2005-03-20 14:24:45 UTC
Communalism is ingrained in Mauritius and in Mauritian
politics. One politician put it as a matter of "chaque
zaco protege so montagne" (each monkey protects his
own mountain). To say that such a practice does not
exist in Mauritius is like to deny the very existence
of the island itself.
Even in England it is recognised that each ethnic
group in the country must be protected, and yet there
is a wider diversity of races in the UK than there
will ever be in Mauritius.
The Evening Standard of February 25 predicts that the
War on Iraq will lose Labour a lot of ethnic votes and
a few constituencies. Communalism? racism? sectariasm?
And what to say of the Livingstone dilemma? It has all
to do with ethnicity, and so does ethnicity prevail in
Even the Constitution of Mauritius recognises the fact
that each ethnic group must have its fair of
representation in the National Assembly by the
provision of, what is locally known as, the "Best
Loser" system. How can we ever get rid of "ethnic"
politics in Mauritius where each community, in its
heart of heart, is suspicious of the other?
In Mauritius, this year's General Election campaigns
are accelerating in and out of Parliament. The
ambience so far shows how confrotational the run-up
will again be. Communalism-infested? Yes, but the
Two National Assembly sittings held since early
February resumption indicate a two-direction
Government move headed by Prime Minister Paul
First, it aims at those MSM ministers and other MPs
who have left the MSM Party (partner of the coalition
government). While the Prime Minister and the MSM
leader and Vice-Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth keep
on repeating that the deserted members are no loss to
the party and MSM-MMM Alliance, they express concern
over their nuisance potential.
The more so that now the quitted Mauritius Government
Adviser at the UN office, Dinesh Ramjuttun, is back
home and into politics.
Quitted Minister Anil Baichoo is now heading a new
party with the other deserted colleagues. Though
Dinesh Ramjuttun isn't joining the new party, it is
said that he claims that the resignation of the
ministers is of his doing to destabilise the MSM and
the Alliance government.
Whatever weight that this assertion may carry, it has
set in motion again the practice of "character
attacks" upon the opponents. Character attacks are the
very essence of Mauritian politics at election time,
and many an MP or would-be MP had gone up or down at
Secondly, Paul Berenger is abstaining from applying
such treatment to Labour, and so does Pravind
Jugnauth. Summing-up short debates over the Maritime
Zones Bill, the Prime Minister congratulated
ex-Anerood Jugnauth government Labour Minister Arvind
Boolell for supporting the bill. So did he a week
earlier when ex-Navin Ramgoolam Government Labour
Minister Burty David praised the Government over the
Basdeo Bissoondoyal Trust Fund Act.
Both parliamentary Acts received unanimity vote. 0f
the National Assembly.
Labour and Opposition leader Navin Ramgoolam, in his
growing number of press conferences, evening rural and
urban meetings, takes a hard line towards Alliance
leaders, with Paul Berenger figuring highly in the
hitlist, alleged association to White entrepreneurs
being already reissued.
Though Paul Berenger is not retaliating, this will not
suffice to prevent the repitition of a campaign based
on attack of personalities and files-revealing
Cleaner campaign? The likeliness of an all-party
agreement for a campaing based on policies only is as
foreign to local politics as bi- or multi-party
alliance is its very core characteristic.
That's only part of the story. Resignation of MSM
ministers and MPs is blamed by the MSM leader on their
fear of no ticket allocation at the forthcoming
election. But Pravind Jugnauth's very party leadership
is being challenged. Justice Minister and Attorney
General Emmanuel Leung Shing has gone defiantly public
about his fidelity and closeness to Pravind's father,
MSM founder, President of the Republic, Sir Anerood
Jugnauth. Deserted members have been claiming to have
him on their side. A State House communique says he's
above party politics.
Finance Minister Pravind Jugnauth may bank on 28 March
2005-06 Budget to respond to MSM electorate
expectancies, but this could prove insufficient to
spare him party divide. This election will be the
first that Pravind Jugnauth will face as leader, and
he longs to do so on equal authority footing with
experienced MMM leader, Paul Berenger, PMto-be for the
next three years if the Alliance is returned to power.
Pravind Jugnauth's agenda seems to be: First, to
demonstrate to partisans and the country at large that
he can win without having recourse to paternal
heritage and without personal attacks on opponents,
hence bettering his national image towards an eventual
Secondly, to clean up the party membership, electoral
ticketing and of such burdens as communalism,
casteism, rampant violence, corruption, jobfortheboys.
Pravind Jugnauth's style of resistance to such
pressure credits him. Ex-MSMs are basically pressing
for a divisive, "more-for-us" policy . . .
As at now, departure from its party line is not a
Beregner's MMM issue. The recent Prime Minister's
Cabinet nominations and Private Parliamentary
Secretary constituency reallocations, following the
MSM resignations, do give way to some soft opposition
within party walls.
MMM poll tickets exercice may give rise to some more
discontent, as coming up with the right mix of
community balance and constituency allowance is no
easy task for any party. MMM sorts it out more easily,
it would seem.
Paul Berenger is setting sail as more than a consensus
party leader at the helm. Ruled out are those views,
both preventive and threatening, held at 2000 election
time, and which had it that Mauritius was not ready
for a White and non-Hindu Prime Minister. Sure, he has
been managing it, both at the Vice-Prime minister's
level and in his present capacity, thanks largely to a
"attend-to-all" strategy which is both dismissed and
welcomed. In fact, it is not the politician who has
been accomplishing the (im)possible: he is but sort of
an end product of a revolutionary societal shift.
The people have come to terms with the reality that
politics can no more be linked to communalism.
Security and not instability, self-development and not
dependence, culture-crossing and not closed-circuit
values are felt by the whole nation.
They have dramatically taken to task and rejected
communalism as a way to achieve personnal and
collective betterment and peaceful living. This is
post-colonial dynamics of politics at work.
It could be argued that the ongoing electoral campaign
is far from being communalism-free. It isn't, it can't
be, but it can not set the historical move backwards.
Resistance to communalism is understandable because so
it goes with every behaviour that societies and even
democracies take to be a necessary evil not to be
changed for an utopian good.
Some political, economical, religious quarters still
cling to communalism on the basis of past results
yielded within a society marching to the tune of a now
worn-out mindset. Now the means are not the same
because the needs are not the same.