OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she plans to attend functions at venues under the control of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, even after being told by its general secretary Satnarayan Maharaj that she was no longer welcome there.
Maharaj made the statement on Friday last when he revoked an invitation to Persad-Bissessar to speak at the Maha Sabha’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations at the Parvati Girls’ Hindu College in Debe yesterday.
He also told her he was “freeing up” the Hindu vote so that Hindus no longer feel obligated to vote for the United National Congress which Persad-Bissessar leads. The dispute arose after Persad-Bissessar disagreed with the decision of the Maha Sabha board to disallow on-the-job trainee teacher Nafisah Nakhid from working at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College in St Augustine while wearing her hijab.
But speaking with reporters yesterday at Indian Arrival Day celebrations, hosted by the Cedros Indian Cultural Committee at Manmohansingh Park in Bonasse Village, Persad-Bissessar said there is an important event coming up at the Tulsa Trace Hindu Primary School in Penal.
“My grandson (Kristiano Bissessar) attends a Maha Sabha school and I intend to attend the graduation ceremony in time to come,” she said. Earlier in the day, Persad-Bissessar participated in the re-enactment of the arrival of East Indians to TT, travelling in a boat that was pulled by a tractor through the main street in Bonasse.
As she addressed attendees, Persad-Bissessar said she never lets what people say worry her.
“What worries me is to get more and more done in the best interest of everyone, but especially the children.” She urged the gathering not to worry about words as “something happens and people say things, but that too shall pass. We have a great history. Our ancestors came from the greatest countries in the world, and we live together today in harmony and in diversity and there is always unity in that diversity.”
Recalling that throughout her career she has fought for democracy and freedom for everyone regardless of race, religion or gender, Persad-Bissessar said everyone has a right to have freedom of expression, “to also have freedom of voting, that you vote according to your conscience, that you are not handcuffed and you are not bound to vote in a particular way.”
At the seashore, the Siparia MP said while she has celebrated Indian Arrival day in her own constituency, they were never fortunate to be so close to the water and described being in Cedros as wonderful.
“It was a tremendous experience to be a part of the re-enactment of the arrival. We cannot help being flooded by emotions because we know what their (those who came from India) fate would have been after the arrival.”
She praised the determination of the East Indian indentured labourers to make a better life for themselves and their families despite horrific hardships.
“Our forefathers have built a nation rich in culture and we are proud of our diversity,” she said, noting that those who came from India, China, Africa and Europe made TT their home and that TT stands as a testament to their sacrifices, hard work and determination.