EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday became the latest minister to have his cellphone number made public by activist Devant Maharaj, but scoffed, “Let the jackass bray.”
Maharaj previously published the numbers of the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security, who respectively accused him of an “act of gross misconduct” and “despicable and dangerous behaviour.”
Yesterday, an unapologetic Maharaj posted Garcia’s number on Facebook, along with photos of dilapidation, allegedly at a school in Belmont.
“A teacher from Belmont Primary School messaged me to highlight this. They have been experiencing no end of problems,” he wrote.
The dilapidation included a broken ceiling that facilitating an infestation of pigeons, a filthy sink, garbage, and rusty burglar bars.
“Dr Tim Gopeesingh (Caroni East MP) has issued 33 press releases calling on Garcia to do his job!” Maharaj stormed. “They have these children in squalor.”
He urged the use of the $25 million grant for Laventille schools, saying it is to everyone’s advantage if that area rises. “These ministers only act when you name and shame them, so call the minister direct! Tell him to do his work!”
An unimpressed Garcia told Newsday he has always shared his number with those he represents. “As councillor and then deputy mayor of Arima, my phone number was always available to my burgesses. Now in central Government, it has always been made available.
“If Devant Maharaj wants to be so foolish as to think sharing my number will affect me negatively, he is wrong.”
Garcia alleged Maharaj did not know about the school he was trying to highlight. “There is no Belmont Primary School. There are three schools: Belmont Boys' RC, Belmont Girls' RC and Belmont Government Primary.”
Asked if he had had any nuisance calls yesterday after Maharaj published his number, Garcia said yes.
“I got four calls. On each occasion the person said he was calling to find out what I’ll do about Belmont Primary School, which tells me the call was mischievous and a prank call. The caller didn’t know there is no Belmont Primary School.”
In a CNC3 television interview yesterday, Maharaj said he published the trio of ministers' numbers to try to bridge a divide he perceived between population and the government.
Asked if his action was reckless, he said people know where the Prime Minister’s residence is and his Facebook page and neither of these are subject to abusive comments, so neither would his cellphone be.
Asked if he had breached the Sedition Act, which prohibits "an unlawful incitement to disaffection," Maharaj said,“Where’s the proof that I am inciting anybody?”.
He challenged the government to charge him. “I welcome it. Let them bring it on. That sedition law has been struck down in the UK and other places that respect law.
At a function earlier yesterday Garcia told reporters, “My first thought about my number being placed on social media was to recite a sentence that was issued by our late first prime minister (Dr Eric Williams), ‘Let the jackass bray.’”
Alleging Maharaj was not was really interested in the school, as he could not properly identify it, Garcia hit back, “This just goes to show...the gentleman...is doing everything to cause confusion. I will not sink to the depths that he has descended to.”