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Garcia denies cutting religious bands off Hindu students

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Education Minister Anthony Garcia has refuted claims that in his previous posting as the principal at Fatima College, he engaged in discriminatory practices against Hindu students.

Reaffirming the level of integrity which he claimed had led to his Cabinet appointment, Garcia denied cutting religious bands off the hands of Hindu students

Issuing a strongly worded statement in his personal capacity yesterday, Garcia wrote, “I want to state in no uncertain terms and leaving no room for misinterpretation that I did not carry out these acts.”

Garcia said the damaging claims were being levelled against him by those wanting shake the public’s confidence and undermine the work he was doing at the ministry.

He referred to the claims as “defamatory” and “misleading.”

And he has issued a warning to persons who continue to persist with the false accusations, that appropriate legal action will be taken.

Pointing to the recent issue involving Nafisah Nakhid who was denied a placement at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College after she refused to remove her hijab, Garcia reiterated his position on all matters of a religious nature.

He said, “I have been quite vocal on my stance as it pertains to a person’s right to religious freedom and the protection that is offered to all citizens under the constitutions of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Garcia repeated, “I have it made it quite clear that religious intolerance will not be permitted at any of the nation’s schools.”

He surmised this statement had seemingly, “Rubbed some persons the wrong way.”

The Minister said this had led to some parties working to shift focus away from the issue whilst maligning his character.

In an effort to ensure his memory had not failed him, Garcia went so far as to consult with the present principal of Fatima College, RC priest Fr Gregory Augustine who had acted as the school’s manager during Garcia’s tenure.

Garcia said, “Father Gregory also went on to reiterate that zero tolerance on discrimination was a part of the school’s policy.”

Urging persons to be conscientious and respectful to others, Garcia acknowledged that T&T was a multi-cultural society where every creed and race lived harmoniously.

No discrimination in OJT Programme

“The On-The-Job Training (OJT) Programme does not discriminate according to race, class or religion.”

This was the assurance by Garcia who said there was no need to develop parameters via which OJT trainees would now be selected to be placed in schools across the country.

Garcia described the OJT Programme as an informal public service initiative which afforded persons workplace experience and training.

He said, it had, “Nothing to do with a person’s religion or ethnicity.”

Garcia said, “There are persons who are qualified who cannot get a job at the moment and the OJT Programme grants persons the opportunity to get some experience in the work-place.”

Administered by the Ministry of Labour, Garcia said successful OJT applicants are presented with either a one year or two-year contract, depending on the placement.

Asked if a person’s race or religion is considered before a person is placed, Garcia emphatically replied, “No.”

He said, “If that is done, one can argue that there is discrimination on the basis of race or religion and placements have nothing to do with that.”

Denying the placement of Nafisah Nakhid at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College last Monday, was a deliberate move designed to provoke the head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Garcia said his ministry was not involved in the decision as to who would have been selected for placement.

He described the entire incident as unfortunate.

Pressed to say if the ministry would now be introducing guidelines for the placement of OJT’s at schools, Garcia said, “I don’t think there is need to pay attention to a person’s religion.”

“Everybody deserves to have an equal chance of being afforded an opportunity to be placed in the OJT Programme.”

In the case of denominational schools, the minister said, “Principals have the right to make recommendations before the person is placed in the respective school or the Board can make certain decisions before any placements are made.”


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