As It Happens

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Somduth Bhuckory

Within three days now 1957 will be over. For the moment, with everybody busy preparing for the New Year festivities, with the sense that something vital is coming to an end filling the atmosphere, one is tempted to ask whether TIME will really stop flowing just to allow us a glimpse of the going of 1957 and the coming of 1958. But alas, it is never possible to watch or to actually feel this going and coming; it is just overpowering and it appears to be beyond one’s grasp. We become conscious of it only when it has already taken place and then we tend to exclaim: for so long we have been waiting for it, how simple it is when it comes! Be it as it may, it does afford an opportunity to look back, assess past foibles, consider the present and pinpoint some green lights which will prove useful for the onward journey.

It seems also to be an opportunity for heart searching or pontification. Even dear old NMU who had almost lapsed into oblivion has not been able to resist the temptation of offering a few odd pieces of advice to us all. We are disappointed to find that NMU is still haunted by his brainchild, the Indian domination stunt. But it is reassuring to note that he does no more like to delve in dustbins and gutters to gauge Indian values. “On apprend à tout âge” they say, and NMU had at last made a start. He has our very best wishes.

1957 will go down as one of the most important dates of our short history. During that fateful year, events of tremendous importance precipitated by years of patient struggle coupled with the usual process of evolution have been telescoped as it were. That they have set a new direction to our history is quite obvious but it is to be wondered whether it’s the right direction. Anyway, it goes without saying that it is never impossible to change the course of events, provided we produce the men who will rise to the challenge.

The greatest event of this year is the introduction of the Ministerial System which we thought, and proclaimed, not to be the real thing we wanted. We took a firm stand against it and in consequence we incurred the displeasure of some friends. Without wishing to rub salt to a healing wound, we are prone to say, in the light of recent measures adopted by the Legislature with the support of Labour Ministers, that our fears about the proper functioning of the Ministry were justified. The core of our objections to the Ministerial System was that it would muzzle our ministers thus stultifying the elected element of the Legislative Council. We also said that through a Ministry composed of Conservative and Labour Ministers it would be well-nigh impossible to push through a socialist programme like the one foreshadowed in the Labour election manifesto of 1953.

We have been proved right by the adoption of the Working Party’s proposals and the Howes’ report. It is no secret that the stand of the majority of Labourites was in glaring contradiction with socialist principles and it has brought in its wake a surge of ill-feelings towards the Labour Party. It may be argued that the Civil Servants as such won’t count much in the next elections but it should be borne in mind that the Labour stand might have jeopardised some to the seats of Port Louis and Plaines Wilhems. We would not go to the length of suggesting that the Labour Parliamentary group has abandoned its socialist principles but we cannot help pointing out that the present machinery of government, which should be jettisoned, is at the root of it all.

We had also the visit of Mr Profumo, under Secretary of State for the Colonies. It was ostentatiously a casual visit but we all knew that it had something to do with constitutional developments which are yet to be finalised. In this connexion we had the Electoral Boundary Commission whose report we are all so anxiously awaiting. The report was scheduled for an early release but we are still wondering why it is taking so much time to come out. What is cooking really? Any corridor influences? Has not the stand of the Muslim community already paved the way for single member constituencies? Questions of this kind are crossing people’s minds and the sooner their anxiety is allayed the better. At this juncture may we say that the Muslims deserve the congratulations of one and all for the courage and sense of dignity they have shown in repudiating for good the idea of playing second fiddle to the Parti Mauricien. It is certainly not a new thing to say that unless a community takes care of itself there is nothing doing.

The gusto with which La Semaine Française was celebrated made it plain to what extent French culture is deeply entrenched in this ancient French colony. Let us now repeat what we said then: “We are glad that the French Week has been organised in Mauritius and we welcome it. We are glad because we think that the French Week will emphasize that in this British colony France has a right to live. We welcome it because we think it will drive the lesson home that others too have the same right.” Coming almost at the close of the French Week was the protest meeting of the unemployed. The unemployment problem is growing more acute as time goes on, and we have bitter memories of the consequences of unemployment. We have now with us an expert who is going to investigate and advise on this matter. We can but hope that something really intelligent will be done about it this time.

In the efforts of Indo-Mauritians to put up a statue in memory of Mr Manilal Doctor, the liberator of the Indian immigrants who came to this island, we witnessed another historic event of no mean importance. It also gave us the opportunity of assessing the reactions of people who thought that Indo-Mauritians had a poor aesthetic sense. Hon Vencatasamy, Second Member for Grand Port-Savanne, died in August and at the by-elections of October, Mr J.N. Roy was returned. Those elections showed that the Labour Party could still command the confidence of the people; they also pointed out where the Bissoondoyalist Party stood in a struggle between the Labour and Conservative camps. Another event of note was the refusal of Dr Millien as Mayor of Port Louis to accept the invitation of the racing clubs which are professedly racial organisations. Dr Millen’s stand was warmly approved by all fighters for justice and fair play.

Exactly a fortnight ago the Legislative Council approved the new Education Code. Though it is not perfect and does not deal fully and fairly with all aspects of our education problems we hope it will help ameliorate our system. We cannot forget the famous commission of enquiry on the Police whose report will certainly make headline news soon. Finally, R. Rivet passed away; the local press mourned the death of one of its valiant pillars.

Proroguing the last session of the Leg Council, His Excellency the Governor made a balance sheet of what “his” Ministers had done. Let us hope that in December next while closing the year he will say what his Ministers will have done at least about (a) the population problem, (b) the report of the religious subsidy commission, (c) unemployment, and (d) development of secondary industries.

Mauritius Times – Friday 27 December 1957
4th year – No 177

* Published in print edition on 16 November 2021

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