Chief Secretary: Sat Maharaj's statement is racist and divisive

Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Kelvin Charles says statements by Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayn Maharaj about Tobagonians are "disingenuous and unpatriotic... and are an attempt to  deprecate the Tobagonian child".

Charles was referring to Maharaj's comments about Tobagonians on his television station TV Jaagriti, on Tuesday.

When discussing the funds allocated by Central Government to lease the Jean De La Valette (JDLV) - the ferry to run on the interisland route for one year, Maharaj said Tobagonians are "lazy" rapists who work for short hours.

Speaking to Guardian Media prior to sending out a news release, Charles said Maharaj's statements are racist and "calculated to divide us as a people (Trinidadians and Tobagonians) and the twin island state. It shows a palpable lack of understanding and appreciation of the history of the union of the two islands."

In the release issued from his office, the Chief Secretary said Maharaj's statements are "highly disturbing."

“I find the comments of Mr Satnarayan Maharaj particularly ill-timed.  Given the recent occurrence of another video containing racist rantings being circulated on social media, I would think that the responsible thing to do as leaders in this country is work towards racial unity and cohesion."

He referenced the outcome of similar actions by leaders in foreign nations.  "We have all seen what severe circumstances of racial disharmony and disunity have bred in places such as Rwanda and South Africa."

He said the leader of the Hindu organisation "does not seem to be aware that all employed persons in Tobago pay taxes and therefore contribute to the national economy of Trinidad and Tobago."

Charles noted that Tobago businesses also contribute to the national purse.

Charles is encouraging all Tobagonians to reject Maharaj's negative characterisation of them. He said they should use the "disturbing" negative words  "to build themselves up and become better and greater citizens."

"Let us( Tobagonians) be our brother’s keeper and hold each other accountable to being the best employees...  best parents.. best students.. best entrepreneurs we can be,” Charles said.

He also called on citizens to rally against attempts to divide the nation.

“Now more than ever as a country, we must hold true to the words of our National Anthem, “Side by side we stand. Islands of the blue Caribbean sea,” he said.

- by Camille Mceachnie