Dr. Vidhya Tota-Maharaj was preparing for retirement from public service when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar summoned her to be Trinidad & Tobago’s top diplomat in Toronto.
The medical practitioner assumed her new position last November, replacing Michael Lashley, who retired from the Foreign Service early last year after reaching the compulsory retirement age – 60 – for T & T public servants.
“I was honoured to be asked by the PM to fulfil this role,” said Tota-Maharaj, who was a District Medical Officer prior to making the career switch. “It has worked out nicely.”
Improving customer service, establishing a database of skilled nationals in Canada, increasing air freight from T & T to Toronto by possibly securing Air Canada for a twice-weekly service and collaborating with nationals here to organize celebrations to mark the twin-island republic’s 50th independence anniversary are her immediate priorities.
T & T achieved its independence from Britain on August 31, 1962.
“We are in the process of finalizing committees that will be charged with various responsibilities for our independence events,” said Tota-Maharaj.
The married mother of three children said an investment forum, cultural activities, an inter-faith service and a grand gala in September are some of the key events that will mark the independence celebrations.
Nationals are being encouraged to nominate individuals who have made significant contributions in Canada over the past five decades to be considered for a T & T Independence Award.
To speedily expedite the processing of passports, the consul general is requesting that nationals take the time to complete their applications before submitting them to the consulate.
The machine-readable passports are sent to T & T for processing. It takes close to a month for the travel documents to be returned to Toronto.
“Marriage certificates have to be authenticated and notarized, they must be in English and electronic birth certificates must be provided,” said Tota-Maharaj. “Every requirement on the application must be met so that passport can be processed. So I encourage nationals to read the application form carefully and ensure they fulfill every condition before they bring it to our office.”
Tota-Maharaj worked in the T & T public health sector for nearly three decades.
By RON FANFAIR