Our London Letter —
British MPs and press debate about constitutional proposals regarding Mauritius
Mauritius Times 60 Years – 3rd Year No 87
– Friday 6th April 1956
Aneurin Bevan is the member of the Opposition Front Bench specially charged with dealing with colonial matters in the House of Common; and James Johnson has had the task of impressing on Mr Bevan the importance of Labour’s opposing, in the House, the constitutional proposals. Mr Johnson and Harold Wilson are being specially briefed as to the influence of proportional representation. Meanwhile the Communist Party has expressed its opposition to the abhorrent proposals of PR and nominated members: “The system of Government nominees cannot be justified in any democratic constitution, and for our part we would be against even one nominated member in the Legislative Council.” With the 3 officials and possibility of 12 nominees, the Communists Party will have to win 21 of the 25 elective seats to make sure of having a majority in Council. The monthly Africa Bulletin, organ of the Association for African Freedom, has a short piece critical of the proposals.
Interest in Mauritius
More and more periodicals are publishing articles about aspects of Mauritian economy and politics. At one time Mauritius was known only as the one-time home of the dodo; it then became famous for its earliest postage stamps. Now however, there seems to be a real interest in the island. Two articles have appeared in African and Colonial World this year; and the March issue of the quarterly Times Review of the British Colonies has a full-length article on population problems in Mauritius with special reference to the recent Report of the Commission on Population. The Observer on 25 March 1956 referred to Mauritius as one of the small non-viable colonies under particular study by the Labour Party colonial affairs group; and though he did not name Mauritius, Sir Hilary Blood was obviously referring to it in a letter to the Daily Telegraph recently.
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International Sugar Conference
The world conference on sugar will meet in New York later this year, starting on May 21. The initiative for the conference came from the International Sugar Council, but the conference itself is being held under United Nations auspices. The Times points out that the conference will try to get more members for the Council, but at the same time present members are asking for increased export quotas. These two are irreconcilable, it is suggested, unless there is reconsideration “of the provisions of the present agreement for regulating exports”. These provisions are not enough, it appears, to keep prices regularly above the minimum of 3.25 cents a pound as long as the surpluses outside the agreement are as large as they are now.
It is only unexpected purchases by the USSR from Cuba, and by Eastern Germany and China, that have this year kept prices above the minimum; and as The Times says, the “special demands” from the Iron Curtain countries have now fallen away. As agriculture increases in efficiency, indeed, the demand will tend to cease and the Communist countries will become self-sufficing, relying on home-produced beet sugar instead of imported cane sugar.
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Mr Kynaston-Snell has spoken, rather with an air of surprise of the awakened consciousness of the people of Mauritius to the importance of education. The story is told of the little Gold Coast boy who wanted to learn Latin, because it was the “white man’s juju”. At Kongwa, Dr Welch was asked by the African workers for lectures on Marxism and Leninism, “so that we can understand why everything in Russia is so good”. (That is related in Alain Wood’s book The Groundnuts Experiment). The directors of literacy campaigns among adults in French West Africa found that economic and social reasons lay behind the desire of many Africans to be able to read and write. In the United Kingdom, the slogan of the National Council of Labour Colleges is “Knowledge is Power”.
While the ambitious programme of school-building is being undertaken in the next two years, the Mauritius Education Department must not forget the needs also of the illiterate adults many of whom owe their illiteracy not to innate inability to learn, but to neglect of education in the past by the imperialist who before the War were concerned with what they could get out of Mauritius, and not with what they could give to the colony. There are years of neglect to be remedied as well as the immediate need to build enough schools to house all the primary school children.
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Mauritius Proposals under Fire
« Based on Distrust »
From our correspondent — Port Louis, March 20: The first shot against the proposed constitutional changes in Mauritius has been fired by Mr J.N. Roy, the former Second Member for the Grand Port Savanne constituency, who was not returned to the Legislature in 1953. Writing in the Mauritius Times, a Hindu nationalist weekly, under the heading “Boycott the damned thing”. Mr Roy states: “The constitution is a complete surrender to the reactionaries in Mauritius”.
Referring to proportional representation, he says that this system is based on distrust of the coloured sections of the Mauritius community: it is a deliberate insult to the people of Mauritius and seeks to put the country in the same position as South Africa under Malanism.
He disapproves of the proposed method of electing the Executive Council, saying it will bring about the chaotic conditions, with Ministers of different ideologies fighting a vendetta and the heads of departments triumphant, and with the governor as “a big boss” over all. Thus the Ministers would become the laughing stock of the country.
— Times (UK), 21 March 1956
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Editor’s comments: The above note appeared in the London daily Times of March 21st.
The reactionaries of the country have at their service a few people, who pose as journalists and correspondents of foreign papers with apparently the preconceived ideas of furthering the malicious anti-Labour campaign which a section of the local press has so faithfully carried on for the past ten years,
This is not the first time that a foreign paper echoes the prejudicial views of the local reactionaries.
Our readers no doubt remember that some time last year, both Reuters New Service and the New Commonwealth diffused one-sided news about the communal riots which broke out at Chemin Grenier in the first part of the same year. The news was so one-sided that one got the impression that the Hindus were causing all the troubles.
Our London Representative, Peter Ibbotson, protested against such malicious propaganda and the Editor of the New Commonwealth had to admit that “the best of our men seem to be infected by nationalism, racialism or some other ism”.
Therefore the mere reference to the Mauritius Times as a Hindu nationalist weekly shows that the local correspondent of the Times is infected by an ism which is prevalent nowadays in some quarters in Mauritius. It also shows that he is one of those who cannot rise above party considerations while reporting matters of great news value. He is no doubt one of those Mauritians who cannot conceive of any socialist movement sponsored by Hindus without dishonestly branding it as nationalist, communalist or communist.
It is a pity that the Times which is known the world over as a beacon in the field of journalism should have been misinformed by a partial correspondent.
By next mail we are forwarding a rejoinder to the Times.
(Mauritius Times – 30 March 1956)
- Published in print edition on 25 August 2017