Tributes have begun to pour in for SDMS Secretary General Sat Maharaj who passed away shortly after midnight today.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar hailed him as a great friend and a father figure who worked throughout his life to develop communities and education.
In terms of education, 42 schools were modernized and five secondary schools as well as 12 early childhood education centres were built under his tenure.
He also gave Mrs Persad-Bissessar her first job at an SDMS school, an experience which she says kindled her passion for education.
In terms of cultural impact, the Opposition Leader remembered him as a man who challenged the state against discrimination and championed free speech at great personal cost.
One such landmark case was the constitutionality of the Trinity Cross as the nation’s highest award and its breach of fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
The ruling in May 2006 by Justice Jamadar agreed that “the Trinity Cross is strictly a Christian symbol, and as a result, it discriminates in a multi-religious society.”
Mr Maharaj was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold), the nation’s second-highest award, in 2010.
SWAHA Extends Condolences
SWAHA also issued a statement today following the news of Mr Maharaj’s death:
“The Spiritual Head of SWAHA, His Holiness, Paramacharya Pt. HardeoPersad, would like to express heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Satnarayan Maharaj on his passing.
As the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, he was known as a resilient and outspoken Hindu leader.
His death is indeed a loss to the Hindu community. His tremendous contribution to the development of our nation will never be forgotten.
The membership of SWAHA extends our deepest sympathies to the family and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha at this difficult time.”
Citizens Pay Tribute
There have also been thousands of messages from members of the public.
Many acknowledged his invaluable contribution to the country and the local Hindu Community.
Some also noted that while his views and approach have been controversial at times, he was always willing to stand up for what he believed in.