Ajay Maharaj

FLASHBACK: Bheeshan and Ajay Maharaj, grandsons of the late Maha Sabha secretary general Satnarayan Maharaj, light the pyre at the Caroni cremation site as they perform Hindu final rites for their grandfather in November 2019. —Photo: Ishmael Salandy

While welcome news, the decision by the Government to allow Hindus to cremate their loved ones leaves many questions unanswered.

For example, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) not banning such cremations the Government would have on someone’s advice put a halt to open-air cremations almost two years running. The burden of not being able to perform full religious rites in accordance with Hindu cremation customs and rituals would not have been easy to bear. In addition there is no doubt that this ban was used by unscrupulous funeral homes using poor or contrived excuses to push up the cost of cremations.

What a bad karma it is to profit from the sufferings of others. Hindus are law-abiding people and are more than likely committed to following protocols and as well as we have seen make compromises to their beliefs and practices in the face of what I consider to be unjust and discriminatory ban.

When the AG and the Cabinet forbade cremations what was the basis of this decision? Now that they have reversed it I ask again what is the basis of the reversal.

This matter reached the courts and rightly so. The present Government has had to be taken to court by the Maha Sabha for several matters which smacked of shameless discrimination.

One can only conclude that allowing matters like those to reach the courts and to delay justice was politically motivated designed to create and deepen divisions in a country that is like it or not deeply divided but due to tolerance by all sectors, these divisions have not manifested in chaos that affects the nation but leaving great doubts about a unified nation.

In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “I am proud to be a follower of a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.”

The Judiciary also disappointed many in not placing this matter on an urgent agenda, leaving grave doubts in the minds of people about judicial values of equality of treatment, fairness and justice.

The Judiciary must in a country that is as multi-cultural and multi-religious as is T&T understand the need to provide without delay constitutional direction and not delay their responsibility to act swiftly in such matters.

In the meantime it is uncertain what will be the outcome of the Government’s decision because the AG has said that the CMO still has concerns. The CMO has a duty to speak out based on what the AG has said. They CMO also has said that it is the Government who determines policy and not him.

What advice then did the CMO give to the Government on this matter or has the CMO been marginalised?

I am of the view that the Maha Sabha should not withdraw this matter from the courts. It is the kind of matter that will rear its head in the future on other similar issues. A court ruling one way or the other even up to the Privy Council is needed.

If this country is to move forward respect and equality of treatment are values that must be practised by leaders and be seen in the behaviour of institutions guarding the rights of the citizens.

Anything less will continue to divide a country that has so much potential but which potential will remain dormant as people battle these emotive and politically charged issues dissipating energy in the wrong direction.

Let the courts rule on this matter.

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