Hours after the Prime Minister called on the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) to speak out on the attack on Tobagonians by head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj, the party said it strongly condemns all forms of hate speech which can only cause division in the society.
In a statement issued shortly after 7 am today, the UNC’s public relations officer, Anita Haynes, said the party “has noted certain statements currently circulating on social media which refer to citizens, in this case, residents of Tobago, in a derogatory manner. In condemning the statements by Maharaj, who was not specifically named in the release, Haynes said what is needed now is for all citizens to come together and work together to build a brighter future for the country.
“Over the last few days, we have seen an increasing number of hateful comments which have no place in our twin-island republic,” Haynes said.
“We can only move forward as a nation if we are united. Let us respect each other, show compassion to our fellow citizens, and unite so that we can effect positive change in our nation.”
Maharaj, in a broadcast on his Jaagriti TV channel, accused Tobagonians – particularly the men, of being lazy and rapists. A clip of the video was shared on social media.
Maharaj said in part, “Nothing going correct in Tobago; they’re lazy. Six out of ten of them working for the Tobago House of Assembly, getting money from Port of Spain. They don’t want to work. They go to work after 9 and then go for breakfast. The rest of them, able-bodied men – they don’t want to work at all....run crab race, run goat race and go to the beach hunting white meat.
“You see a white girl there, you rape she, you take away all she camera, everything.”
His statements have been condemned by several people including THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles, Tobago West MP Shamfa Cudjoe, THA Minority Leader Watson Duke, president of the Tobago Hindu Society Pulwaty Beepath, and spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss at Aranguez, Satyanand Maharaj.
And at a public meeting hosted by the People’s National Movement at the Barataria South Secondary School on Tuesday night, Dr Rowley said he took objection to Maharaj’s description of Tobagonians.
“And I wait to see who else in this national community will tell Sat Maharaj ‘this time you have gone too far,’” Rowley said.
“I wait to see if there is anybody in the Hindu community brave enough or strong enough to stand on principle and tell Sat Maharaj ‘you are unfit to lead any part of the community in TT.’
“Tonight I want to say again, and I’ve said it before, this obsession with naming and blaming black people as rapists and being run by their pelvis is not a thing for 2019.”
Rowley made reference to a motion of no confidence moved against him by the then Kamla Persad-Bissessar government when he was opposition leader in 2015.
“The Hansard will show that the prime minister and the leader of government business organised to put on Hansard that the opposition leader was a rapist. Today the leader of the Maha Sabha goes one mile further (to say) Tobagonians are lazy, rapists and this country accepts that because ‘is Sat.’
“If I had said that about anybody in this country, everybody else would have known how to respond to that. I have not heard the Leader of the Opposition. She can’t say a word because she is the one who organised the Vernella (Alleyne-Toppin) slander. The UNC can’t say a word because that was supposed to be their election strategy. So, ‘talk Sat talk.’ That is her comment.”