Saturday 30 May, 2020

Garcia refutes claims of discrimination against Hindu students

Education Minister Anthony Garcia refuted claims that he discriminated against Hindu students during his tenure as Principal of Fatima College.

In a statement, Garcia slammed these accusations as completely untrue and defamatory.

"Recently, there have been reports in the media that persons have made the claim that while I was principal of Fatima College I used that office to carry out discriminatory practices against Hindu students. The claim that is being made has gone as far as stating that I cut religious bands off the hands of students."

"Today, I want to state in no uncertain terms and leaving no room for misinterpretation that I did not carry out these acts. These statements are defamatory, misleading and can be interpreted as a misguided attempt to persuade public distrust in me as the Minister of Education," he said. 

Garcia said he has always fought against discrimination, pointing to his statements in the case of Nafisah Nakhid, who was recently barred from entering a Hindu school while wearing her hijab.

"From the onset of learning of the now labelled ‘Hijab Issue’ involving Ms. Nakhid and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), 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 constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.

"I have made it clear that religious intolerance will not be permitted at any of the nation’s schools, and this move seems to have rubbed some persons the wrong way. This has now brought about a drive to shift focus on the issue at hand by spreading untruths about me," he said. 

Garcia said that his statements can be corroborated by former manager and now Principal of Fatima College, Father Gregory Augustine. 

"It is unfortunate that this statement had to be issued at all, but I remain resolute in upholding this country’s constitution and will continue to work with the Attorney General to see this matter through, ensuring that we as a society are conscious and respectful to all our people. Now that I have responded to the allegations circulating I wish to state that any continuation of these libelous statements will be met with the appropriate legal response and recourse.

"I look forward to the continued support and confidence in the Ministry of Education and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in protecting and preserving the rights of all," Garcia said.

Recently, Garcia spoke out in support of mechanical engineer Nafisah Nakhid who said she was told by staff at Lakshmi Girls Hindu College that hijabs were not allowed on the compound, after she agreed to start work as an OJT trainee there. 

Nakhid has since been re-assigned to the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government. 


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