Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
The country will watch and see and the behaviour and acts of the majority party at the helm of affairs will be the best credentials with which to face the general elections
By Jay Narain Roy
I am writing when the final results are not yet out. I suppose they will not be out even by the time Mauritius Times goes to press.
To my mind, the elections which were held on the 2nd of September established three records. The percentage of people who voted would constitute a record not only in this colony but in municipal elections in many parts of the world. This shows the importance of these elections. It also shows the generous response of the people largely spurred by the party spirit. Which ultimately indicates a fine political consciousness.
The party alignment was in some way remarkable. I am particularly impressed by the team spirit of the partisans of the Labour Party. On the whole, the voting has been very close and I do not think that one can complain of any sharp sense of communalism. The party discipline has been of a higher order than that of the Parti Mauricien. It was surely more striking than in past years.
It is reckoned that 40% of the Coloured population, 85% of the Mahomedan section, practically all the whites and 70% of the chinese vote for the Parti Mauricien. It is natural that the votes of the Muslim section play the most effective part. Under these circumstances it is really inconceivable how Koenig, Rey, Hein and de Sornay should outstrip their colleagues Mohamed, Joomye, Nahaboo and Nazroo by such a large number of votes. I was practically sure that Mohamed, the henchman of the Parti Mauricien, would be elected quite high up the list. I heard his long and effective speech at Plaine Verte on Saturday and he almost spoke as the boss of the Party.
The third record is the long time the results take to come. How many millions of people vote in the Presidential elections of the U.S.A. and how many days do the results take to come? Probably the slowness in these elections is another record. I do not mean the slowness of the voting. Far from it, the voting has been quite rapid. 22,539 electors voted in eleven hours at four polling stations. This means more than 500 every hour at each station. In fact people had to queue up all day long to cope with the situation. Not only that, the number of polling booths were inadequate: some of them had dark corners in which it was difficult to read the bulletins. It is hoped that the Government will bear in mind these inconveniences in future.
That the electors, including women voters, opted to remain standing for hours in their queue on a sunny day was a striking example of the discipline of the elections. The organisers deserve to be congratulated that notwithstanding the tense tempo on both sides, everything passed off quite peacefully and cordially. After this exemplary behaviour the fiat of the police not to have procession is particularly irritating. Does it show an official lack of confidence in the Parties just when the people have gone all out to support them? I thought that after the wonderful discipline shown by the parties, the first duty of the Police was to thank them openly for having helped them in maintaining law and order. Is it possible that the proclamation was rushed through just because it was thought that the Labour Party would sweep the polls?
It will be the first time in the annals of this country that so many Labour candidates would be elected to the Municipal Council. The success may only give a temporary satisfaction but it should invest the elected members with responsibilities never before felt by any Party. The Labour Party has put forward many suggestions to improve the amenities of the capital. At the very start, they should set up a committee of members and some knowledgeable non-members to prepare a ten-year plan of the many-sided welfare of Port Louis and try to mobilise funds to start its execution at a long distant date.
The confidence of the people cannot be only emotional. Their high expectations must be fulfilled and no fulfilment is possible without actual planning. It should not be forgotten that the opposition has always some advantage to dig holes and to bring the administration into contempt. It is very easy to do this.
That is why the administration of a town like Port Louis should tax the greater part of the energies of the members. Mayorship is practically a whole-time job if it is be done conscientiously and well. It will be the doom of the Party System if, after raising so many hopes, the popular Mayor would just squat over his heavy responsibilities and let time slip away till another general elections. That is why I consider the mayorship of Port Louis one of the most arduous jobs outside the central administration.
I have been somewhat appalled by the practice of some Mayors to present their photos to be hanged in the too-crowded picture gallery. Sometimes cliques have even engineered to give names of streets to people who without support from cliques would never deserve the honour. In civilized countries, giving street names or even hanging photos of Mayors are reserved as posthumous honours and departure from this, unless it be the case of really distinguished persons, does always smack of the thirst for cheap glories.
There are many reasons, some revealed and some concealed, why these elections should usher a new epoch in the political march of this colony and particularly of party alignment. Many persons who were obsessed and saturated by the faith of their Party will have to visualize things in a new light. They may even have to think of new alliances and combinations. Some will come out of the struggle sadly scarred, others woefully disillusioned. In any case the 2nd of September 1956 will have taught lessons that should endure for a long time.
There is enough space in that beautiful hilly enclave for Port Louis to spread out up to the foot of the mountains. I am sure it will make the town more picturesque and it will break away its horrifying congestions. Must the citadel and adjoining lands remain in the hands of the military when building lands are so scarce and fetid slums so numerous?
Port Louis is undoubtedly one of the tightest agglomerations in the world. The density of our population is one of the worst and I presume the population of the Capital is by far the densest. About 1/15 of the population lives here and the influx is still quite alarming. Although people on their own are going on building in the outskirts, a planned effort is called for.
The new administration can ensure its success in three ways: (a) by approaching the problem early and with practical wisdom, (b) by planning the welfare, and (c) by mobilising the maximum of goodwill and co-operation from all quarters. It is earnestly hoped that after the first flushes of excitement have died down, people would with coolness and calculation settle down to business. The country will watch and see and the behaviour and acts of the majority party at the helm of affairs will be the best credentials with which to face the general elections to the Legislature as they are approaching with the bustle that is already convulsing our hearts.
* Published in print edition on 9 November 2018