Don’t Name Airport after T&T’s Uncle Bas

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‘Over the years I crossed many paths with Panday, and each time, be it in person or calling for a comment, he was kind, patient and wise’

Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

IT was the year 2000, I was a pudgy 13-year-old, who, against my will, was forced to attend the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Junior Amateur Golf Championships being hosted that year by Trinidad and Tobago – my brother was playing, and I am from an overly supportive family. But that was the day I first met Basdeo Panday.

If you had arrived after the formalities of the day, you would have never thought he was the prime minister of the country hosting the championship. He could have been any other doting parent or grandparent swooning over their little future PGA player.

He mingled freely with the players, their parents, coaches and other golf club staff. He shook hands, gave hugs, cracked jokes and proudly posed for pictures. Panday was charming, personable and truly magnetic.
Somewhere in my brother’s childhood room, is a picture of that day of him and Panday. A picture of a smiling man, appearing to genuinely be enjoying himself and a grinning 10-year-old boy in a bright red
Team T&T blazer.

Over the years I crossed many paths with Panday, and each time, be it in person or calling for a comment, he was kind, patient and wise. He was truly the last of his kind. A charismatic man, who pulled you in with his humility and humor.

A friend said to me: “I’ve met a lot of people in power, and Basdeo Panday, politics aside, was a truly nice man. One of the nicest people I have ever been around.”

He was kind, he was gentle, and he truly was our nation’s Uncle Bas.

Panday, for all his faults, was a man of vision. He saw what we were as a nation, what we could become and how we could get there. He had faith in us, faith in the greatness we could be.

Unfortunately, like most politicians he wasn’t a saint, deals were made, and the accusations of
corruption are what brought him down. He knew the game; he played the game and sometimes he won
and sometimes he lost.

Which is why I am confused by people calling for Piarco International Airport to be named after him. It was that airport, the gamble he took, the game he played, that led to his downfall while he was in power. Its ghost has long haunted him and has remained a stain on his legacy.

To carry his name is insulting. It’s almost a joke.

Naming the Piarco International Airport the Basdeo Panday International Airport may not serve as a reminder of the good he did.

Tying his name to the airport serves as a cruel reminder of his missteps and should not be considered.

I mean if the airport was blow mind, then sure. If it was world class, then yes, we could swallow it. But
our airport sucks. It’s gross, its shabby, its embarrassing. And having it named after Panday would be
embarrassing to his family, who let’s be honest have taken their fair share of blows in the court of public opinion over the years. It would overshadow the good he has done, the fights he fought and the true essence of who he was a man.

So, let’s not.

I am not saying forget the bad, but rather to see the man outside of his suit and tie. The man who wasn’t a politician. A man who spent his retirement tending over his vegetable garden and gleefully showed it off on social media.

A man who fought for our country way before he was elected to office. A man who laughed a lot. Who was never arrogant, who was a true gentleman, who was totally cool with the nickname “Silver Fox,” a man who was kind.

Rest in Peace Mr Panday, may your legacy of laughter, of patriotism, of wisdom, of respect never dull.

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