Constitutional Deadlock

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Somduth Bhuckory

The London talks are over but no tangible result is in sight. Our Constitution is still in a fluid state and there is nothing to indicate that an early solution will put an end to this uncertainty.

After reading the communiqué issued last Saturday by the P.R.O at the close of the talks, one wonders whether any progress has been made and whether the delegation did not go to London needlessly.

The important part of the communiqué reads as follows. “The Conference reached final agreement on points outstanding except for system of voting to be used under new constitutional arrangements. On this it was agreed that a Commission should be appointed to examine two possible systems.”

No agreement on the system of voting, that is what is of consequence. Other agreements in the face of this disagreement fade into nothing. The apple of discord was in the main the system of voting: PR. or no PR, that was the question.

Some measure of agreement seems to have been reached, however, as regards two “possible systems” of voting. What those two systems are, we don’t know. We may perhaps be enlightened on this score when, as promised in the P.R.O communique, a full statement is issued simultaneously in Mauritius and London this week. May we hope that this is not a roundabout way of offering and accepting PR under some other guise?

However that may be, it is curious to find a Commission stepping in. Is the Commission going to act as an umpire between the two divisions? Is its decision going to settle the dispute? After all that has gone before, the appointment of a Commission appears to be a stranger way of solving the constitutional problem. Is it, after all, a means to gain time for one reason or another?

Ghana is born. A new chapter is opening in Malaya with the publication of the report of the Federation of Malaya Commission. The Caribbean Federation is in shape. While there is such a measure of self-government abroad, we are still haggling over the way our people should vote. How long will the parties concerned wallow in indecision?

* * *

Mr Malcolm de Chazal’s Case

Mr Malcolm de Chazal’s case has attracted the notice of the public in general and of civil servants in particular. It’s not the kind of case that crops up very often.

It was last Friday that the public learnt through the press from a letter of Mr de Chazal of his “mise à la retraite prématurée”. Since then Mr de Chazal has written three other letters to the press to give vent to his feelings.

When Mr de Chazal speaks of his “mise à la retraite prématurée” he means that he had some five years more to go. The perplexing question which arises first of all is: Why has Government pensioned him off?

Government has told Mr de Chazal that there is no further use for his services under Section 8 (a) of the Pensions Ordinance (No 90 of 1951) which deals with compulsory retirement and says: “An officer on reaching the age of 60 years shall retire from the Service of Mauritius:

Provided that it shall be lawful for the Governor in Council to require an officer to retire (a) at any time after he attains the age of 55 years.”

And so in this case the Officer Administering the Government, acting on the advice of the Executive Council, has applied the above provisions of the law. So far so good.

But Mr de Chazal’s case is unique. There is a general feeling that he has been asked to retire because he indulged in political activities when he wrote in the press about the visit of Princess Margaret. We have already said that whether or not he indulged in politics in writing about the visit, is an open question. If that were the basis of Government action, we would have expected Mr de Chazal to be given every chance of defending himself. We had such a case in mind when some time ago, writing on the political activities of civil servants, we deplored the absence of any procedure to deal with suspects.

Mr de Chazal has already applied for the post of Director of the Telecommunications Department. There is not any likelihood of his being taken now even if he possesses all the qualifications asked for.

Mr Malcolm de Chazal’s case is a sad one indeed.

* * *

Socialism & Culture

The upholders of Western culture in this colony are free to uphold that culture whether they are socialists or not. But to say that Indian culture is trying to oust Western culture is a bit of sweet and silly platitude.

That is why those upholders of Western culture look so ridiculous when, raising the cry of French culture in peril!, they sally forth into what appears to be a crusade. But most unfortunately those fiery crusaders are doing nothing less than fighting against wind-mills.

One thing is quite patent and understanding. There is no assimilation to the degree that some people would like to have. The Indo-Mauritian community is getting more and more impervious to the culture of others because it is getting more and more conscious of its own. If that state of affairs can be said to constitute a menace to Western culture, then the crusade is not wholly without foundation. As far as we know there is no community in this island which wants to monopolize socialism. But alas! the same cannot be said as regards culture. There are people who think that whatever good is there on the face of this earth, it springs from some chosen spots in Europe.

Socialism should never prevent a man from defending and preserving his culture. It is only the man who pays lip-service to socialism and has an eye rooted on the vote of the elector who does not belong to his community who is afraid of standing up for his spiritual heritage. Such people are ready to swallow any dirty insult flung into their faces for fear of being taxed with communalism. To them defending one’s community from villainous attacks is communalism. To them religion, language and culture are so many taboos. To them everything that makes the beauty and admiration of a community may be thrown overboard just to save the floating vote!

We who claim to have faith in socialism have always found that it is not incompatible to be a socialist and yet to shield and safeguard one’s culture. Why should we deny that right to anybody? But what we cannot stand and understand is why peril is made the byword to make an onslaught on others. It’s as stupid as it’s dishonest.

Friday 8th March 1957

* Published in print edition on 13 Dec 2019

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