Divali Nagar 2019 was able to have “its best opening yet” after overcoming a last minute, major legal hurdle which threatened the start of the annual event in Chaguanas on Friday evening.
Speaking about a High Court action brought by a tenant, president of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Dr Deokienanan Sharma described the lawsuit as “a very sad event indeed," adding, “I do pray that those who caused it will see the light."
“Thanks to God and the excellent lawyers of Fortis Chambers. The matter was thrown out only at 5 pm this afternoon (Friday),” he said.
One of the NCIC attorney’s, Kiel Taklalsingh, explained that the matter surrounded a tenant who claimed to have had an oral agreement to occupy a certain spot at the Nagar site. This was, however, denied by the NCIC giving rise to an injunction to prevent eviction of the tenant. This was thrown out by Justice Margaret Mohammed, who held that the injunction should not be granted in the public interest, especially at such a late stage.
NCIC PRO Surujdeo Mangaroo said although Nagar started on a sad note, members held their heads high and delivered the best opening yet. "This event is planned one year in advance and we work tirelessly to ensure we improve our standards annually," Mangaroo said
At the event itself, Sharma praised pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram, the very first chairman of Divali Nagar. Parasram, he said, has risen to become the Dharmacharya or spiritual head of the Maha Sabha, a body that Sharma described as the largest and most influential Hindu organisation in TT.
He outlined the aim of the NCIC to educate Indo-Trinidadians – and the wider community – of the greatness of the culture and to “learn preserve and propagate for fear of losing it all.”
"For losing it all will be the greatest tragedy to befall the Indo Trinidadian community," he said. “ Thanks to the Maha Sabha, the NCIC, and so many other organisations, the culture of the Indo-Trinidadian has largely survived and consolidated after the struggles during the 175 years of arrival to this country, despite very strong alternative influences.”
Sharma said the food courts are the most visited booths at Divali Nagar annually. This year, the council also introduced the roof-top Ramleela display which will feature the leading theatre groups in TT. Next year, Sharma said, marks the 100th anniversary of the closure of the indentureship scheme where the last of the contracted East Indians finally walked off estates as totally free individuals, free to develop their lives as they saw fit.
The guest of honour was Dr Laxmi Persaud, a US-based Trinidadian recognised by the NCIC as an accomplished author and journalist. Persaud said education enables people to see the world more clearly, helping them also to break out of previous prejudices.
"Like Mother Lakshmi education spreads light into the darkest corners of the world," Persaud said
"In these times of fake news and putting up walls, In these times of international tribalism, it is even more important to emphasise the power of education so as to encourage people to break down barriers and to keep their minds open to new ideas and possibilities," she said.
To this end, she said, the government should do all it can to ensure TT has the best scholars and the best teachers. "They should ensure that teaching as a profession is highly regarded and attracts the very best minds to it," she stated.