Cabinet seeks interpretation from Court on OJT’s denied access to Lakshmi Girls’

Education Minister Anthony Garcia has assured that “The On-The-Job Training (OJT) Programme does not discriminate according to race, class, or religion” and there was no need to develop parameters via which OJT trainees would now be selected for schools across the country.

Garcia makes mention of persons who are qualified but cannot get a job at the moment and the OJT Programme grants persons the opportunity to get experience in the workplace.

Administered by the Ministry of Labour, Garcia said successful OJT applicants are presented with either a one-year or two-year contract, depending on the placement.

The Minister denied the placement of Nafisah Nakhid at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College last Monday as a deliberate move designed to provoke or spite the head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and said that his ministry was not involved in the decision as to who would have been selected for placement.

Garcia informed that he has received a report from the principal of the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College which gives details of the incident where OJT Nafisah Nakhid was turned away from the school because she was wearing a hijab.

According to Garcia, the report states the principal as saying that the conversation with Nakhid ended “very amicably” and the person left. Nakhid came to the school and the principal said she sat with her in the presence of the vice principal, where they explained the position of the Board to her, which is “it does not allow persons on the compound wearing the hijab.”

The principal in her report stated that the school is on the Maha Sabha compound.

The report is similar to what Nakhid has been saying after she went public with the issue. The graduate in mechanical engineering from UWI said last week that she was “traumatised” by the incident.

Garcia said the Ministry has asked Maha Sabha Secretary General Sat Maharaj for a report, after which he will refer both reports to the Attorney General.

Garcia also stated that Cabinet has decided to seek an interpretation from the Court with or without a report and that it is a very sensitive issue. He further stated that it is generally felt that the action of the Maha Sabha is contrary to the Constitution of this country, therefore it is important to get an interpretation from the court.

UNC MP for Tabaquite, Dr Suruj Rambachan, himself a pundit, said he did not believe that Sat Maharaj’s statement urging Hindus to “free the Hindu vote,” and to vote for anyone other than Persad-Bissessar would hurt the UNC.

Rambachan said voting patterns since 1981 have shown that the electorate is not “controlled by anybody. The electorate is perhaps much more mature than we make them out to be and should not be underestimated.”

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