'condolences’: Sat Maharaj’s son Vijay, first vice-secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, greets a mourner at his home last night before the start of prayers. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

SANATAN Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) schools around the country are expected to be closed tomorrow to accommodate those wishing to attend the funeral of late general secretary, Sat Maharaj.

Speaking for the SDMS yesterday, Dinesh Rambally said an application to the Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education was being finalised, requesting a day off to allow pupils and staff of SDMS schools to attend.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia told CNC3 News last evening that once the request is received, he would have no issue in approving, as the Education Act allows for days off for urgent business and the event was an urgent matter.

Up to yesterday, preparations for what is expected to be a massive gathering were “99 per cent set”, Rambally said, with details including the list of speakers being worked on.

Rambally said the organisation had also received a call from someone residing abroad who, because of a close relationship with Maharaj, had insisted on speaking and this was likely to be accommodated.

While not disclosing the caller’s identity, he said the person was known.

Rambally said the funeral carried an open invitation and while no direct indication has been given by any Government official of an intention to attend, nor by any member of the Opposition, the possibility that some dignitaries may attend was being catered for.

He said while the suggestion had been bandied about by some, he was not aware of any official offer towards a State funeral.

Rambally asserted, however, that Maharaj had for some time spoken about his last rites and had indicated that he wished for simplicity.

“I don’t know if a State funeral was something he wanted,” Rambally said.

However, the SDMS is moving ahead as Hindu scripture dictates that leaders be cremated after three days of mourning.

Maharaj suffered a stroke at his Champs Fleurs home the previous Thursday and passed away last Friday at the age of 88.

Rambally addressed the media while an emergency meeting of the executive took place upstairs the SDMS, which he said was mostly attended by pundits, SDMS immediate executives, and some school principals, held mostly to fine-tune details of Tuesday’s funeral.

TTPS on board

Rambally issued gratitude to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who he said had reached out and given the assurance that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) would be present to assist with traffic arrangements.

The organisation has, however, also hired its own security personnel for the funeral.

Maharaj’s funeral is expected to begin more privately, with rites being administered at the Champs Fleurs residence from 7.45 a.m.

This would entail the reading of scriptures and, as Hindu rites require that the ceremony be carried out by five male relatives, Maharaj’s sons and grandsons would participate.

The men have already shaved their heads in preparation, as is custom, Rambally said.

Rambally said it was expected that the ceremony would move to the SDMS headquarters in St Augustine by 9 a.m. and leave for the Caroni cremation site by 11.45 a.m.

Rambally said the public was encouraged to attend at the SDMS and Caroni, due to limited accommodation at Champs Fleurs.

He noted that while no official moves had been made regarding a State funeral, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan had reached out directly to the family and established that Maharaj’s funeral would be the only one taking place at Caroni on that day.

“The site will be in a sense, reserved,” Rambally said.

On the issue of succession in the SDMS, Rambally said the organisation’s constitution allowed for the first assistant secretary, in this instance Maharaj’s son, Vijay Maharaj, to hold the post until the next September conference, where he may or may not be ratified.


THE first tremor of an earthquake within the People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago leadership took place last night, when Tracy Davidson-Celestine became the first female political leader of the PNM’s Tobago Island Council, dethroning Kelvin Charles in the historic run-off.