OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
Former President of the Parishad Pundit Bhadase Seethalal-Maharaj, is taking issue over the late Sat Maharaj appointing his son Vijay Maharaj to take over as Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Saba (SDMS) in his succession planning before his death.
The Pandit’s Parishad is an Organ of the SDMS of Trinidad and Tobago as provided for in the Constitution of the SDMS. It is further provided in the Constitution that the President and Secretary General are elected officers.
In the pre-action protocol letter dated 21st January 2020 sent by an attorney at law Vashist Maharaj to Rishi Maharaj of Freeport on behalf of Pundit Bhadase Seetahal-Maraj, it stated that his client was duly elected in August 2015 for a term of three years. Further, the SDMS constitution provided his term to continue until the election of a new President.
Maharaj (Rishi) who claims to be the Secretary of the Pandit Parshad is accused of supporting Sat to appoint Vijay as SDMS Secretary General after his death. Sat had disbanded the executive of the Pandit Parishad.
He is arguing that Rishi was not elected as Secretary of the Parishad.
Pundit Seetahal-Maraj further contended that the Secretary General was duly informed of the requirements to invite nominations for duly qualified person desirous of contesting the elections.
He argued that the late Secretary General refused to invite nominations for the election of officers of the Executive of the Pandits Parishad. These elections, he said were due in August 2018.
As a consequence, no election could be held as provided for in the SDMS constitution.
The President of the Pandits Parishad, Pundit Bhadase Seetahal-Maraj, is arguing that the action of Sat Maharaj against him was precipitated by his refusal to have him endorse his succession plan.
It is said that the late Secretary-General of the SDMS sought to have Seethalal-Maraj pledge his support for his son, Vijay Maharaj, to succeed him whenever he demitted office.
Parishad claim that Sat tried to put pressure on him to change his stance which he refused to do. The Secretary-General then sought to violate the constitution by first refusing to invite nominations and later he disbanded the Executive of the Pandits Parishad.
The late Maharaj had been accused of violating the SDMS constitution and that his actions were illegal. Seetahal-Maraj stated that he is the elected President of the Parishad Pandit until proper elections are called and this has resulted in a standoff which he has been trying to have resolved.
Rishi had summoned a meeting of the Pandit Parishad for last Wednesday, which the President claims is in violation of the constitution.
He said the meeting which came off has only deepened the constitutional violations that already exist and have plunge the Maha Sabha into a constitutional crisis.
Attorney Vashist Maharaj said his client is prepared to engage in dialogue to have this resolved and if he chooses to continue with a meeting on February 22, legal proceedings would be instituted against him.
Misconceived and misguided
Rishi, in a letter dated January 21st, 2020 to an attorney at law Vashist Maharaj stated that the attorney’s letter to him is “misconceived and misguided”. According to him, “the letter contains a lot of factual allegations…….which are untrue” He further states in his letter to the attorney that he is not cancelling the scheduled meeting and he questions why he should be made to pay costs for a letter “of two and one-half pages with double spaced/lined formatting and contains over 15 grammatical and formatting errors could cost $17, 500.00”.
The Maha Sabha is recognized as the largest Hindu organization in T&T and under Sat Maharaj, it has grown over the decades to one where it operates 150 mandirs and over 50 schools.
Sat, 88, died on November 16, 2019, after suffering a stroke.
Vijay, his eldest son, has succeeded him as temporary Secretary General until September when the group will meet again and he would be confirmed in his late father’s place or be replaced through a vote.
At SDMS meeting last September, Vijay was named as the SDMS First Assistant Vice-Secretary.
In the absence of the elder Maharaj, the SDMS’s constitution states that the First Assistant Vice-Secretary will step up to the position.
Before Sat died, he had filed for judicial review on the Sedition Act which was won posthumously in a historic ruling. Notwithstanding that, however, Sat must be turning in his grave to see the impending battle for the leadership of the Maha Sabha and how this will now impact negatively on the organisation.
When asked about the internal squabbles in the Maha Sabha, Devant Maharaj said, “its clear that the removal of Pundit Bhadase Seetahal-Maraj by Sat was unconstitutional. The dharmatic thing to do is to reappoint Seetahal-Maraj and to call elections immediately thereafter. It is interesting that a non-elected Secretary General and a non-elected President General wield so much power. Bhadase gave the Maha Sabha to his son-in-law the late Sat Maharaj .
Sat then gave the organisation to his son, Vijay and if this generational inheritance is allowed to continue Vijay will then pass it on to his son”. Devant Maharaj was, at one time, the right-hand man of Sat.
He was Assistant Secretary-General in charge of public relations, the Hindu delegate in the IRO and the CEO of Jaagriti among the several positions he had held.
You know Sat dead when the Maha Sabha seems headed to court. But you know Sat dead when the Maha Sabha Recording Secretary and Principal of Tunapuna Hindu School Jewan Ramdhani can be seen gleefully admiring Pole dancing.