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Devant Under Threat
Government Minister Devant Maharaj says he has been bombarded by threatening text messages from a woman who has been trying to “extort financial favours” from him. He said the fallout with Trinidad Express columnist Shirley Hall has left him no other option but to report it to National Security Minister Gary Griffith. Maharaj told the Guardian that Hall has been using her position in the media to “extort financial favours” from him and when frustrated by his refusal, took to texting him threats on his cellphone.
He said Hall was expecting him to purchase her book for his ministry, but when his technical staff shut that down, he has since faced “harassment and threats” from Hall. The messages, which Maharaj forwarded to the Guardian, say he will become a cripple by February 27. The messages spoke about Freemasons and a high priest, who can reverse the curse, if he agreed to meet by February 11.
Hall, in a subsequent telephone interview, denied these claims, saying that Maharaj was using his ministerial position and connections to intimidate her and shut her up. She said the two clashed because Maharaj has been using excerpts from her book, A New Caribbean Homegarden Handbook, in his speeches without her permission and without crediting her for the information.
However, Hall denied she threatened Maharaj. She said the book was published in 2011 and has been used by ministries and in schools to teach local agriculture issues. Hall said her book was often quoted by people in India and London and they all sought permission. “What makes him different? He feel because he is a minister he could do what he wants?” she said. Maharaj has since sent copies of the offending texts to both Griffith and Health Minister Fuad Khan.
“I sent the texts to the Health Minister because I believe the woman may be in need of psychiatric assistance,” Maharaj said. “She cannot deny sending me those texts, I have them saved on my phone for anyone to see,” he said. The texts are somewhat obscure, containing no punctuation, several spelling errors and stating that he already consumed a “bad potion” that would leave him numb from the neck down. Maharaj said Griffith would advise him on his next step, which would likely lead to a police investigation.
“The whole thing is unhinged,” he said. When asked about the charges of plagiarism, Maharaj said he “did not know the woman’s book at all” and as such could not quote or cite from it. He said he was not afraid of the pending legal action from the author. “I’m saying let her bring the proof that I stole her work...I have proof that she threatened me when I refused to use her book,” he said.