and seek a fresh mandate from their constituents
By A. Pursotham
7 August 1967: the people go to the polls to vote for or against independence. The pro-independence forces led by the Labour Party, the IFB and the CAM triumph over the reactionary forces funded by the oligarchy. 7 August 2011: The Labour Party, led by Navin Ramgoolam, and the MSM of former IFB stalwart Anerood Jugnauth, now led by his son Pravind Jugnauth, officially split.
7 August 2011: Paul Berenger, a close ally of the oligarchy that opposed independence and a self-proclaimed historian, belittles the role of SSR in leading the country to independence and pays tribute to the crucial role played by Anerood Jugnauth but does not say how and why.
This is how Mauritian history is made. And unmade. As politicians hop from one bed to another or manoeuvre to get in bed with another, they (specially those whose brush with history give them delusions about mesmerizing the populace with their historical wands) constantly rewrite history according to whose favours they are currently seeking.
Two weeks ago, Pravind Jugnauth announced that MSM ministers were leaving government because they were not happy with what ICAC was doing and that they wanted to express their solidarity with Maya Hanoomanjee. He publicly and officially pledged his loyalty to the Labour-led government and to its leader. Then on August 7 he (again publicly and officially) comes out with a litany of complaints against the same Labour-led government and the very same Labour leader. He was suffocating inside the government for 15 months, he says. Why he still pledged his “loyalty” to that very government and asked his PPSs and other MSM nominees to remain in government and he only complained about the treatment being meted out to an MSM minister by ICAC, remains a mystery. What happened during these two weeks which made him realize that he had been suffocating for 15 months in spite of the renewed pledge of loyalty to the Alliance only two weeks ago is a medical mystery.
Was the reason he gave to the nation when resigning two weeks ago not the actual reason for the split?
When the MSM decided to leave government to express solidarity with an MSM minister who had been arrested by ICAC, many asked why the MSM did not express any solidarity on a previous occasion when an MSM minister, Mukeshwar Choonee, had been provisionally charged and arrested by the very same ICAC? Did the MSM then consider that Choonee had been treated fairly or did the MSM consider that the case against Choonee was damning but not the one against Hanoomanjee? Or is it, as many believe, that the difference between the two cases is that Hanoomanjee is related to the clan whereas Choonee belonged to the small group of MSM deputies who were not.
When the MSM was in government with the MMM in 2001 and ICAC’s predecessor, the Economic Crime Office was about to question MMM ministers, the government then led by Anerood Jugnauth got a constitutional amendment through Parliament within 24 hours to abolish ECO and stop the questioning from taking place.
On an earlier occasion when the MMM and the MSM were together in government and the election of their deputies was being challenged in court, they used their parliamentary majority to rush through another constitutional amendment to validate all elections that had taken place since 1967 so that they did not have to be answerable to the courts. They had no hesitation in adopting legislation, and constitutional amendments no less, with retrospective effect going back 25 years (yes, twenty-five years) to stop the court from looking at whether they had committed breaches of the electoral law.
Since the MSM was party to the constitutional amendment to abolish ECO and stop it from questioning ministers and was also party to the retrospective constitutional amendment to stop the courts from looking at electoral petitions lodged before them, the MSM probably had difficulty in understanding why nothing was being done by the present Prime Minister to stop ICAC from investigating the conduct of an MSM minister (or possibly more than one MSM minister).
The haste with which the MSM — which had received a hammering from the MMM since the beginning of the year on the MedPoint affair dubbed “le sandale du siècle” and had previously been constantly humiliated by Berenger who split the Jugnauth family, poached the MSM President Joe Lesjongard and was contemptuous of Pravind Jugnauth — agreed to meet Berenger for talks so soon after leaving the government portrayed the MSM as a spineless party ready to accept anything.
The fact that the two ex-partners-soon-to-be-partners decided to tell le peuple admirable that they were meeting to discuss electoral reform does not only show lack of respect for the intelligence of Mauritians but also shows that these politicians have really run out of imagination. Indeed for years now when Berenger wants to find an official pretext to meet a political opponent either for a personal reason or for prospecting an alliance, he will either state that he wants to talk about Chagos or electoral reform. He has been doing that for years and he is doing it again.
In the wake of the latest cassure, a lot has been said about le transfugisme. The MMM which had no difficulty in taking Ashock Jugnauth and Lesjongard on board suddenly finds how reprehensible it is for anyone to cross the floor. In the present circumstances, can one really talk of crossing the floor? Members of the majority ruling party were elected under the banner of the Alliance de l’Avenir and did not stand under the aegis of their respective parties. Can an MP who was elected as a candidate of the Alliance de l’Avenir be a transfuge if he remains as an MP of the Alliance de l’Avenir? Furthermore, can an MP who was elected as part of an alliance to whom the electorate entrusted a five-year mandate to govern the country be a transfuge or will he be a transfuge if he decides to opt to sit and work with the opposition to whom the electorate did not want to give a governing mandate.
The political and ethical question that will have to be asked in the coming days is whether the MSM deputies who have opted to sit in opposition with the MMM must resign their seats and seek a fresh mandate from their constituents. They were elected with the bulk of their support coming from Labour voters who wanted them to support a Labour Prime Minister. They consequently have no mandate to oppose a Labour-led government. Ethically they cannot use a position they have acquired with Labour votes to oppose a Labour-led government. The only right thing that the MSM can do politically and ethically is to resign and go back to their constituents to seek a fresh mandate.
* Published in print edition on 12 August 2011