Trinidad Express / THERE has been no release of State funding to the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) since the Peoples National Movement (PNM) came into Government in 2015.
According to president of the IRO Brother Harrypersad Maharaj, the organisation has had to cut several of its programmes as a result.
Maharaj said that despite being promised more funding by Government, they have received nothing.
“I don’t think people, the Government or the public realise the value of religious organisations. They do not understand the kind of programmes we have been involved with and how much the funding and grants helps us as an organisation. We have programmes for the youths, child development, parenting, counselling and women development. We hired professionals to come and speak, at times we have to rent a space to host events and then we have to cater for the event,” he said.
Maharaj said the IRO received a quarterly subvention of over $62,000, the amount granted since September 2013.
He said that the IRO has a signed document with the previous Peoples Partnership administration to prove that the subvention was supposed to last for five years and then there would have been a review of the amount being dispersed.
However, since the new administration went into office, there has been no communication from the Ministry of Finance.
Maharaj said: “I spoke to the Finance Minister (Colm Imbert) some time ago and he told me ‘don’t worry I will give you more than the last Government’. But I didn’t know that more really meant less or none.”
Maharaj said that since the IRO began receiving the subvention, the organisation has been audited every year so that there is accountability and transparency with the money given.
He said the entire country has become a crime “hotspot” as many have moved away from the values and bonds of family life, choosing a different path.
“The whole country is now a hotspot. It is not just Laventille, look at what is happening in Enterprise. Crime is throughout the country. And we do can somehow affect someone, touch someone and change their life,” said Maharaj.
The organisation has had to rely on membership fees and donations from kind-hearted sponsors.
Maharaj said the IRO understands the economic conditions facing the country and expected to be given less funding. However, he was concerned that zero funding was being given.
UNC chairman: Pay the IRO
United National Congress (UNC) chairman David Lee is calling on the Government to immediately releasing funding to the IRO.
In a release from Lee stated the IRO’s importance in the country as it works together with all religious bodies in the nation.
“The services which the IRO offers such as prayer sessions, counselling, mediation and mentor-ship have proven not only beneficial to the social and spiritual development of our citizens but are also keenly required to assist in the national crisis of crime and societal decay that our nation currently faces. As a society we must now question why any proactive, people centered government would move to restrict the operations of any institution which can assist in the rebuilding and restoration of peace within Trinidad and Tobago,” it stated.
He said that the IRO was founded in 1970 and incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1973 has grown to be a well-respected organization voluntarily serving the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.
Lee said the Government must not hide behind its national excuse ” energy prices have fallen, country has no money” for this instance, “because as a nation we have seen this Government allocate public funds towards projects which have presented no tangible benefits to the citizens of this nation such as the millions spent on the “famous paintings”.”
Lee called for the Government to resume payment and to further assist all religious bodies in the country.
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