Panday bail hearing put off – daughter officially new Leader of the Opposition

Port of Spain, Trinidad, Apr 26, 2006 – Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday remains behind bars for a third night as the hearing into his bail application has been postponed by 24 hours. This comes as his daughter Kamala Persad-Bissessar was appointed Leader of the Opposition by President of the twin island republic Maxwell Richards.

When lawyers for Panday appeared before Justice Anthony Camona this morning, Director of Public Prosecution Jeffrey Henderson objected to bail however the state had not filed its submissions. Justice Camona gave him until 8 am Thursday to file. Both sides will argue their case at 11:30 am Thursday.

Meantime, Kamala Persad-Bissessar who received support from eight of the 15 Opposition members in Parliament was formally appointed by the President. She said her focus would be to galvanise support of all party members and concentrate their energy and focus where it rightfully belong – on the “enemy”, the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM).

“I feel humbled taking up this mantle and at the same time I want to remain focused and committed to what I see as the UNC vision to create a just and equitable society for all the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” she told reporters.

“At the same time I remain focused on what is happening to my leader, Basdeo Panday, and to ensure that we do all that we can to see justice is done in his case,” she added.

Basdeo Panday was found guilty on Tuesday of not declaring a London bank account to the Integrity Commission. Panday maintained that since it was in the name of his wife, he was not obligated by law to report it. The Court found him guilty on three counts and slapped him with the maximum penalty of two years in prison and TT$20,000 for each count. The sentences are to run concurrently and the maximum time to be served is two years. In addition, the court has confiscated all the money held in the bank accounts.

His attorneys are appealing the ruling. They are arguing that: the magistrate had no jurisdiction to preside over the case, the Court exceeded its jurisdiction in the matter, Panday is not guilty, because the decision of the magistrate is unreasonable and/or cannot be supported having regard to the evidence, the decision is wrong in law and that the sentence imposed is unduly severe.

In their editorials today, Newsday called it “a sad day for our country” while the Guardian newspaper called for the divided UNC to unite and move on. The Trinidad Express says that the “UNC crisis” has grave implications for T&T. (Caribbean360)

See also: Panday Update