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No religious rivalry!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Before I get into matters which have recently steamed up the atmosphere (unnecessarily in my view), I want to categorically assure the population that there is absolutely no religious war taking place or that the majority of Muslims, Hindus and/or any other faith, will ever be divided in their brotherhood for any reason whatsoever.

Members of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) and I were extremely pleased to have a pundit of our Pundit’s Parishad invited by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Trinidad and Tobago to participate in their annual Peace Symposium held on April 22nd, 2018.

The SDMS attended and for all intents and purposes, there was a true spirit of unity between all religious groups in attendance. The general consensus on completion of the conference was that there was a transcendental peace in our community and a brotherhood between religious groups despite differences of beliefs.

Moving on to a sordid state of affairs, the Ministry of Education issued a news release purportedly dated May 22nd, 2018, titled “Ministry Investigates Alleged Discrimination Against OJT”. This headline was undoubtedly a big joke, as it clearly contradicted the contents of the said release since the penultimate sentence said that the School Supervision and Management Division of the ministry have been mandated to provide a full report of the incident.

‘Investigation’ originates (1436) from the Latin word, ‘investigationem’ (nom. investigatio) meaning a ‘searching into’. So, an investigation means a searching inquiry for ascertaining facts or a detailed or careful examination of the facts.

How can one arrive at findings without receiving a full report of the alleged incident? Only this Minister of Education, Mr Anthony Garcia, is capable of doing such. He is quoted as having “considered the incident involving Nafisah Nakhid, the hijab-wearing On-the-Job Trainee (OJT)… as a flagrant disregard of the laws enshrined in the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Minister Garcia has further found that the position of the SDMS “…poses a conflict of interest as it directly contravenes section four of our Constitution.” Like a former PNM Minister of Education who spoke of “breakfasts,” Garcia referred to “Lakshmi Girlss” in the release.

With his scathing findings, absent of a concluded investigation, can anyone repose faith or confidence in the ministry’s investigation into the alleged incident? Was the Minister’s statement and/or haste to conclude against the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Education Board of Management indicative of an attempt by the Government to undermine ‘Lakshmi Girlss’ College, which is well poised to scoring a ‘beaver-trick’ in the President’s Medal this year?

It is well known that there are two young ladies at the college who are serious contenders for the medal. A conspiratorialist would possibly question the timing of all actions by the ministry, including that of despatching OJTs.

But moving away from the incompetent and incomprehensible Minister of Education, what amazes me is the continued attack that I am racist. Social media continues to be riddled with labels of ‘Sat is a racist’ but without condescending to any true and tangible particulars.

On last Monday and Tuesday whilst the media was hunting me down, I was participating along with SDMS teachers in our annual Primary Schools’ Baal Vikaas Competition. To quote the words of ‘Barney’ (Neil Patrick Harris in ‘How I met your mother’ sitcom), this competition has become since 1985, wait for it, LEGENDARY!

It has become commonplace (and it can be viewed live on TV Jaagriti) in SDMS schools for Afro-ethnic children to participate in all activities. Everyone, including the judges at the venue, saw that an African descent child was adorned and featured as the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi at the Baal Vikaas preliminary round held at Riverside Hindu School last Tuesday.

Maybe it was momentous, but due to the fact that SDMS teachers generally do not take to social media to vent to the entire world that this missed the rest of the population. In any event, the point to be made is that how am I or the SDMS continuously labelled racist?

Although I do not expect the Minister of Education or even the Attorney General to act fairly and to read the Concordat and/or to consider the role and efficacy of the denominational boards, I must point out that the SDMS’ rules are never directed at teachers’ right to practice their religion, only their practice of teaching.

The coming week is Indian Arrival Week. On behalf of the SDMS, I wish the entire citizenry of Trinidad, ‘Shubh’ Indian Arrival. I also extend Corpus Christi greetings to the Christian community and all citizens.


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