Former prime minister Basdeo Panday celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday and joked with family and friends that the reason he has not yet gone to Heaven is that "someone up there" knows he'd be demanding better wages and working hours for angels.
Panday, who was born on May 25, 1933, served as the country's fifth prime minister between November 9, 1995 and December 24, 2001.
He told a small function of friends and family he wouldn't have wanted to celebrate it anywhere else but here in T&T, although his wife Oma and children were suggesting other things like a cruise or a trip to The Maldives.
One daughter, he said, suggested going to Disneyland.
"I thought she probably heard the adage, 'once a man twice a child'," Panday said, adding, "My desire was not to be anywhere else on this, my 90th birthday, but with my family and dear friends whom I have neglected for so many years when I was consumed with politics."
He thanked his family for organising the function and expressed gratitude to all who "have been responsible for helping me exceed my biblical allotment of threescore and 10 years by 20 years."
He then told them why he felt he had been allowed to stay on this earth for so long.
"Two former sugar workers were arguing over the reason why I lived so long and one of them said, 'Boy somebody up there likes him.' The other fella said, 'Don't be stupid, nobody up there likes him, somebody up there knows him and if he would come up there, the first thing he would do is to ask for shorter hours and higher wages for the angels. And if he doesn't get it, first thing he would do is to strike, lockout, go slow and everything, so leave that fella down there."
He said while he didn't know how long he'd be "here again," he wanted, on this occasion, to be with them.
Panday, who served as a lawyer, politician, trade unionist, economist, actor and former civil servant, was also the first person of East Indian descent to hold the office of Prime Minister of T&T.
He also served as the president-general of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers' Trade Union from 1973 to 1995.