Panday stays at Rienzi Complex

FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday -
FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday -

FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday will be allowed to stay at his offices at Rienzi Complex in Couva, for now.

On Friday, Justice Robin Mohammed imposed an injunction on the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATSGWTU) restraining it from interfering or preventing Panday from using the office.

He also granted an order reinstating Panday’s occupation of the 930 square feet office in the building’s north-eastern corner of the ground floor.

Panday’s attorneys Vasheist Maharaj and Karuna Maraj sued the union’s trustees Narad Sohan, Christopher Ramlal and Reiza Mohamdally after he was evicted from in 2019.

The injunctions granted by Mohammed are until the substantive lawsuit is heard and determined. The matter has been set for July 21, for a case management conference.

In his ruling, Mohammed said the court was unable to ascertain the nature of Panday’s occupation of the office space so the issue had to go to trial. He also did not rule out a site visit to Rienzi Complex so that other issues raised can be determined.

He also said it was evident that third-party rights were introduced when Panday’s claim was filed, as he pointed to a rental agreement between a holding company and the union which includes the office the former prime minister occupied.

In weighing how to maintain the status quo, Mohammed said Panday could suffer greater damage and loss if the office space he occupied was no longer in existence.

“If the said office space is not preserved and if the claimant is successful at trial, the said office space will no longer be available to him for his use, access and occupation,” the judge said of his decision to grant the injunction.

In support of his lawsuit, Panday said when he became president general of the union in 1973, he realised the ATSGWTU did not own its own building and it was during his presidency that Rienzi Complex was built to house its offices.

He said he continued to maintain an office space at Rienzi until his resignation in 1995 when he became prime minister.

Panday said he was told by the then general secretary, Sam Maharaj, that the union passed a resolution to honour his contribution to the ATSGWTU, making him honorary president general for life, and together with that accolade he would be given an office space at Rienzi Complex, also for life.

He denied being notified of his removal as honorary president or any of the rights bestowed on him by the trade union.

Panday says he has renovated the 930 square feet office at a cost of more than $120,000. He also denied his occupation of the office was by virtue of a tenancy or that he was indebted to the union for rent due on the office space.

The union’s former president said it was to his “horror and dismay” that the union, on February 21, put “locks with huge chains” on the front door to the office, preventing him from getting access to it.

“This has caused me great distress as I have many of my important documents and papers stored in the office. In addition, I have many important and significant gifts that are of great sentimental value kept in that office. Further I am unable to attend to my many commitments as many of my files and other important documents are housed in my offices,” Panday said.

He accused the union of acting “maliciously and out of spite for me and with the intention of humiliating me and injuring my proper feelings of dignity and pride and causing me to be held up to ridicule and contempt before my family friends and the general public.”

“I have been subject to humiliation and suffered great anguish and mental distress,” he said.

After Panday was evicted, the union’s current president general Nirvan Maharaj claimed the union took the decision to evict Panday as he had accumulated over $500,000 in unpaid rent since 2012.

Maharaj claimed the union requested payment from him over 50 times but was ignored.

In July 2016, the union evicted the UNC, saying the party failed to pay increased rent from $12,000 to $25,000 per month.


"Panday stays at Rienzi Complex"

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