“I am not a Kshatriya (Guyanese say Chatree) so I may not know when there is Diwali or Phagwah, but I do know what it takes to improve the education sector.” That is how Minister of Education responded to a heckle from the opposition benches about a blunder she made earlier this year.
The Minister was making her contributions to the Budget Debates when People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Members of Parliament (MPs) taunted her about her apparent ignorance of the nation’s national holidays. Earlier in the year, Henry repeatedly confused Diwali with Phagwah – two Hindu holidays.
Her public acceptance of her ignorance about the two holidays did not offend anyone. What was offensive was the Minister’s suggestion that despite her being responsible for education polices, she need not know about the Hindu holidays because she is “not a Kshatriya.”
The Education Minister’s comments were met with strong condemnation from PPP/C Member of Parliament (MP) and Head of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha (GHDS), Dr. Vindhya Persaud.
Dr. Persaud wants the Minister to apologize for her “offensive and disrespectful” remarks.
In a social media post, Persaud stated, “That a senior functionary in charge of the education of the young people in Guyana would arrogantly condone her lack of knowledge about our national Hindu festivals, when, the youngest Guyanese child learns about this in school; and worse, in a secular Guyana where cohesion is being touted, she blatantly dismisses a major section of the population is disgusting and unacceptable.”
Dr. Persaud said that Henry “disregarded the concept of respect for each other’s faith and culture and continues to show she has no remorse.”
The Member of Parliament said that she will be penning a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly since she just cannot look past the disrespect for Hindus that Henry continues to perpetrate. Persaud said that the Minister is “overdoing it now; she made similar comments before.”
During an address she delivered at an event to commemorate Phagwah, the Minister referred to the holiday as “Diwali” and the “Festival of Lights” multiple times in her speech.
“I would begin by saying Happy Phagwah, Happy Holi. On Sunday, March 12th, here in Guyana and around the world, Hindus will be celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights,” she had stated.
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