A Dangerous, Demoded London Agreement

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Jay Narain Roy

The Constitution of Mauritius is in two parts: the Letters-Patent and the London Agreement. There are three main items that form the basis of the new Constitution: The Universal Suffrage, the single-member forty constituencies and the composition of the Executive Council.

Whatever silly stuff the disgruntled leaders of the Parti Mauricien may have to say, Universal Suffrage has stood the test in a convincing manner. The Parti Mauricien was the Conservative Party, and one of the candidates by publicly quoting how many Conservative votes he had obtained has confirmed our belief. The people rated it at its intrinsic value. Only two Franco-Mauritians and one upper-class Coloured man were elected. The other Coloured and Muslim candidates of that Party were all eliminated and some lost very badly. All the non-Hindu candidates of the Forward Bloc lost their deposits.

The single-member constituencies too have been a resounding success. The Labour Party and Allies elected 18 Hindus, 8 Coloured and 5 Muslims. We lost 5 Hindu, 3 Coloured and 1 Franco-Mauritian seats and all were narrowly contested. The Labour electorate responded wonderfully and I challenge anyone to prove that 91% voting so well giving such large majorities to Labourities do not constitute a high standard of political acumen. If the sectional balance has been upset slightly, it is just because, as the results show, the Forward Bloc had put up too many Hindu and the Parti Mauricien too many Franco-Mauritian candidates. In fact, judging by the results their respective focus was on these sections alone.

Which were the communal parties, and who sowed money and exploited caste, section, and communities in the political fight? Instead of accepting the verdict of the polls with good grace, the leaderettes of the Parti Mauricien are talking the language of war to side-track the real issue. What are the new issues? Nomination and the Executive. According to the spirit of the Constitution, apart from the Muslim best losers no defeated candidate can be nominated. Nomination should be through consultations with the majority Party, and it should in no wise frustrate the result of the polls. Nomination should follow certain interests and not communities.

But where the Constitution goes against the spirit of democracy is in the London Agreement. The latter document was made with the idea of introducing an apprenticeship in the ministerial system, and it cannot be said to become a permanent feature of the Constitution. We went to the polls with a comprehensive programme covering 16 points and these points covered most of the burning problems of this country. We have to implement our programme or most of it during the next five years because that is what the electorate expected when they voted for us and gave us such large majorities.

What chances have we to implement our programme? The London Agreement is today one of the most reactionary documents known to history. It is so because it is the very opposite of what the electorate has willed. With five Muslims and two trade unionists, the Labour Party can reckon with 31 members out of a maximum total of 55 members. Which is an absolute majority. By all canons of democracy, we should be called upon to form a government. But this reactionary Constitution has powers to sabotage the will of the people in an unholy attempt to perpetuate the sway of the Conservatives in the teeth of the results of the polls. It is a very unhappy situation, and so it is incumbent upon us to redress matters so that we can do what is expected of us.

According to the London Agreement, the representative not of the people but of Whitehall is the de facto Prime Minister with plenary power of appointing Nominees and Ministers. He can say to us: “I want Mr X to be a Nominee and a Minister” although the 31 members may be dead against this and although, as everyone knows, he himself did not have the courage to face the electorate. He can say: “Last time when you had 13 out of 35, I gave you 6 Ministers and now that you have elected 31 out of 40, I cannot give you more than six.” He can put three of our worst opponents in the Executive. More than that. He can say: You have put up the names of Messrs A, B, C, D, E and F to be Ministers. I want to have A, C, F, G, H, I because I consider B, D and E to be too extremist, and not quite handy.”

The London Agreement has made him the master of our destiny, one who is able to ride over the decision of the electorate. His main concern is to keep power into the hands of the officials, and he might give his first choice to people who can easily be handled by the Principal Assistants so that while there is a semblance of a Ministerial System the real powers will continue to remain in the hands of the officials. I understand that the Conservatives have been making representations to the Governor expressing their objection against certain intelligent and knowledgeable people of the Labour Party.

The Parti Mauricien is clearly a Conservative Party, and we cannot accept double representation in the Ministry of the same thing under two labels. We want conditions for us to implement some of our major economic measures. There is absolutely no justification for any Ministry worth the name if there are no visible changes to enable us to deliver the goods.

Whether our Party should tamely accept to soft-pedal things or whether we should assert and fight out the issue will have to be decided.

6th Year – No 241
Friday 27th March, 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 18 August 2023

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