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Voters free to choose

Published: 
Monday, May 28, 2018
Kamla responds to Sat’s decree

Voters in T&T are free to vote for whomever they wish, said Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in response to statements from Sat Maharaj, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.

Maharaj, on a television broadcast last Friday, had called on Hindus in T&T to “free up the Hindu votes” in the upcoming 2020 general election as he expressed his disagreement with Persad-Bissessar over her open support for on-the-job (OJT) Nafisah Nakhid who was turned away from the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College because she wore a hijab. The school is operated by the Maha Sabha.

“I think that every voter in our country is entitled to vote on issues and on who they think will best serve the interests of the people of T&T. I am not going to get into any lockjaw with Mr Maharaj as he has done a tremendous work in the country, his organisation and therefore it is not about him or me, it is about what is in the best interest of the country,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar spoke to the media yesterday after giving remarks at the St Joseph Presbyterian Church’s service celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in T&T.

Last Tuesday, Nakhid posted her experience on social media of being disallowed to perform teaching duties at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College in St Augustine, because of her religious wear.

The story sparked outrage by some citizens, even from the Hindu community, and Persad-Bissessar, who issued an official release in support of Nakhid.

In response, Maharaj revoked an invitation to Persad-Bissessar where she was due to deliver the feature address on Indian Arrival Day, March 30 at the school. He said Persad-Bissessar will “pay a hell of a price” for her comments in support of Nakhid. He also banned the Opposition Leader from the school’s compound.

Responding to his threat, she said: “When you get to my age, nothing surprises you anymore.”

She also said she does not believe in boycotting the Maha Sabha events or any other organisation.

“If you were planning to go, then go. If you were not planning to go, then stay at home.”

She added: “This is not about Kamla, it is not about me, so I do not want to get drawn into a tit-for-tat across the country. He has his constitutional rights, freedom of expression, he has his rights and his events so I take all of it in stride. But I am not going to be drawn in any tit-for-tat across the table,” she said.

She said “maybe” she will contact Maharaj concerning the row between the two.

Maharaj had defended the school’s decision on the basis that someone wearing a hijab does not conform with the school’s code of conduct because it was a religious symbol not affiliated with Hinduism.

The matter has been referred by the Ministry of Education to the Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who in turn, is seeking the High Court’s interpretation on the issue.

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