(Trinidad Express) Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) general secretary Satnarine Maharaj said yesterday he was being vilified as a “black hater” by the media and the People’s National Movement (PNM) in order to sell papers and buy votes.
Maharaj was speaking at an impromptu press conference to discuss the lockout of principal Sita Gajadharsingh-Nanga at the Tunapuna Hindu School last month.
In Parliament on Wednesday night, PNM MP Patricia McIntosh produced a letter from Gajadharsingh-Nanga to the Teaching Service Commission in which she charged that Maharaj had told her not to admit black children in the school.
Maharaj yesterday pulled out copies of the parliamentary Hansard and private correspondence detailing the list of issues that led to the lock out, and took offence to his alleged racist role in the matter.
“The PNM have nothing better to do?” he asked.
Maharaj noted that three other denominational schools removed principals from their schools and it did not create this level of political interference, but said he was now a “good political topic”.
“I have become a political football,” Maharaj said.
He said the SDMS education board supported Gajadharsingh-Nanga’s removal.
“I do not need help from any politician, Opposition or Government,” he said.
“They (PNM) believe they could grind the Maha Sabha in the dust. Not ten like (Opposition Leader Dr Keith) Rowley and his colleagues, they have tried it for the last 20 years. Left to the PNM the Maha Sabha would not be in existence,” Maharaj said.
“Every time Rowley open his mouth, he put his foot into it. This is political propaganda,” he said.
Maharaj said though it was a “Hindu school” it was supported not by the Government, but by the taxpayers of the country.
“Don’t try to use the big stick saying that you funding anything. You not funding nothing,” Maharaj said.
He said he wrote a letter to House Speaker Wade Mark, asking that “their side” of the matter be aired in Parliament as the reports coming out “were biased”.
With regard to the alleged demand by the SDMS to turn away no Indian and non-Hindu pupils, Maharaj produced the Annual Statistical Return from the Ministry of Education, which details the race and religion of pupils in schools.
He said the Hindu figure was only higher at the Tunapuna school because of the heavy Hindu population in the area.
“This is a Hindu catchment area. If you go to Laventille, you think you will find a large number of Indians or Hindus in those schools?” he asked.
“It’s a straight case of where you are living, you wouldn’t find no Indian child in Laventille and no negro child in Felicity Hindu because of the population,” he said.
Maharaj said the reports stating that he called for the removal of non-Indian On-the-Job trainees and pupils from the school were “an outright lie”.
He said the two complaints filed against Gajadharsingh-Nanga were based on moral and religious grounds.
“The regulations are quite clear. This is a Hindu school,” he said, adding that the regulations allowed for a teacher or principal to be removed on the grounds of “unsatisfactory religious persuasion”.
He said at all the SDMS schools, pupils are taught the different Hindu prayers for the various times of day, but at the Tunapuna Hindu, Gajadharsingh-Nanga did not institute those lessons at the infant class level.
Maharaj said the school also took a strong line on the dress code and did not allow parents, teachers or visitors to dress inappropriately. He said the principal installed a secretary who did not abide by those codes.
“When I come here I could see her (secretary) panty-lines. Very visible. Not in a school. Nobody tell me that. I saw it,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj said instead of doing anything about the violation, Gajadharsingh-Nanga removed the dress code sign.
Gajadharsingh-Nanga, in a briefly telephone interview yesterday, said she was bound to silence by the rules of the Ministry of Education until the matter was investigated.
However, a source close to her said that Maharaj had asked Gajadharsingh-Nanga to remove some of the non-Indian children at the school.
The source said the principal has evidence that Maharaj demanded she act according to his wishes and in the two years that she was at the school they clashed on several issues, including his demand to not admit non-Indians into the school.