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The fall and fall of the UNC leader
Posted: Thursday, May 4, 2006

'Kelshall ask me if Panday was honest'

By David Millette,

BASDEO PANDAY, chairman of the United National Congress (UNC) and also Couva North MP, was sentenced to three concurrent two-year jail terms for failing to declare London Bank accounts under the Integrity in Public Life Act, laws which were brought into being under Panday's UNC Government.

During his trial at the Port of Spain Magistrates' Court last month, it also came out that billionaire CL Financial businessman Lawrence Duprey had given the Pandays over $1 million as personal financial assistance.

Panday was also ordered to pay a fine of $20,000 and to repay over $1.5 million to the State, or in default serve an additional three years in prison.

Leonard, a 1970 Black Power political activist and political detainee of the 1970 and 1971 States of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago, in the four-part interview with Mirror, had spoken in detail about the Panday he knew.

The former Pointe-a-Pierre refinery oil worker and education and research officer of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) and close comrade of George Weekes was also widely recognised as one of the stalwarts of the move for African and Indian unity in TnT.

He was well-known in the sugar belt alongside Raffique Shah in mobilising cane farmers in the 1970s to join the Islandwide Cane Farmers Trade Union (ICFTU), has been credited with almost single-handedly recruiting Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC) workers to join OWTU and was a respected and towering figure in the trade union movement both in TnT and England.

Leonard and Panday travelled to England together in 1957 on the same boat.

Panday was at the time going to London to study law (he also studied economics and acting), while Leonard, whose aim was also to study law, ended up working in the then newly-built Shell oil refinery in south Essex as a laboratory technician.

Leonard recalled that while in the middle of the ocean on the boat to London, Panday first blurted out that his "ambition was to become prime minister of TnT one day".

"That statement stuck out in my memory; I thought he was dreaming because he didn't say it in any context of reality," Leonard remembered.

When he was sentenced to prison this week, Panday became the first former PM of TnT to be found guilty of a crime and jailed.

Leonard recalled in that 1998 interview: "I first met Panday on Leotaud Street, San Fernando, where my future wife lived.

"My wife's best friend was the sister of Panday's first wife.

"Panday rode a motor-bike and worked as a clerk in the San Fernando Magistrate Court in those days.

"He also dabbled in poetry; he thought himself to be a poet."

They both returned to Trinidad in the mid-1960s.

Leonard further recalled: "Panday came to see me at the office of solicitor Jack Kelshall (who was then the legal adviser of the OWTU; Leonard was working with Kelshall).

"He called me Len and wanted me to help him find a place to set up his law office.

"There was an empty room downstairs of Kelshall's office and he wanted me to help him get it.

"I spoke to Kelshall, but he said he had never heard of Panday.

"He asked me what I thought of him (Panday) and if he was honest.

"I told Kelshall that Panday had promise but that I can't judge him.

"So Kelshall agreed to give him the office at a reasonable rent."

Leonard also insisted that Panday was brought in to make up numbers when he contested the 1966 general election for the Workers and Farmers Party (WFP), even though the up-until-this-week Opposition Leader usually boasts that his "involvement in struggle" began then.

"He was never a major part of WFP," said Leonard.

In order to paint another picture of the Panday he knew, Leonard also recalled seeking his help in the early hours of April 21, 1970, at about a time when a State of Emergency was being declared in TnT.

"Panday told me he will come in 10 minutes," said Leonard.

"But I never saw him and he never gave me an explanation as to why he didn't show up.

"He later told me he can't remember why."

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