LIKE so many citizens, I consider Sat Maharaj a national hero.
Prof Selwyn Cudjoe calls him the Martin Luther King of Trinidad and Tobago. I have described Sat as a “Hindu lion”, an “enduring warrior”; a man driven by strong convictions, with the courage to stand up for his beliefs, and the caring and commitment to relentlessly pursue his goals; hallmarks of all great leaders. Is Satnarayan Maharaj the greatest Indo-Trinidadian leader this country has produced thus far? Leaders, of all races, should find inspiration in him.
Sat was a builder, a pathfinder. He transformed his “cowsheds” into the best educational institutions in this country today. His Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College and the over 50 other schools under supervision of his Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) have attained phenomenal success in educating tens of thousands of the nation’s children. This year Lakshmi Girls’ got 40 national scholarships and its fifth consecutive President’s Medal for excellence in final examinations.
Sat was the hands-on driving force behind the success. Principal of Lakshmi Girls’, Sonia Mahase, says “every principal was strategically selected. His foresight detected abilities and skills that we ourselves did not know we possessed. Sat was our guru and a father figure.” He recently reciprocated and said, “I have the best principals and teachers in the country.” Everybody knows he ensured it.
Think then of the massive void, the national deprivation without Sat’s direct management of the SDMS schools. Think of the horrendously worse social decay. Sat would never have tolerated the rampant hooliganism in many government secondary schools, like in Diego Martin last Friday where pupils threw a missile into the staff room and fed-up, fearful teachers walked out in protest. These schools produce thousands of dropouts and failures every year, vulnerable to crime, our education system the incubator of criminal gangs that have risen “exponentially”.
Sat would have stamped out what Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly calls “a major problem affecting our society: child prostitution and pornography in schools where our young ladies take either nude pictures or videos of themselves in sexual activity, sometimes with multiple partners, for distribution”.
But unlike the Culture Minister and her Prime Minister, Sat would have done something about it. He understood the inescapable link between the rampaging social decay and our culture, particularly the present Carnival. He knew the society is threatened when tens of thousands come to near nudity in public, one step away from copulating on the streets.
This corrosive cultural debasement has been weakening the social fabric, nurturing generations of young adults without ethical moorings, producing an epidemic of annual teenage pregnancies, child abuse, domestic violence, corruption, school violence, crime, drug abuse, alcoholism and more. Sat would have faced the decadence head-on. He should have been a minister of education or of culture. He once entered politics.
He would have been an outstanding prime minister. Certainly not an abdicator, like the incumbent, who, faced with an unprecedented murder rate, has been ducking responsibility, epitomised by the following fatuousness: “Crime is the business of crime; others have taken it as crime of passion; some are within families; some are on the streets—there is a whole range of crime, always somebody thinks snuffing out somebody’s life is the way to handle a situation.”
Rambling, ridiculous incoherence! Unlike Rowley, Sat Maharaj would have seen it as his responsibility to deal with the nation’s violent underbelly, where over 10,000 women annually seek restraining orders to escape domestic violence! He would have considered the thousands more who remain silent; and the thousands of children brutally traumatised in these violent homes who grow up to be angry adults.
A prime minister Sat would have recognised the social disintegration, incubator of ever-escalating crime. And he would have done something about it!
But for the past four years, this Government has evaded its responsibility for the social and cultural regeneration of Trinidad and Tobago. This column has repeatedly suggested “a special cabinet sub-committee comprising the ministries of education, culture, social development, the attorney general and national security, supported by the technocracy, civil society, the university and other expertise, to produce a plan for arresting the social decay”.
Sat Maharaj and his SDMS would have played a pivotal role here. They have already shown the way, being outstanding examples of how this society can save itself.
Oh, how we need a Sat Maharaj in the corridors of power today. We need his courage, conviction and commitment that make leaders giants instead of dwarfs pursuing self-interest and paltry political ends. When, for example, a nation invests 30 years in certain politicians, affording them, inter alia, the pay, perks and prestige of office and then elevate them to positions of leadership, isn’t that nation more than deserving of a return on its investment? When that nation is facing its most severe crisis since the attainment of Independence, aren’t these individuals expected to come to the country’s salvation?
But what have Keith Rowley and Colm Imbert, Prime Minister and Finance Minister, delivered on the country’s over-30-year investment in them? As this column has repeatedly pointed out, they are failing Trinidad and Tobago in its darkest days, claiming, for example, “economic turnaround”, “getting the job done” and “building a new society” when there is only decline, stagnation and dangerous disintegration.
Where is the strength of character in the cabinet to lead this country to a better place? We need a Sat Maharaj as prime minister!