By Azard Ali Newsday
Political Leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Basdeo Panday has hired a private security firm to guard his house in Ocean Drive, Gulf View, La Romaine following the removal of police security.
Sunday Newsday learned that the decision to relieve Panday of police security was taken a few days ago. However, a plainclothes Special Branch officer has been assigned to escort Panday at public functions.
On Thursday night Panday threatened publicly to have his supporters engaged in a campaign of civil disobedience, boycott and marches to force the PNM government to call general elections in the country. Yesterday, Panday maintained that he was sticking by his decision and is not in the least bit perturbed by the responses to his call which he made at the Barrackpore Senior Comprehensive School.
When the former Prime Minister spoke at the school, he was accompanied by a Special Branch policeman. There were no policemen at the meeting, not even to regulate vehicular traffic which had piled up in front the school.
Top UNC officials have expressed concern about the lack of police security for Panday, especially in the light of his call to deal with current political deadlock in the country resulting from the 18-18 election results.
When Sunday Newsday visited Panday's home yesterday morning, an armed female security guard from the firm Pegasus Services Limited, stood guard outside the front door. This was in contrast to the situation just days ago when a member of the Guard and Emergency Branch, armed with sub-machine gun, guarded the home. A GEB officer had also guarded the house Panday owns at Bryan's Gate, Phillipine, near San Fernando. Yesterday there was none.
UNC's strategy officer, Ken Emrith, confirmed that police guard has been taken away from Panday and he has been forced to hire a private security firm.
Emrith said it was discourteous to treat a former Prime Minister, who, only a week ago, moved out of the official residence of the Prime Minister at St Ann's, Port-of-Spain. "And when one considers the fact that Panday became former Prime Minister as a result of the selection of Manning, not election. That position remains unresolved," Emrith said.
Yesterday, Panday declined to comment about his lack of police security. He, however, reiterated his call, saying: "I make no apologies about it; It is not a threat but a promise. I've advocated weapons of struggle used by the greatest men of the century — Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi."
Describing Panday's statement as irresponsible, Attorney General Glenda Morean promised that the State would have to act if people heed Panday's call. To this, Panday replied: "When Dr Martin Luther King Jr issued the same statement during racial strife in the US, that was the same reaction. The colonial powers reacted similarly. They can add, subtract or divide, I said what I said and I stick to it. That is to say, we would never surrender to to oppression, discrimination, marginalisation and rape of the democracy," Panday said.
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