It was one of the best tributes (eulogies) I saw or heard and perhaps the best speech President Christine Kangaloo (of Trinidad and Tobago) ever delivered. Kangalooo shone like a star. Hers stood out among all the tributes to Basdeo Panday. There were some personal comments but one appropriate for the occasion. It had its humor but was forceful.
And of the many people who occupied the Presidency of T&T, I would rate it as the best speech I ever heard. It was a kind of speech that only Panday could have delivered. She said what needed to be said about Bas and there were appropriate, beautiful anecdotes. It was a fitting tribute for the good ole Bas. She deserves praise for one of the finest speeches in her political history.
It was perhaps the most important speech ever delivered by a President for such a popular person. Panday was the most charismatic person in the history of T&T. He was unquestionably the country’s best orator. It was a terrific speech, a magnanimous one that a President ever delivered on an opponent. Off course, as President since last year. Kangaloo no longer has opponents. But the Kangaloo’s family (as PNMites) has been opponents of all the parties Panday was affiliated with – WFP, DLP, ULF, Alliance, NAR, and UNC. And Kangaloo herself was a political candidate for office, an elected parliamentarian, a Senator, Senate President and by extension (de facto) Vice President and Acting President of the country.
The speech was well received by everyone I engaged after the funeral. It stood out among the several tributes paid to the late former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday. Everyone gave it a positive rating, expressing surprise or shock for the content and delivery. They were curious about who wrote it. The audience cheered at the end even by those who were Kangaloo’s opponents and by the Panday’s family, dressed in white, and sitting on stage.
President Kangaloo came through very well. Everyone I engaged said she was simply fantastic. The speech has cast Kangaloo in a different light from when she elected. It is likely to propel her as among the most popular Presidents since Hassanalli (1980s). Although she was not favored by half of the population when she was chosen in early 2023, she started out well with high approval ratings. She has not taken unpopular or controversial actions since she was sworn in last year. This would elevate her status if only she avoids partisanship and be President of all.
The speech touched on Panday’s struggles and how he was effective at disarming opponents or winning over people opposed to him. She noted he had a great sense of humor. Panday had a terrific sense of humor. And she gave several apt anecdotes. He was the wittiest person I ever engaged. And even at 90, he was still very sharp. Once in a good mood, he would always smile and make you laugh as he did. Post-electoral politics, Panday received bi-partisan approval rating from among Trinibagonians, the highest in the country. He was rated as the best PM the country ever had. He ran an economy when oil was only US $10 a barrel as opposed to between $50 and $120 between 2010 and now. In 2008, oil was $147 a barrel. Many would have liked to see him return as PM as both the opposition and ruling parties face growing disenchantment with their leadership. Panday lived a life of dignity, kindness, compassion, and serving others which have been missing among many MPs.
As Kangaloo noted, even though he was a political opponent, you could not help but liking and respecting him. Her father, a PNMite, respected Panday. As she reflected, Panday lived his life with a sense of duty and purpose. She noted that Panday was a genuinely optimistic and good man. Bas recognized that serving others enriched him and he never valued power over principle. His own interest was not more important than the country’s. Panday was willing to yield power for the betterment of the nation, and he did it at least on two occasion – giving up the leadership of NAR to ANR Robinson in 1986 in order to unite the country and again in December 2001 when he signed an agreement for Robinson to choose the Prime Minister between Patrick Manning and himself. Panday, as the incumbent and winner of the popular votes, did not lose the election and should have been appointed the PM.
And of Panday, I don’t think any occupant in the PM’s office was as courageous and principled as him in addressing issues whether it was workers’ rights, peoples’ rights, educational grants, among others.
Kangaloo recalled Panday praising her acceptance speech as excellent when she was sworn in as President but telling her she would not get anything done without constitutional reform. Will she support Panday’s call for constitutional reform?