THE EQUAL Opportunities Commission (EOC) has responded to accusations of bias by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) regarding comments on the incident involving on-the-job trainee Nafisah Nakhid at at Lakshmi Girls Hindu College, saying there was a misunderstanding of the role of the EOC.
In a letter sent to EOC chairman Lynette Seebaran-Suite and its commissioners last Friday, the SDMS’ lawyers said they were “quite surprised and taken aback” by the EOC’s media release, dated May 28, on “Religious Discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act Chapter 22.03.”
Attorney Kiel Tacklalsingh told the EOC based on the contents of its release, the commission had “not only invited a complaint” from Nakhid but was also “courting an investigation” into her complaint “with predetermined notions of applicable law and the outcome.”
“This is a clear case of bias by predetermination and/or actual and/or apparent bias on the part of the EOC.”
The EOC in a statement on Monday said the attorney’s letter of June 1 from the SDMS, which suggested that the EOC has made statements, which point to issues of bias and prejudice against it concerning the OJT who wears a hijab, “is operating under a total misconception of the role and functions of the EOC.”
“The EOC is not a court or tribunal vested with decision-making or fact-finding function such as to permit it to be capable of bias in respect of matters referred to it. In such matters, the EOC exercises a conciliatory function only. If such matters are not settled in conciliation, the complainant may exercise an option to refer the matter for trial and decision to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, a separate body fire walled by legislation from the EOC and presided over by its Chairman who enjoys all the powers and function of a High Court Judge.
The EOC’s conciliation function is confidential and is shielded from the Tribunal by the strictest duty of confidentiality to protect the Tribunal from any taint of bias.”
The EOC added the principal function of the EOC as set out at Section 27 of its Act is to actively work towards the elimination of discrimination and promotion of equality, by advocacy, research and education of the public.
“The EOC operates in the areas of employment, education and training and the provision of accommodation and goods and services.
The applicable status grounds are race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, marital status and origin including geographical origin. It is in the context of this broader mission that the EOC cited the recent Glaude case. Furthermore, it has a positive duty to inform and educate the public about its existence, its services and functions.”