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Panday sticks to his views on Robinson
Former prime minister Basdeo Panday says he isn’t buying Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s statement that late former president Arthur NR Robinson had “agonised” over the UNC and PNM’s 18-18 election deadlock in 2001. Panday yesterday remained unrepentant about his view of Robinson.
Archie, at Thursday’s funeral for Robinson, said the former president, trying to resolve the 2001 deadlock, had prepared separate instruments of appointment for Panday and the PNM’s Patrick Manning. They were contenders for the post of Prime Minister after the tied election result. Archie added that Robinson “agonised prayerfully” on the situation up to the “very last minute.” Archie said he knew Robinson was doing his best even if there were some who felt his best was not good enough.
Describing Robinson as a role model and mentor, Archie said he had had the opportunity to speak to Robinson about these and other matters. Robinson eventually appointed Manning as Prime Minister instead of Panday, who had been the incumbent. Robinson later said his reasons for appointing Manning as prime minister was that on the basis of “moral and spiritual values,” Manning was the better person to lead the Government.
In his book In the Midst of It, Robinson said he reached his controversial decision after consultation with both Manning and Panday, both privately and simultaneously. He said his reference to moral and spiritual values was an excerpt from the T&T Constitution, and he had appointed Manning not only because of that but also “because of the oath of office which Members of Parliament had taken, on which he made the decision.”
Panday, who didn’t attend Robinson’s funeral, said: “I don’t know why he had to agonise at all. There was no reason to agonise. It was clear that the natural decision should have been in UNC’s favour, since we had a majority and were the incumbent. “Actually I think he might have agonised as he was doing something wrong. Had he not intended to do anything wrong, there would have been no need to agonise. “So I’m not buying that,” he added. “How can I?
“What the Chief Justice didn’t tell is what exactly Robinson was agonising about and what things he was taking into consideration with his decision then. He talked about moral and spiritual values. “Also the Chief Justice didn’t quite tell us what role he was playing. He wasn’t CJ at the time, but had Robinson at the time sought legal advice, from him? And if so, what legal advice did Archie give him?”
Manning was unavailable to comment on Archie’s statements yesterday, though his family denied a Newsday report that he was out of the country. Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said Archie’s statement about Robinson indicated the challenges of being a president and Robinson was trying to do the job he was given, which was his responsibility.