Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley yesterday accused Transport Minister Devant Maharaj of supporting the Maha Sabha in its agenda to "persecute" principal of Tunapuna Hindu School. Rowley made the statement during yesterday's news conference at his Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, office. He was responding to reports of attempts by general secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Sat Maharaj, to prevent African students from attending the Tunapuna Hindu School. Rowley said the matter was "troubling" and was getting worse because of the Government not making a public policy position on the matter. He said the involvement of "a minister of Government" in the matter was even more troubling.
He later named Transport Minister Devant Maharaj as the one who was engaged in "prosecuting the agenda of the Maha Sabha in persecuting and attempting to prosecute the principal of the Tunapuna Hindu School." He said that was being attempted "on the grounds that she had committed infractions." Rowley said he was offended by that move and the rest of the society should also be offended by the Maha Sabha's move. He said the Maha Sabha was moving against the school's principal because she had allowed "black children" from the catchment area attend the school. Rowley stressed: "That is an extremely offensive development and this country may provide the rebuff to all those who may advance to us this kind of development." Rowley said such issues were not supposed to be part of the country's agenda.
"If we continue down this road, for much longer, we could embark on a course from which it would be difficult to turn back," he insisted. Rowley then called for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to tell the country how she intended to deal with the involvement of the Transport Minister in the matter. Maharaj, when contacted for comment, said Rowley was "a stranger to the truth and has started apologising as his former leader did last week." He said he went to the Tunapuna Police Station in response to a call from Maha Sabha general secretary Satnarayan Maharaj.
The Transport Minister said when he arrived there, he realised that Maharaj was not in any trouble so he went to the car park and awaited him (Sat). He said he was not involved in making any charge or statement on the matter involving the principal of the Tunapuna Hindu School. He accused Rowley of trying to engage in "political mischief." And Rowley has renewed his call to Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh to "state unequivocally, the Government's position in resisting this unsavoury development."
Asked to respond to Gopeesingh's advice to the Opposition to take the matter to the Equal Opportunity Commission, Rowley said it was a matter for the Government and not necessarily to "some minor agency of the State." He insisted the matter was a very serious one and he then warned the Prime Minister "about the potential for these kinds of things to develop or to grow when she appointed Devant Maharaj to the Cabinet. "The chicken has come home to roost earlier than I expected the eggs to hatch," he added.