick him. Since then the boy stay away from me,” he said.
When Bidul wrote the Common Entrance exams he along with the other top two students did not win a place in a secondary school. “Secondary school was reserved to those who were connected to the Church. I was a Hindu and the other two boys were very poor,” he said.
PNM Thuggery in Barataria
“Politics did not come within me naturally. It was the violence I experienced growing up that made me fearless and ready to remove the PNM from office,” he said.
His family house on 12th street was always used as a meeting spot for the DLP and later the UNC. “PNM hooligans, knowing that my family supported the DLP would pelt our house with stone. This started happening as early as 1961 and continue ‘til the 1970s. While others were fearful of the PNM hooligans I offered resistance by throwing stone at the mikes campaigning for the PNM,” said Bindul.
“My first stint with politics was at age 10. I went with a mike in the La Basse to campaign for the DLP…’vote for the DLP…vote for democracy…’ The votes in the La Basse was divided equally between the PNM and the UNC,” he said.
“Baldie Hernandez was a big leader among the PNM thugs,” said Bindul. “These badjohns would travel in buses from Port of Spain and walk in gangs through Barataria and if they were greeted with any opposition they would start fights,” he said. He identified “Ferdie Fereria was the leader of this band of PNM hooligans that gladly beat up mainly Indians.”
“The Indians had no leadership and their votes were divided. The majority of Hindus voted for Kamal and a large number of Muslim opposed him,” Bindul lamented.
Kamalludin Mohammed was always aware of the resistance Bindul posed to the PNM in Barataria and would always extend a goodwill gesture to bring Bindul to the PNM.
“Kamal invited me for a job,” said Bindul. “But I was working with Amoco as a chef and was making $70 per day. Sometimes I would be out on the platform for two weeks and when I came on shore I had plenty of money,” he said.
“I finally decided to visit Kamal’s office at Sackville Street. He said that his ministry was opening a litter warden squad and he would like me to work in that squad,” he said.
“I took up work at the Arima Health Centre. It was something new for me. I had never been to Arima. When I told my friends in the neighbourhood they were excited to know how the place was,” he said.
My First Encounter with Basdeo Panday
“In the early 1980s a group of us would go to bazaars in different parts of the country. One Sunday we went to Felicity. It was one of the schools in the district. Looking across I saw Basdeo Panday. I called out to my friend-‘look Basdeo Panday, we should meet him,’” he said.
“Panday was surrounded by people and we wait ‘til he was free. Panday had a beer in his hand and we walked up to him. He said ‘hold this’ pushing the bottle of beer to one of us to hold and move to a corner to piss,” Bindul recalled.
When Panday heard we were from Barataria, he remarked: “I need to know Barataria.” They exchanged words and Panday invited them to visit him at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition at St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
Charlie, Harry and I began visiting Panday regularly and assisted with the operation of the office. Bindul recalled that Panday was unhappy with his office and in a newspaper report he was quoted as saying “I would move to Woodford Square and run the Leader of the Opposition business sitting in a hammock.”
BIndul said that he and Charlie and Harry took Panday to Laventille, Barataria and San Juan where he knew no one. “People always welcome Panday. Even the Africans in Laventille loved him,” he said.
In the Barataria/San Juan constituency the Opposition had a mere 165 votes. That did not discourage Panday who saw it as “having something to build on.” Bindul was always impressed with the commitment of Panday to make time after a full day in Parliament to visit Barataria for informal meetings. “Panday was a down to earth man and the people love him for that,” he said.
Bindul recalled the role he played when negotiation was being carried out to form the National Alliance for Reconstruction. “When I visit Panday office he would give me a note to take to Karl Hudson-Phillip. I would walk to Karl office and deliver it to him and wait for a response. Karl would write his response which I would take back to Panday,” he recalled.
“How many time you had to take messages back and forth?” I asked. He responded: “Many times.”
When Panday was about to be fired by ANR Robinson from his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, he called Bindul and other activists to a meeting at his office. The meeting was to plan the next step ahead. “Panday said to all gathered-about a dozen-that the struggle must live on,” recalled BIndul.
