THE Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has taken issue with a media release of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) about the incident at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, in St Augustine, and on-the-job trainee Nafisah Nakhid.
It has accused the EOC of being biased.
In a letter sent to the EOC’s chairman Lynette Seebaran-Suite and its commissioners, yesterday, the SDMS’ lawyers said they were “quite surprised and taken aback” by the EOC’s media release, dated May 28, on “Religious Discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act Chapter 22.03.”
Attorney Kiel Tacklalsingh, a member of the legal team led by Senior Counsel Seenath Jairam for the SDMS, told the EOC based on the contents of its release, the commission had “not only invited a complaint”from Nakhid but was also “courting an investigation” into her complaint “with predetermined notions of applicable law and the outcome.”
“This is a clear case of bias by predetermination and/or actual and/or apparent bias on the part of the EOC.”
In his nine-page letter, Tacklalsingh said the situation was irredeemable and disqualified the EOC from dealing with or entertaining Nakhid’s matter in any form or fashion.
“Your actions and or statements leads to the inevitable conclusion that the EOC has an apparent bias or actual bias and prejudice exists against the SDMS.
“We wish to state for the record that the apparent or actual bias or prejudice against the SDMS creates appropriate grounds for the disqualification recusal of not only those directly involved from participating any further.
“The SDMS is already on the public record as stating that the entire affair involving the OJT was a plot to destabilise the SDMS board and its top performing college institution.
“Part of this plot was to create massive prejudicial publicity against the SDMS and Lakshmi Girls Hindu College at a time when the entire staff and upper student population are preparing for examinations.”
While making it clear that the SDMS was not accusing the EOC of being involved in the plot, the Hindu body feared that the commission has fallen trap to prejudicial publicity which the plot was meant to create.
Tacklalsingh said principles of fairness dictated that the EOC could not be investigator, judge, jury and executioner, adding that it was “greatly disturbing that the EOC would see it fit to issue such a release.”
“This must be a first but it is, respectfully, a step in the wrong direction.
The letter also criticised the opinion given by the EOC on the powers given to denominational schools under the Concordat and the powers under the Equal Opportunities Act, saying it clearly provided advice and stated its position on the issue.
The lawyer said the situation was “irredeemable” and disqualified the EOC from dealing with or entertaining the matter in any form or fashion.
He said the EOC was duty bound to take strong measures to ensure that there was a balanced approached, if it wished to make a media release.
“The commission did quite the contrary in our respectful view. The basic law underpinning “bias” is that a person who has formed a pre-determined opinion cannot be impartial.”
The lawyers, warning that the impartiality of those involved in the making the release could be questioned, have asked the EOC to provide them with information.
They want to know who were the persons involved in the making of the release, who drafted it and contributed to its contents, what media clips or articles were considered, and if the consultation offered by the EOC, at no cost, on issues of discrimination was also open to the SDMS.
The lawyers also asked that they be told if the case referred to in the release of a security guard who successfully won her discrimination complaint after she was fired for wearing a hijab, was the only one considered when drafting the release.
On Monday, the SDMS’ lawyers wrote to the Attorney General questioning the basis for the State seeking to file an interpretation summons in the courts to determine the issue.
The SDMS denied that administrators at Lakshmi Girls’ asked Nafisah Nakhid to remove her hijab.
They also denied that there is an SDMS-sanctioned rule prohibiting Muslims from being on the school’s compound, but said it was the rule–not of the school, but the SDMS– against the wearing of the hijab on its compound.