Satnarayan Maharaj was yesterday likened to late freedom fighter Martin Luther King by Prof Selwyn Cudjoe.
Cudjoe was speaking at Maharaj’s funeral service held at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, St Augustine.
He reminded mourners that while Maharaj was absent in body, his spirit, his legacy and his love for Trinidad and Tobago will forever live on.
“No man or woman in this twin-island nation loved this island better than he did. And he loved with a rare devotion and pride,” Cudjoe said.
Cudjoe said people would want to compare Maharaj to anti-colonial nationalist Mahatma Gandhi but he felt Maharaj was more akin to Martin Luther King Junior because of his struggles and commitment to fighting for minorities.
Trinidad and Tobago was a broken nation in the 1970s and it was up to Maharaj and others to keep up the fight for minority rights, even though the minority Indo-Trinidadians were now a majority, Cudjoe said.
“Like Dr King, Sat Maharaj would go down in our history as one of the major architects in helping to perfect our union, to make ours a fairer society and to make this a better place in which to live,” he said.
Cudjoe said when he first learnt of his friend’s death he knew he had to return to Trinidad to pay tribute to this “great patriot”.
“Sat was dead and I had to be home to pay my respect to this great educator,” he said.
He disclosed that he first met Maharaj when former prime minister Patrick Manning set up a committee on race relations to allow parties to talk about race relations in the country.
He said they had exchanged insults in the newspapers but they were “chasing after shadows”.
Cudjoe said at first they were hostile to one another but then they discovered they both had one thing in common — they both were determined to advance the interest and welfare of their respective groups.
He said the committee helped in building that respect for humanity as he called for such a committee to be re-established.
Cudjoe said Maharaj fought for his group but he also did not forget the others.
He said when Maharaj collected $1 million from the Government for the repair of mandirs he contacted him and said, “Selwyn, I get mine, you go and get yours.”
He said people questioned Maharaj’s patriotism but he was a man who was “Trini to the bone” who did not want his ashes to be scatted in the Ganges in India but right here in the Gulf of Paria waters.
Cudjoe said Maharaj helped all to develop their national identity.
“Sat served his country by serving his people, but in so doing, he helped us all to develop our national identity and to recognise that Trinbagonianism comes in different forms and in different shapes, in different theological formulations and in varying religious alignments,” he said.