“It is ludicrous that anyone with any modicum of decency can contemplate accusing the party of being anti-Hindu or against any religion. It is particularly disheartening when this is the stance of supposedly enlightened media practitioners who ought to know better, if they are really worth their salt.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which responds to comments attributed to TV6 Morning Edition host Fazeer Mohammed, was submitted to Wired868 by former PNM general secretary and Arima Mayor, Ashton Ford:
Attorney Veera Bhajan, who was born without arms, obtained a state scholarship in 2005 under the programme administered by then Minister of Community Development and Culture, Joan Yuille Williams, in 2005.
She graduated from the University of West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, after earning her Bachelor of Laws degree, returned home, and obtained a job at the then Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s office on Monday 28 October 2012.
But by the end of her first working week she decided to resign. She revealed to students who attended a Ministry of Sport Leadership Symposium: “I will say this to you, wherever you go in life and you feel that your character and your integrity are being taken away from you in some way or the other, I say walk away.”
According to a published report on 4 April 2012, she went on to advise the students that there is nothing more important than your character and integrity.
The report went on to state that several students were moved to tears during Bhajan’s speech, which also included anecdotes about teaching herself to write, brush her teeth, and feed herself with toes, as well as her struggle to pass CAPE examinations after missing three months of school because of a car accident.
Ms Bhajan’s achievement is one of many by young citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who benefitted from state scholarships under the auspices of the People’s National Movement (PNM).
She was not granted a scholarship because she was a member of the PNM, nor was she able to pursue her goals as a result of her physical condition but rather as she stated, “My condition had not deterred me from striving for my goals.”
The Government also recognised her outstanding achievements and she was awarded the Humming Bird Silver Medal in 2005, in addition to winning the Express Individual of the year award in 2009.
The reason for my trip down memory lane is due mainly to the vicious attack unleashed on the PNM and Ms Yuille Williams by TV6 Morning Edition host, Fazeer Mohamed, on one of his daily addresses to the nation, where he declared that, “… the PNM don’t like Sat Maharaj, they don’t like Hindus and in fact they don’t like anything outside of Port of Spain.”
(Editor’s Note: Fazeer Mohammed did not say the PNM does not like Hindus).
He then went on to bash the PNM for granting I95.5FM a radio license, and stated that Devant Maharaj had to take the matter to court in order for the Hindus to get a license.
Mr Mohammed then attacked Ms Joan Yuille-Williams for—according to him—organising a secret scholarship programme for the PNM members and supporters. Conveniently for him and his argument, he omitted to mention that Ms Yuille Williams was cleared by BOTH the Integrity Commission and the Police, following long, drawn-out investigations.
It was an obscene, racially-charged attack on the PNM. Conveniently to himself and his argument, he did not say that under the PNM, Caroni Limited was rescued by the same PNM.
Of course, he did not mention the construction the Dattatreya Mandir in Carapichaima which was opened on 9 June 2003, when the eighty-foot-tall Hanuman was consecrated and inaugurated, as well as a small Hanuman shrine below the statue. The construction of the mandir was carried out by a supervising architect and masons brought from India to do the artwork and to build the Hanuman murti.
It is obvious that Fazeer probably suffered severe memory loss, in omitting to mention that he was fired from state-owned CNMG soon after the UNC formed the government in 2010. At least, WE remember the disgust we felt on his behalf, when he was railroaded on air by a UNC minister, accused of having an Islamic, anti-female bias.
He may not be aware that it was under the PNM that the Temple in Sea was rebuilt in 1995, under a Committee of which Randial Rampersad was Chairman, and which received assistance from the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) headed by then Member of Parliament, Jarrette Narine.
Any Pundit worth his salt can attest to these facts. It is for these reasons that I find it grossly unfair for that criticism of this nature—misguided, misinformed, incorrect and malicious—should be levelled against the PNM.
It is ludicrous that anyone with any modicum of decency can contemplate accusing the party of being anti-Hindu or against any religion. It is particularly disheartening when this is the stance of supposedly enlightened media practitioners who ought to know better, if they are really worth their salt.
Such dangerous propaganda should be seen for exactly what it is in 2018–50 years after the PNM government led by the late Eric Eustace Williams—proclaimed Divali as a national holiday.
Trinidad and Tobago cannot afford to live with these outrageous commentaries, which only serve to divide our beloved country, perhaps for a more nefarious purpose.
Response from Fazeer Mohammed:
With reference to the letter from Aston Ford which first appeared on the Wired868 website on Wednesday, 13 June 2018, and claimed that I stated, among other things, “…the PNM don’t like Sat Maharaj, they don’t like Hindus and in fact they don’t like anything outside of Port of Spain, I wish to present a transcription of part of my opening monologue on “Morning Edition” on TV6 on Monday, 28 May 2018, which I believe is what is being referred to.
This was sourced from the TV6 website which has archived “Morning Edition” programmes:
“Port of Spain media, we like to pick on Sat because Sat is an easy target given the fact that he tends to say a lot of things that generate quite a bit of discussion. But we also need to keep in mind that his perspective is one of victimisation.
“Remember when he had applied for a license for his radio station and didn’t get it, and the station that is now I95.5 got one, and they challenged it in court and were found to be vindicated. Remember that situation?
“Remember it was Devant Maharaj, who is an associate of Sat at the SDMS at the time, that he was the one, with the Freedom of Information Act, to expose the PNM’s secret scholarships that were going on in 2007, 2008 around that time under their Culture Ministry and Joan Yuille-Williams? Remember how that was exposed?
“So basically PNM people, which is Port of Spain and environs, don’t like Sat Maharaj because they see him as somebody who gets under their skin, exposes a lot of their inconsistencies… and yes, Sat Maharaj says things that get him in trouble. He is in trouble right now with his own Hindu community. That is for him to deal with.
“What the media in Port of Spain refuses to acknowledge is its inherent bias against him, simply because they don’t like him. They don’t like his value system, they don’t like that he confronts what they believe to be the truth, because on this side of the lighthouse, nobody have a problem talking about ‘kumar,’ ‘roti skins’ and ‘Hindu pundit,’ none of those phrases which make any sense at all. But this is the side of the lighthouse that we are on.
“So if you talking about it from a different perspective… everybody vex. As I said, just a different perspective of things.”