I heard about his brilliance long before I met him. I was being interviewed by the late B C Pires. He started the interview with a very silly question that left me bemused. On seeing my confusion, he indicated that he usually starts his interviews with such questions as it gives him a sense of one’s wit. He then told me that his best experience was interviewing Basdeo Panday. He indicated that he asked him, what do you wear? Boxers or briefs? To which he replied, “why do you think I wear any?”
He found the answer to be brilliantly spontaneous.
I met Bas at a time when he was trying to make the UNC more inclusive, and we worked for two years forming the UNC Alliance. Every Monday for those years we sat at meeting with others in that endeavour. He sat next to me, and we spoke a lot. Our conversations however were generally not about politics. When we discussed politics his two topics were mainly about how to unite our people and constitutional reform.
Generally, we spoke about culture, the arts, the potential of Trinidad & Tobago for development and interesting stories.
He explained the story about who will bell the cat and the art of brinksmanship. I found him to be among some of the most brilliant minds I had the pleasure to encounter.
Panday had a sincere desire to unite Trinidad & Tobago. His was not simply political platitudes. People who are impactful cannot be ignored or their contributions made simplistic by their opponents. No matter what one thinks of Bas, his record of improving the infrastructure of Trinidad & Tobago and his reduction of criminal activity in our communities are testimony to the leadership legacy of a Prime Minister that shows what is possible if one is prepared to work in the interest of the people.
To the family of Basdeo Panday, his supporters and friends, my condolences. He fought a good fight.
We can now feel sorry for the lion as his opponent has walked away to the great beyond, victorious.