Historian Brinsley Samaroo believes Basdeo Panday is being hounded out of the office of Opposition Leader and advises those doing so to treat him with dignity in light of the tremendous contribution he has made to the country. Similar sentiments were echoed by leader of the Congress of the People Winston Dookeran. Both men were specially invited guests at the commemoration of the 116th anniversary of Founders' Day at their alma mater Naparima College, San Fernando, yesterday. Both men have been political allies of Panday, having served with him in the NAR administration. Addressing the issue of a lobby for newly elected political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) Kamla Persad-Bissessar to also assume the position of Opposition Leader, Dookeran in a separate interview said there was no urgency.
"I don't think it is as important an issue as the country is making it out to be. I think Mr Panday needs a little time to adjust to this new reality, that his political life has really come to an end. "We have to give him some time to come to that reality because he has played an important role for 40 years in the politics of this country and we can afford him that time. Inevitably and perhaps shorter than we think, I'm sure the matter would be resolved," Dookeran said. Samaroo, a former Minister of Decentralisation and Agriculture agreed. "Mr Panday has served this country for a very long time and Mr Panday has made a very significant contribution to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. I think it is wrong. I think it is very unfair to now all of a sudden force him out, which is what, very unfortunately, is happening," he said.
Samaroo said, "One has to recognise the tremendous contribution that he has made and one has to ease him out very gradually and in a very dignified and honourable manner–not in the way it is being done now, where everybody is hounding him and telling him to go and not remembering the tremendous contribution he has made to the development of T&T. I think that is important." Samaroo said there is precedent in the Parliament where two different people holding the positions of opposition and political leader of the same party have co-existed. "I don't think that is a real problem. If Mr Panday continues on as Opposition Leader, Mrs Persad-Bissessar would have all the more time to reorganise the party in the way she has indicated she wants to do." Dookeran who served as UNC political leader while Persad-Bissessar acted as Opposition Leader in the absence of Panday also acknowledge this could also happen in the present scenario. "It is a matter of support," he said.