In addition to his pursuit of values instruction being introduced in schools and the revival of a television and radio programme, newly elected Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) president Brother Harrypersad Maharaj says he has one other major goal.
"I am going to be pushing for a ban on the advertising of alcohol," Maharaj told the Sunday Express in a recent interview.
He said it had been three years since the ban on the advertising of cigarettes. "I am going to be writing the Government with a proposal to put a ban on alcohol advertisements. You know, we see these young women and men virtually naked on billboards right throughout the country. And it just is not right."
Maharaj said he considered alcohol more deadly than cigarettes, and blamed it for the increase in the number of incest and rape cases in the country.
He said the glorification of alcohol was also partly responsible for the high number of fatal road accidents.
"If people want to get alcohol, just like the people who want cigarettes, they would know where to get it," he said.
He said the IRO "every single year" had also made statements about citizens' behaviour during Carnival time, and that as the moral guide for the country, would continue to do so even if governments did not listen.
"They say Carnival is the greatest show on earth, but if skimpy costumes and virtually naked women is what they mean, then I don't support that habit.
"There was a time when Carnival meant real costumes and I was proud to go to Carnival to look at costumes and creativity, but..."
Maharaj, a justice of the peace, was elected earlier this month as the new IRO head, replacing Emrol Gould.
Maharaj, representing the Hindu religion at the Raja Yoga Centre, served as IRO secretary for eight years (1994 to 1997, then 2010 to 2012), including up to his election, and as president between 1997 and 2000.
Maharaj, the second person to twice serve as president (the other being Archbishop Anthony Pantin), noted during his previous tenure as president, the IRO hosted a three-day conference on values education, which was attended by then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and then Education Minister and current Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He said a suggestion was made that values education should be taught in schools, a curriculum written and submitted and some teachers trained. He said the initiative was not implemented with the change of government.
Maharaj pointed out that the current administration has recently launched a character education programme and the IRO will be reminding the Government of the curriculum and recommendations of the IRO toward values education.
He said on August 26, the IRO and the Government will be hosting a national day of prayer and thanksgiving at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
He also said soon after becoming president, he negotiated with the Government Information Services Ltd channel to have an IRO television programme called We Believe, which aired three times a week on evenings for a few years, together with a Sunday-morning radio programme.
He said the IRO will be seeking to have this programme revived so that he can uplift the image of the IRO.
"I personally think that the IRO doesn't have a very positive image at the moment because a lot of people don't know about the IRO, and people who do see us might have a different perspective... I want to ensure within the next six months, people must be able to hear and see and experience the IRO, and it has nothing to do with politics but it is there for the people," he said.
Maharaj said he also wanted to expand the activities of the IRO, which he said represented the majority of people in this country, to encourage more membership participation as well as use the inherent skills of members to help the communities with summer camps, mediating and counselling services and helping the poor access basic medical testing, eg, tests for high blood pressure and blood sugar.
Maharaj said he would also lobby for an office for the IRO, a gas and food stipend for religious leaders when they perform their duties, the promotion of volunteerism and for religious leaders to be more present at the organisation's monthly meetings.
"I think as people of the cloth religious leaders are supposed to be examples to the society because most people tend to believe that there is a God. And we're supposed to be representatives for God or instruments who lead people closer towards spirituality and godliness," he said.
Asked about the IRO's relevance in today's society, Maharaj said: "Once we put our house in order, people will again respect us and we will get their full support."