I asked: “Was Panday disappointed and hurt?” Bindool responded: “Not at all. Panday was ready for battle. That’s the reason he called us to a discussion-not to cry but to fight on.”
Bindul worked tirelessly to launch Club 88 at Aranguez Savannah following the dismissal of the UNC faction of the NAR from the Government.
“It was a rebuilding process. We had to work across the country to rally the ULF base. Basdeo Panday knew that the ULF base was intact and that his supporters have “pulled up and parked.” The hard work of the activists was resulted in the birth of the UNC.
In the 1991 General Election Peter Jankie was the candidate for St Joseph. Bindul and other activists rallied the UNC votes across the constituency. “It was a three way fight and the PNM emerged the victor and won the General Election.”
“I was impressed with the UNC showing-for the first time the UNC won 15 seats. Pointe-a Pierre and Fyabad, two traditional Opposition/DLP seats come back to the UNC. But I think the hero of the UNC was Ramesh Maharaj. I was impressed with his energy to work for long hours,” said Bindul.
In 1995 when Fuad Khan won the Barataria/San Juan seat it was a culmination of the hard work of Bindul, Charlie, Harry, Peter Jankie, Prem Basdeo (deceased) and a host of others. These foots soldiers worked the ground and inspired the UNC voters that the PNM was not invincible. The 1986 elections had proven that the PNM can be defeated.
In 1995 the UNC won 17 seats with PNM winning 17 and the NAR the two seats in Tobago. With the PNM declaring that it would not be part of any coalition government, the NAR joined with the UNC and formed government.
“Panday was now Prime Minister and was busy playing golf and drinking whiskey with Duprey,” Bindul responded, raising his voice. “Many activists felt abandoned and cheated.”
I asked Bindul “why you supported Team Unity?” He responded: “Panday wanted to cut up Caroni Ltd and sell it to Lawrence Duprey. I supported Ramesh. Our forefathers developed the sugar lands. Why it must go to Duprey?”
Bindul said: “We had 19 seats. Panday did not listen to Ramesh. If he had, he would have been in power today.
“When Team Unity was started, the members were always few. When Team Unity did not find a candidate for Barataria/San Juan I was approached by the Political Leader and accepted.
“After losing the elections Ramesh was happy to see Panday going back to power. He asked a pollster to inform Panday that being the incumbent with the popular votes, he would have the moral right to rule.
“Panday and Ramesh are a team. They are the UNC. Whenever they worked together they always bring home victory.”
“The return of Ramesh in 2007 helped the UNC to retain its base from the assault of the COP,” said Bindul.
“I still believe that Ramesh and Panday need to bury the hatchet and come together to work with Kamla,” said Bindul. He continued: “Kamla is too weak to lead the UNC to victory. She needs both of them to fight the PNM,” Bindu stressed.
Bindul is married to Vidya and the proud father to two children-Samcharran and Vanita. Samcharran is still a bachelor but Vanita has three beautiful daughters whom Bindul is very fond of.
His politics was always supported by his mother and sisters. “My mother was always politically conscious and so was my brothers and sisters.”
“Did you wife support you in the politics. “All the way. My wife like the politics and she always support me,” said Bindul.
Bindul never liked alcohol. His father was an alcoholic and died as a result. “I never liked alcohol but I enjoyed smoking marijuana,” he said with a glee on his face. “But marijuana is illegal,” I retorted. “No, marijuana was brought to this country by my Indian ancestors. It is part of my heritage,” he stressed.
“I am no fly by night politician,” he boasted. BIndul served as President of the Barataria Hindu Mandir and was an active member during his late teens. He was also active in the village council in Barataria in the 1970s.
Bindul was also elected to serve as a Member of the Board of Regional Complex in 3rd Avenue for several years.
Bindul now works with NACTA Polls that conducts surveys across the land. Not active with the UNC, Bindul is of the view that Ramesh Maharaj can make a difference if given the opportunity to serve.