There was stunned silence in the Felicity crowd on Monday night when Basdeo Panday, speaking through his daughter Mikela, announced that he had tendered his resignation as chairman of the UNC because he did not want the spectre of his conviction hanging over his beloved party.
“In order that there shall be no obstacle in your path to victory, I have this morning tendered my resignation as chairman of the party. I cannot send my party into the battle of an elections with the yoke of my conviction and sentence, hanging around its neck,” Mikela read, virtually drawing all the “felicity” from the Felicity crowd.
Panday said he would have “loved... nothing more” than to be physicially present at the meeting, but was advised by his doctors to stay at home.
But his statement, delivered with Panday-like verve and vigour by young Mikela, brought the spirit of the former chairman straight to his audience.
Panday, the martyr pulled out all the stops. He made a plea for unity, softly chiding those who had a lust and greed for power and office in the process. “If you fail to win the elections the little petty offices for which you now strive will be worth less than the most trivial sinecures,” he said.
Appearing to lead by example, he announced his surrender of power and office for the greater good — the party. The unshakeable “emotional tie” between himself and the party was enough for him.
“I shall never leave you...Our association has been long, our love deep, our emotional ties unbreakable... I owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. I shall always be there for you... until death do us part,” he said, Mikela reading each word with a pained deliberation and conviction.
As he reflected on his tragic fate, Panday’s speech was fraught with parables reminiscent of scripture.
“Do not worry about me; my enemies may destroy me but they shall never defeat me...Now I am leaving politics so that I may enter politics.”
Panday, a Hindu, compared his conviction and sentence to the same injustice meted out to Jesus Christ who spent 40 days and 40 nights at Gethsemane.
On his future role in politics, Panday was deliberately vague and somewhat ambivalent. He said he was leaving electoral politics so that he may enter into a new politics. “Politics at a higher level; it is that politics that will determine the real politics,” he said.
Maybe because Panday’s announcement was so unexpected and the UNC crowd was still trying to digest what they had just heard, the conclusion of the meeting with Tim Gopeesingh’s voice providing information about the next meeting, seemed abrupt and curt.
While Panday’s statement had fervour, the other speeches delivered by speakers on the Justice platform had fire. Former AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj attacked what he termed as attempt by elements in the PNM and the media to divide him and Panday by the printing of “falsehoods” about about his role in the investigations into Panday’s finances.
Maharaj who insisted that he “loved” UNC and had “political tabanca” for the party, said, “Who want to bad talk, let them bad talk us, but we are going forward with the goal to remove the PNM.”
Deputy Political Leader Jack Warner continued his regular tirade against Political Leader Winston Dookeran and the PNM.
He described the PNM as “despotic, racist, incompetent and vindictive,” saying that the administration had engaged in a campaign of discrimination against Panday and his followers. And while all this was happening, “one man with 126 people in a constituency of 20,000” was engaging in a show of support, Warner said, obviously referring to Dookeran’s Saturday march. “What a waste of hope,” he lamented.