Opposition Leader: Dr Keith Rowley

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Devant: Where's my Mastana Bahar invitation?

Minister claims he was blanked while Rowley was most present

By Sue-Ann Wayow sue-ann.wayow@trinidadexpress.com

FOOD Production Minister Devant Maharaj said he never received an invitation to attend last week's finals of Mastana Bahar, where Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was the only parliamentarian in attendance.

Maharaj, in a weekend press statement, said he wanted to know where was his invitation.

The competition's producer, Khayal Mohammed, said all parliamentarians were invited, but not with a formal invitation. He said most persons would have been invited by "word of mouth" including his own brother, Jamal Mohammed, who is the Minister of Communications.

Rowley, who was on a tour of Debe, was the only parliamentarian who attended the show's grand finale at Rampersad Brothers' Ranch, Raju Trace, San Francique, Penal.

Maharaj stated that at least four Cabinet colleagues also said they did not receive an invitation to the show.

The release stated, "Senator Maharaj said it was passing strange that the Opposition Leader, Dr the Honourable Keith Rowley, was ever present and he (Maharaj) was yet to receive his invitation. Mastana Bahar is an independent cultural institution on the landscape of this great Republic, as such it has the right to freedom of association.

"Maharaj simply wants the organisers of Mastana Bahar to put on public record their preference to the PNM philosophy of discrimination instead of hiding behind veiled ambiguity."

Mohammed said Rowley was a guest of one of the main sponsors of the show, Nazim Baksh.

Baksh's company, AV Drilling Workover Ltd, has been sponsoring the first prize for the preliminary and semi rounds of the show for the past 18 years.

Mohammed said, "Mr Baksh brought Mr Rowley as his guest. We, being a programme on national television for the last 42 years, our production team extended common courtesy and protocol to a gentleman who is a national figure. The issue is being blown out of proportion."

There were several parliamentarians who attended the show previously without written invitations such as Dr Roodal Moonilal, Chandresh Sharma and Prakash Ramadhar, he said.

Mohammed said, "Our Mastana Bahar is a national stage, especially for young people of Trinidad and Tobago to display their talent and creativity in songs, music, dance and positive activity. We are not about politics. We have never been and we will never be. We are open to everybody. We are not affiliated with any political party or group and we have no intention of being."

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