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The UWI Mourns the Loss of a Titan of Leadership in Basdeo Panday

Basdeo Panday
The Honourable Basdeo Panday

The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica W.I. Wednesday, January 3, 2024—The University of the West Indies (The UWI) expresses its heartfelt condolences on the passing of the Honourable Basdeo Panday. An indomitable spirit, whose legacy as a former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago echoes with grandeur and reverence, Mr. Panday's tenure as Prime Minister and as the visionary founder and leader of the United National Congress (UNC) was marked by an unyielding commitment to the upliftment of his nation and its people.

In response to the news, and speaking on behalf of the regional institution, the Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles extends condolences to Mr. Panday's family and noted, “We remember Mr. Panday's support to our regional university during his term as Prime Minister, and his notable initiatives such as the School-Building and Dollar-for-Dollar Programmes, aimed at enhancing education in Trinidad and Tobago.”

At The University's 2012 Conversations with Prime Ministers series, held in honour of Trinidad and Tobago's 50th Independence anniversary, Mr. Panday’s contribution was noteworthy for its depth and insight. Mr. Panday shared his views on the independence experience, his stewardship as Prime Minister, and his vision for the future where he indicated then, that he was ‘hopeful, emotionally and psychologically, that Trinidad and Tobago would truly become a nation.’ In that same conversation, he imparted wisdom that resonates with enduring significance: Education is the pathway to a better life. Mr. Panday saw education as his personal escape from the clutches of poverty. This belief wasn't just personal; it became a cornerstone of his governance and a guiding principle that shaped his policies.

Raised in modest circumstances, Mr. Panday understood the life-changing power of education. His own eclectic career path, which spanned diverse roles including that of a primary school teacher and a civil servant among others, set the stage for his pursuit of higher education in Law, Economics and Drama. His zeal for transformative change was deeply rooted, stemming from a lifetime dedicated to battling against the odds - from the courtrooms to the heart of the labour movement, all the way to the halls of Parliament.

In reflecting on the monumental loss of such a venerable figure, Professor Indar Ramnarine Acting Principal of the St. Augustine Campus expressed that “Mr. Panday was a titan in the political arena, and his multifaceted life was a testament to his profound devotion to his country and family. He was not just a politician, but a man of many talents who inspired many. His legacy is outlined in his own words when he stated, 'If you see me and a lion fighting, don’t feel sorry for me, feel sorry for the lion,' encapsulating the formidable tenacity and relentless courage that defined his remarkable journey.”

In a powerful statement during the 2012 "Conversations with Prime Ministers" event, Mr. Panday addressed the concept of legacy by declaring that shaping one's legacy isn't a personal choice, as "history writes your legacy." Reflecting on his tenure as Prime Minister at that time, he confidently asserted that he “wouldn’t change a thing” since his objectives remained the same – create a society to make people happy – the purpose of life is to be happy.” The entire article from the event can be read here.

We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Panday's family and hope that they find comfort in their memories. May the lessons of his life’s work be embraced with reverence and inspire all to embody the same fearless spirit in our own endeavours. May he now find eternal peace.




About The University of the West Indies

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region for the past 75 years.

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with nearly 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Global Campus, and global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and the wider world.

The UWI has been consistently ranked among the top universities globally by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education (THE). The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists since its debut in the rankings in 2018. In addition to its leading position in the Caribbean in the World University Rankings, it is also in the top 25 for Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 100 global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the leading universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

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