From Gary Griffith
As Minister of National Security, I was tasked with coordinating the State Funeral of His Excellency ANR Robinson, which lasted 5 days. Held in Trinidad and then Tobago, it proved to be a logistical nightmare, so one may have expected no issues in the organising of Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s State Funeral, which only took place in Trinidad.
Because I did, I am well aware of the protocols for invitations, knowing that those invited are approved between the State and/or the family of the deceased.
Over the last few days, I have noted with interest the vast number of persons clamouring and being interviewed by the media, with all making claims of being very close to Prime Minister Panday.
Apart from his immediate family, these claims by politicians and friends combined, would not amount to the interaction I had with him during his last few years as Prime Minister. But I sat back and said nothing.
As his Military Attache, I was responsible for his security, and almost everything involving logistics, staffing, transport, budget, events and meetings. If for instance he traveled to Tobago, which would have been on dozens of occasions, I would be seated next to him. This means on most occasions during that period, I knew those who met with him because I was there.
Upon my resignation from the military, Mr. Panday appointed me as an Opposition Senator. He also appointed me to the UNC’s executive and handpicked me as the candidate for the St. Joseph constituency, before the split that birthed the Congress of the People.
But this is all irrelevant because those in authority have the right to invite or not invite anyone of their choosing, regardless of how close that person was to Basdeo Panday. So to answer those who are asking why I did not attend the funeral; the answer is simple. I was not invited.
I did get an opportunity to pay my respects however, as I attended the wake and also signed the condolence book along with the NTA Executive and other members of the NTA party. But what I would not do however, is go where I am not invited, which is why I had no intention of jumping over railings, as those days for me were decades ago when I was a teenager ‘storming’ house parties.
One surely cannot expect to ask the nation to allow you the opportunity to lead and serve a country, when you act in such an irresponsible manner as jumping over railings to enter a State event when you were not invited. There is simply nothing that justifies these actions, especially from those who should know better. This demonstration of lawlessness sets a bad example for all and it reinforces the mindset that informs criminal activity and school violence, which is ‘might is right’.
Even more disappointing was the statement by the ‘stormers’ who breached security and were caught on camera climbing over a railing, saying that law enforcement told them that the only way to get in (to do the wrong thing) was to jump over the railing.
Finally I would like to comment on those who drafted the Order of Service, and who saw it appropriate to politicize it via sidelining those not aligned to the government, or those who may be aligned to the opposition to ensure the defeat of the outgoing Government. When I coordinated the State Funeral of ANR Robinson, I ensured that I was not blinded by politics and hence drafted the Order of Service, to include the Leader of the Opposition to be a part of the proceedings by having him, Keith Rowley, speak at the Service.
So to see the present Leader of the Opposition not being recognised in any manner, not even her time of arrival, says so much about us as a nation. And it speaks even more about the lack of professionalism of those in the state, who decided to make such a decision.
It is all about protocol and class, and it is clear some have it and some don’t.
NTA Political Leader
WhatsApp: 482-Gary  / 483-Gary