The University of the West Indies (The UWI) expresses its heartfelt condolences on the passing of the Honourable Basdeo Panday. An indomitable spirit, whose legacy as a former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago echoes with grandeur and reverence, Mr Panday’s tenure as Prime Minister and as the visionary founder and leader of the United National Congress (UNC) was marked by an unyielding commitment to the upliftment of his nation and its people.
In response to the news, and speaking on behalf of the regional institution, the Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles extends condolences to Mr Panday’s family and noted, “We remember Mr Panday’s support to our regional university during his term as Prime Minister, and his notable initiatives such as the School-Building and Dollar-for-Dollar Programmes, aimed at enhancing education in Trinidad and Tobago.”
At The University’s 2012 Conversations with Prime Ministers series, held in honour of Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th Independence anniversary, Mr Panday’s contribution was noteworthy for its depth and insight. Mr Panday shared his views on the independence experience, his stewardship as Prime Minister, and his vision for the future where he indicated then, that he was ‘hopeful, emotionally and psychologically, that Trinidad and Tobago would truly become a nation.’ In that same conversation, he imparted wisdom that resonates with enduring significance: Education is the pathway to a better life. Mr Panday saw education as his personal escape from the clutches of poverty. This belief wasn’t just personal; it became a cornerstone of his governance and a guiding principle that shaped his policies.
Raised in modest circumstances, Mr Panday understood the life-changing power of education. His own eclectic career path, which spanned diverse roles including that of a primary school teacher and a civil servant among others, set the stage for his pursuit of higher education in Law, Economics and Drama. His zeal for transformative change was deeply rooted, stemming from a lifetime dedicated to battling against the odds – from the courtrooms to the heart of the labour movement, all the way to the halls of Parliament.
In reflecting on the monumental loss of such a venerable figure, Professor Indar Ramnarine acting Principal of the St Augustine Campus expressed that “Mr Panday was a titan in the political arena, and his multifaceted life was a testament to his profound devotion to his country and family. He was not just a politician, but a man of many talents who inspired many. His legacy is outlined in his own words when he stated, ‘If you see me and a lion fighting, don’t feel sorry for me, feel sorry for the lion’, encapsulating the formidable tenacity and relentless courage that defined his remarkable journey.”
In a powerful statement during the 2012 Conversations with Prime Ministers; event, Mr Panday addressed the concept of legacy by declaring that shaping one’s legacy isn’t a personal choice, as history writes your legacy. Reflecting on his tenure as Prime Minister at that time, he confidently asserted that he “wouldn’t change a thing” since his objectives remained the same – create a society to make people happy – the purpose of life is to be happy.”
We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr Panday’s family and hope that they find comfort in their memories. May the lessons of his life’s work be embraced with reverence and inspire all to embody the same fearless spirit in our own endeavours. May he now find eternal peace.
(The former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, who was born on May 25, 1933, died on January 1, 2024).