From left, former prime minister Basdeo Panday, moderator Dr Radica Mahase and Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu.

The competition for power is causing many of the problems and racial tension in T&T, according to former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday.

Fielding questions after he spoke at the first in a series of lectures hosted by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation (MGGIC), Mt Hope, on Friday, Panday said the country can only prosper if all the people unite.

“If you divide a country on the grounds of race, you know what you are doing? Your most valuable resource in the development of a nation is your human resource, and therefore when you divide a country in two, you divide your human resource in two, you are less therefore equipped,” he said.

“And the same thing with women and when we deny women their rights and women’s capacity to be part of our human resource we are hurting the country. The point about it is uniting the human resource across racial lines, across gender lines and so on and getting your best people on top to do the job. Unfortunately over the years, that has not happened.”

Panday said racial divisions were deliberately created to keep people apart in the old British system of divide and rule but the problem of race in T&T had been exacerbated by leaders of industry and then the politicians and the country is now divided along the lines of race and class.

He said equality can come from developing a constitution that is relevant to T&T but neither the Government nor the Opposition wants reform because the present system is working for them. Panday said the Westminster system of government inherited from the British is not working for the people of T&T.

Asked how he felt about Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley not taking advantage of the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine from India, Panday said, “Actually I proposed to ask people from the High Commission that question. I don’t know the answer.

“People believe that there are racial overtones or undertones in this COVID virus thing in Trinidad, I don’t know, I don’t know the facts, I really not ought to comment. I cannot comment, I don’t want to put anybody in a difficult position.

I understand protocol demands that the High Commissioner of a country must not get into a fight with the head of a country. I imagine how difficult his position must be.”

He added, “Somebody asked me what do I think about the government rejecting the Indian vaccine and the only thing that can come to my mind is that India would have more to vaccinate its own people and save more lives in India.

Panday, who spoke about his visits to India, said, “India can only be experienced, not understood nor explained.”

He said what impressed him the most was an ancient temple carved inside a mountain. The technology was so impressive that one can only speculate that it was built by extraterrestrials.

He said he felt a sense of identity when he visited India

“Everything stands out,” he said, adding that those who cannot visit should read about India and explore the country over the internet.

The lecture by Panday was held in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.