The Statutory Authorities Service Commission (SASC) is investigating
allegations of misconduct by the National Lotteries Control
Boards marketing and public relations officer, Devant
Maharaj, who, among other things, has been accused of calling
for all Muslims to be executed.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Guardian show that the
SASCs acting executive director, Jeanette Renaud,
wrote to Maharaj on December 14, informing him that the
SASC had received the allegation of misconduct against him.
This letter came the day before Maharaj won a judicial review
matter at the High Court on December 15, against the SASC
over a decision to appoint someone else to act as deputy
director of the board.
Renauds one-page letter identified the allegations
in bold print: That you (Maharaj) made derogatory
statements about Muslims at an official dinner held (at
Jennys on the Boulevard) on September 3, 2004, organised
by the National Lotteries Control Board to honour Miss Rebecca
Paul, president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee
Lottery Education Corporation prior to her departure from
Renauds letter said the commission had appointed Helen
Francis-Huggins, a human resource officer at the National
Housing Authority, to investigate the allegations and to
report on the matter.
Renaud and Francis-Huggins bluntly refused comment when
the Sunday Guardian contacted them last week.
NLCBs acting director, Phyllis Borde, did not return
calls up to late Friday and the boards chairman, Louis
Lee Sing, when contacted last week at his radio station,
I95.5FM, would only say: There is a matter affecting
Mr Maharaj. However, I am not at liberty to comment.
Pressed further, Lee Sing tersely replied: If you
keep following the media, you will realise that there are
matters involving the NLCB and Mr Maharaj.
The embarrassing remarks
Phyllis Borde wrote to Maharaj on September 17, informing
him she had received two reports, one from Noel Maloney,
NLCBs acting secretary, and the other from Carol Quan
Chan, NLCBs presiding officer, On Line Games. According
to Bordes two-page letter, both reports say that on
September 3, Maharaj made certain remarks that were embarrassing
to both officers, the NLCB and the country by extension.
These remarks, Bordes letter said, included:
n All Muslims in Pakistan and other countries should
be executed even if it meant wiping out whole nations and
the rest of them should then move to Saudi Arabia.
n Chechens were Muslims and all Muslims were terrorists
who should be wiped out.
n Pakistan should be wiped out since they had been
fighting with them for over 1000 years.
n At the last T&T general election, Muslims were
allowed to walk around with guns and to terrorise citizens.
On September 14, Borde also wrote to members of the NLCB,
informing them that she had also had to contend with remarks
from agents and members of the public on account of the
myopic views expressed by Maharaj on a weekly
basis in a daily newspaper.
The board is asked to note that as the marketing and
public relations officer, Mr Maharaj is the face between
the National Lotteries Control Board and the public, and
as a result should therefore ensure that our image is positively
promoted, Borde said.
Dealing with the current issue, Borde said on the contrary,
however, such utterances as those reported in the attached
letters (Quan Chan and Maloneys) negatively affect
the NLCB. She said as a consequence of an initial verbal
report by Quan Chan, she immediately contacted Paul to initiate
some damage control.
Ms Paul was indeed a gracious guest and has assured
us that we should not feel unduly embarrassed by Mr Maharajs
Borde asked Maharaj to reply to her letter in writing on
or before September 21.
Enough is enoughQuan Chan
Apparently fuming over Maharajs alleged derogatory
and religiously-charged statements, Quan Chan wrote to Borde
on September 10, saying in future she no longer wanted to
work at social settings with Maharaj.
This confirms my verbal request that I not be assigned
to work in future social settings with our marketing and
public relations officer, Mr Devant Maharaj. I feel it necessary
to state that I enjoy the challenges of being a part of
the teams who organise the various functions and activities
of the board. However, I dont feel I should be subjected
to Mr Maharajs extremist remarks, Quan Chans
two-page letter said.
On the night in question, Quan Chan said, the conversation
included discussions on the outcome of the hostage situation
in Russia, which all present agreed was a terrible and horrific
event. After Maharajs alleged extremist remarks, Quan
Chans letter said, she responded that Maharaj should
not generalise or categorise all the people of the Muslim
faith because of the action of a few.
He then asked our guests whether they were aware that
Muslims had held this country to ransom and that at the
last T&T general elections Muslims were allowed to walk
around with guns and to terrorise citizens.
...For approximately two minutes Mr Maharaj went on
about how Muslims have terrified others in the world. I
then asked him some pointed questions, Quan Chans
letter said, but did not elaborate what the pointed questions
Quan Chan said she did not challenge Maharajs comments
because I believe that we are all entitled to our
opinions and beliefs. (However) I am also of the belief
that since we were on NLCBs business, the forum was
inappropriate for such extremist remarks which were disconcerting
and embarrassing to me. I, however, do not want to be associated
with his viewsit is anyones guess whether Ms
Paul is Muslim or not.
Noel Maloneys report of September 9 said he was enjoying
a sumptuous meal at the time of Maharajs alleged outburst
and as a result they had to hurry their meal. Maloney said
the officials present were all left dumbfounded and found
the statements in poor taste, given the fact that they had
well-informed and distinguished visitors in their midst
for the first time.
With the mood at the table becoming very sombre, we
quickly completed our meal and retired for the evening.
At this point I asked Mr Maharaj to drop off our guests
at their hotel, Maloneys one-page report said.
He said Quan Chan suggested that Maharaj should refrain
from generalising and categorising all Muslims as terrorists,
but Maharaj countered that it has been 1,000 years now that
they have been fighting with them.
When questioned as to whom he was referring (to),
he responded Pakistan and to the amazement of
everyone ...blurted out: All Muslims in Pakistan and
other countries should be executed even if it meant wiping
out whole nations and the rest of them should then move
to Saudi Arabia, Maloneys report said.
He concluded that in future, Maharaj should not be allowed
to entertain guests on behalf of the NLCB.
Comments not memorisedMaharaj
When the Sunday Guardian contacted Maharaj at NLCBs
office last week, he said he knew nothing about the SASC
I ent know nothing about that. You should probably
call the SASC or my attorney, Maharaj said.
However, Maharaj, of Tumpuna Road, Arima, did respond to
Bordes letter on September 21. In his very brief letter,
a copy of which was made available to the Sunday Guardian,
Maharaj told Borde he had not memorised the dinner conversation
and did not recall the details.
As far as I could summon up, however, some issue that
was on the news currently led off a particular conversation.
A spirited and open discussion with views of those in that
discussion ensued on the matter and the subject changed
after a few minutes, Maharaj wrote. His letter concluded
that it was indeed unfortunate that it had been misconstrued
as something which was not intended, and had evoked such
Not the first time
This is the second time that the NLCB has investigated Devant
Maharaj for alleged misconduct as a result of statements
he has reportedly made.
In June 2003 the NLCB sought attorney Douglas Mendes
advice after statements allegedly made by Maharaj appeared
in a daily newspaper. The statements were made during a
panel discussion on The Current Struggles of the Indo-Caribbean
Community, when Maharaj is alleged to have focused
on likening T&T to Nazi Germany, to have compared Cepep
with the Brown Shirts and to have recalled that there were
collaborators in Germany who had betrayed their own people.
He reportedly equated such collaborators with those
who sell out their people for ambassadorial and senatorial
appointments in Trinidad.
Mendes agreed that by his public pronouncements Maharaj
was in breach of regulations and liable to disciplinary
action. However, he concluded, This was criticism
which he was constitutionally entitled to engage in, and
the fact that members of the board of the NLCB may not agree
with the opinion he expressed or the manner in which he
expressed it is irrelevant.