Poll: Panday Should Play Role of Statesman

Poll: Panday Should Play Role of Statesman
Photo : Basdeo Panday

Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday should play the role of an Elder Statesman and seek to bring people and or political forces together to address issues confronting the society rather than form a new political party. The nation wants him to remain in the politics in advisory capacity rather than return to electoral politics. This was the overwhelming response to a question on the whether Panday should come out of political retirement and his role in a new political party in an ongoing tracking opinion poll conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) in July.

The poll interviewed people to represent the demographics of the diverse population and was conducted by Dr. Vishnu Bisram.

Asked if Panday’s daughter, Mickela, a former MP, was ready to form a political party, only 22% gave the nod. People generally feel Mickela is not ready for launching of a party although respondents said there is a political vacuum and a need for a “third political movement”. In fact, people are disenchanted with governance of the country and the two major parties, PNM and UNC, with nearly a third of the potential voters saying they want another political movement. However, they say Mickela needs more engagement with the public before launching a party. They note she had only one meeting in Chaguanas with the public and that is not enough from which to conclude that there is a mandate to form a political party. Respondents feel Mickela needs to have more issues oriented conversations with the population around the country, inclusive of Tobago, before a decision can be taken to launch a party. They say she should hold public discussions in various regions on issues affecting peoples lives like constitutional reform, crime, local government reform, the property tax, flooding, cost of living, health, housing, drugs, unemployment, land tenure security of former sugar workers, economic diversification, among others, and obtain their views on launching a party. They want a social movement that will create the necessary wave of support for the launch of a political party. They also feel Mickela needs to set up the infrastructure and organization necessary for formation of a political party or else it will be a disaster.

With regards to Basdeo Panday’s role in a new party or a political movement, it is felt that he should not be lured to come out of political retirement by the Mahathir Mohammed effect. The 92 years Malaysian former PM came out of retirement to rescue his country from floundering governance leading a coalition of opposition forces that ousted the incumbent government party last May.

Basdeo Panday, at 85, who is arguably considered by many as the best PM in T&T ever had, still has a lot of political traction especially that there is widespread dissatisfaction with both major parties (PNM and UNC). But people feel Bas, as he is affectionately called, should play the role of a statesman to bring people together and to sustain the discussion on constitutional reform and the politics of inclusion.

Respondents feel Panday should use his political experience to guide his daughter on how to become a successful leader. Some older respondents note that Panday’s own experience in forming a political party first (Workers and Farmers Party) in 1965  first and then canvass support afterwards should inform Mickela not to go that route. Bas was successful in 1976, 1981, 1986, and 1989 because he was solidly grounded with the population and he canvassed their views in forming a party and forging an alliance across the divide. It was pointed that Club 88 held several conversations with the population before the UNC party was launched in 1989. People feel Bas should seek to bring former colleagues, grass roots activists now alienated from the UNC, other political interests and civic forces, and those especially estranged from both major parties.

The findings of the poll show that if an election were called now, the PNM would retain office as the UNC in its present form is not viewed as a viable alternative. Voters want the UNC to practice a politics of inclusion bringing various forces together to unite country.