Balance Sheet II

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

The second Legislative Council dissolved on the last day of last year, five and a half years after it was voted into power, will go down in our history as one of its most significant landmarks. In fact, it constitutes, so far, the most crucial period of our short history. This is so because, to a very large extent, of its glorious achievements and also, but to a lesser extent, because of its few but glaring failures.

In approving the Representation of the People’s Bill, the Legislature voted the most revolutionary measure ever voted in the annals of the Island. Overnight, it changed the status of the entire adult population. By putting the right to vote into the hands of the people, the Legislature by one stroke transferred a large amount of political responsibility to a people who only recently was looked down upon as immature and who had no say in the running of the country.

Next in importance came the introduction of the ministerial system which was preceded by the appointment of a Speaker to our Legislature. By making the elected representatives of the people share in the responsibility of governing the country we made a bold step forward in our political progress.

But it is to be regretted that we have not had full responsibility yet. And the presence of Nominated Members in the Executive Council has turned out to be a great impediment in the development of party government. The Ministerial System or rather the Ministers have done well but the awkward system is largely responsible for the unpopularity of the system itself. So much so that anybody who is intelligent or demagogic enough to play upon the unsolved problems of the people and who identify those problems with the ministerial system are apt to win a following.

This is a very sorry state of affairs which goes to the detriment of the Labour Party which has left no stone unturned to bring about the political emancipation of the country. Labour will have to make much hard thinking and must be cautious so as to salvage its prestige.

The elaboration of the five-year plan by a ministerial committee and its approval by the Legislature is another great milestone. It was indicative of the Government’s wish to assess the position of the country and to plan for the future. But, as we pointed out previously, our planners could not put first thing first. They could not face the overpopulation problem squarely and that probably for religious reasons. The religious susceptibilities of one section of the population stood in the way of the Legislature.

This question of overpopulation has simply been deferred. We have shrinked before it but the next council may well have to face it in an acuter form.

The coming of Mr Luce goes to the credit of the Council especially the Labour Party. But the pity of it is that the Council could not ensure the immediate implementation of Mr Luce’s revolutionary recommendations. Mr Luce came to this country too late. He succeeded in focussing attention on our real problems. That was much in itself.

The increase of old age pension and the abolition of the means test are two other measures of far-reaching consequences approved by the Legislature. In spite of the fears of Mr Koenig and the apprehensions of the Nominated Members, it was indeed high time that the means test was abolished and thus bring some solace to a larger number of homes. It will not be out of place to express the country’s gratitude to the Council for sponsoring and implementing such a humanitarian measure. We note also with great satisfaction that a Ministerial Committee considered the advisability and possibility of endowing the country with a Social Insurance Scheme.

In the field of education, we had the new Education Code which was what the country needed. There was also the Income Tax Ordinance as well as the Council’s decision to subsidize religious bodies hitherto unaided by the State. The report of the Police Inquiry Commission cannot be ignored nor the Plaines Wilhems Sewerage Ordinance.

Looking back on the work done by the disbanded legislators, one cannot fail to realise what a great contribution they have made towards the general advancement of the country.

However, one can neither overlook two glaring omissions. The Land Tenancy Ordinance, promised by the Governor in his inaugural speech of the last Session of the Council, has never seen the light of day and the non-subsidized religious bodies have not started receiving their subsidies. The new Council will perhaps have to deal with these questions.

In all the good work achieved by the Council, the Labour Party can reasonably claim a large amount of credit. It can now go to the people with the confidence of having fulfilled many of its promises in spite of the tremendous difficulties it encountered. But there is a dangerous tendency abroad which seeks to render Labour responsible for the miseries of the people and to ascribe all the good works of the party to the other factions of the Legislature.

This constitutes a challenge to Labour – a challenge which it must face with courage and determination.

6th Year – No 230
Friday 9th January, 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 9 June 2023

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