BLS: Faking change in shameless fashion

Pro-BLS voices are not necessarily sectarian. Otherwise Martin Luther King for example would have been a communalist. They merely translate the failure of the BLS to live up to its mission even after 50 years

One might have thought, or even wished, that the political oligarchy would have learned from its stinging failure in its attempt to mislead us with the project “2ème république”(1). Not at all. Here is a fringe of this same oligarchy dumping the “Best Loser Seat” at us. As if there was no limit to abusing our despair.

There are certainly valid reasons to revisit our electoral system. In particular the financing of campaigns, the redrawing of the constituencies, a more equitable representation of candidates as well as citizens in all their diversity. No doubt, this is a complex task requiring diligence, patience and even, in some cases, referendum. Not this despicable and simplistic messianism that morphs into a session worthy of World Wrestling Entertainment where protagonists (including also wannabes), referees, chatterati, cheerleaders fake deliverance dramatically. Except that, in this case, spectators remain more or less numb.

The perversion of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) recommendation(2) about the declaration of one’s “community” to participate in elections crystallises the frenzy. Indeed, this body advocates that should we wish to carry on with the Best Loser System (BLS), without ever taking a stand on its abolition or not (in no way its responsibility for that matter), it is with an updated census. Otherwise we would be making a mockery of ourselves. As long as we argue consistently the case for or against the BLS. An elusive prospect for now.

What the political oligarchy is trying to sell us under different permutations, minted around an increase in the number of (predominantly) fat and one-track minded Member of Parliaments, discredits it more than ever. By contrast, on June 10, 2015, the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution(3)  which states that the “census of population and housing is one of the main sources of data needed for implementation and monitoring of the effectiveness of policies and programs to promote socio-economic development for all and environmental sustainability.” No wonder we are being led astray with an erroneous census of population and housing.

Without even realising its sham, the political oligarchy even dares blame-gaming citizens for stirring up communalism. According to its distorted view of “democracy”, revisiting the 1972 data with its 4 anachronistic “communities” would open a “Pandora’s box”. But it still reserves the right of access to its own “box” of 11 “communities”, apparently “scientifically” derived from family names of the electoral register, which it instrumentalises cynically. Regardless how our way of life is invariably a reflection of our DNA.

We all have hyphenated identities. One can simultaneously be, say, Mauritian-Gay-Catholic, Mauritian-Male-Hindu, Mauritian-Female-Agnostic or any other combinations without altering one’s patriotism. Defining communities by juxtaposing (non-) religious belief and ethnicity is difficult to avoid. It is our experience that determines the extent of overlapping of references within our plural identities. Communalism is not the disease per se. It is a symptom of a reality doomed by glass ceilings that triggers withdrawal into a “community” perceived rightly or wrongly as a refuge. Ethnicity-blindness is a gratifying utopia that turns into a joke when its proponents essentialise the emergence of a non-Hindu prime minister. An ethnicity-neutral approach would at least have the worthiness of not celebrating yet-another delusional “république une et invisible”.

We should refrain from misfiring as we have all become de facto “minorities” surviving a social mobility hijacked by networks of patronage. It would be wiser to ponder the relevance of “you cannot manage what can’t measure” should we desire to break out of the vicious circle. Although the BLS cannot exist without “community” counting, the latter is also critical for, namely, socio-economic, anthropological and medical research. “Kisabebet” which does not distinguish between Kreol (Afro-Mauritian), Indien (Hindu), Blan, Milat (Euro-Creole), Mizilman, Sinwa and Madras (Tamil)? It is also critical that each citizen recognises herself in each “box”.

There will always be outliers who will not relate to any “box” either because, according to their self-image, Karl Marx, Che Guevera and Rosa Parks would embody them more faithfully or because the feeling “in-between” prevails. The categories “other”, Pomien (identifying gleefully or unwittingly with Pays d’outre-mer – an extension of DOM-TOM), Don Quixote or Coconut are out of place. Maybe “métis” could “fit”? On the other hand, castes and sub-castes are to be avoided. What is certain, nothing must go ahead with consensus built within the political oligarchy exclusively. But in consultation with all stakeholders to come up with a thoughtful and flexible list for the vast majority of citizens.

Pro-BLS voices are not necessarily sectarian. Otherwise Martin Luther King for example would have been a communalist. They merely translate the failure of the BLS to live up to its mission even after 50 years. For various reasons, not everyone has the same anthropological profile. An affirmative action serves precisely to compensate for this discrepancy. However, a key clause went missing: the mechanism must be time barred in order to instill an incentive to harness policies that reduce discrimination and promote a sense of purpose. There is nothing reactionary about the BLS integrating the process of Mauritius-building. But, in similar vein as for the quota or the moratorium, it must not be an end in itself.

Sordid shortcuts always arouse painful polarisation. Disenchanted Mauritians follow the global trend. Lately most of us have been voting by default for lack of credible alternative. According to the president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the Sino-Mauritian(4) population in Mauritius has almost halved to 12,000 and there is no indication that the shrinking is abating. If a “community” that has the reputation of being proactive does not really feel insider of the system and chooses to emigrate, is it not because there is a “malaise” that is worryingly “mauricien”?

Tribalism is rampant beyond ethnicity and religion. Together, the political oligarchy, its godfather the economic oligarchy and their spin doctors constitute a sinister carrier of smokescreen which acts like a daunting obstacle to change. Rarely its engine. We can no longer pretend not to hear the anger of Mauritians. But are we listening? “Reform”, be it electoral, economic, educational or anything else is henceforth akin to “galimatias” and scam.



* Published in print edition on 5 October 2018

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