By Michael De Gale
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
but in ourselves…”
–From Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Maybe it was an oversight or even a temporary lapse in judgment that landed Mr. Panday in the penitentiary. Having once ascended the commanding heights of power, some may even argue that it was a feeling of invulnerability and the dizzying effects of power that intoxicated Mr. Panday, resulting in a lapse in judgment. Whatever the reason, the crux of the matter is that Mr. Panday is a citizen of T&T and is not above the law. Consequently, if he perpetrated the crime he must do the time. This does not detract from Mr. Pandays’ tremendous contributions as a Trade Union leader and his reputation as a political pit bull. That is already enshrined in the annals of West Indian political history and will forever be attributed to him. However, to give Mr. Panday a pass because of past performance, age or status is to make a joke of justice and set a negative precedence for a nation that is in the thaws of escalating crime and unprecedented violence. This most recent development, is yet another chapter in the saga of Basdeo Panday.
Mr. Panday is now the highest-ranking person in T&T politics to be incarcerated. However, he joins an elite group of megalomaniacs internationally, who breached the public trust and overestimated their vulnerability. What is even more significant is that the imprisonment of Mr. Panday happened at a time when law and order in T&T is under siege and violence and corruption have become the established norm. Relatively speaking, Mr. Pandays’ sentence is short despite what his supporters may argue. It is common for poor people to receive stiff jail sentences in excess of five years for stealing to provide food for their families. Nevertheless, it sends a clear message to lawbreakers at all levels that they will pay for their crimes regardless of who they are. I sincerely hope that this is only the beginning. I look forward to the jailing of all those who ingratiated themselves to the public, then breach that trust by plundering the public purse. The large-scale importers of guns and drugs that rob children of their innocence and the precious gift of life must also join Mr. Panday – preferably in solitary confinement. The long hand of the law must restrain that cabal of “respectable criminals” that set the tone for the escalation of crime in the larger population. Getting rid of those rotten apples may allow good people and visionaries, to come forward and rescue the country from its downward spiral, as the nation is now experiencing capitalism at its very worst. In this country where human life is much too easily dispensed with and materialism has become the new Messiah, it is imperative that justice be swift, severe and across the board. Given the existing scenario, it will be irresponsible to allow Mr. Panday to walk Scots free. As a lawyer and a man who once ascended the pinnacle of political power, he should be a model citizen and not compromise his integrity for financial gain.
Apart from the issue which landed Mr. Panday in jail, his demise should come as no surprise to political observers. His viciousness over the years, his refusal to graciously surrender the leadership of the UNC for the greater good and a myriad of self-serving personality traits, was ominous signs of his impending destruction. As the saying goes, “you reap what you sow”. Mr. Panday himself said, “Politics has its own morality”. Thankfully, the law of the land does not subscribe to that morality. As Mr. Panday made his bed, so must he lie on it. Some may say that this is destiny, but like Caesar, I too believe that “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”.