Correspondence to The Times

Mauritius Times- 60 Years


Report of the Electoral Boundary Commission

(Yesterday’s mail brought us the texts of the following letters which appeared in The Times, London, in connection with the Report of the Electoral Boundary Commission. MrSauzier’s letter appeared on the 12th of March and Peter Ibbotson’s on the 19th. — Ed.)

To the editor of The Times
Sir,

Your leading article of February 26 on the new constitutional proposals for Mauritius reveals a tragic ignorance of the problem.
You say that the Mauritius Electoral Boundary Commission have “made a bold attempt to cut a way through the jungle of Mauritian politics”; that they have “scrupulously” observed the three principles laid down in the London Agreement; and that the “new constitution has been deliberately steered away from any form of communal voting.”
The truth is that, far from being bold, the solution advocated by the Commission is a depressingly conventional one which anybody sitting in London could have proposed without the need to travel 15,000 miles : it is the single-member constituency well known to every single elector in the British Isles. The only variation from that orthodox electoral system is the provision for the appointment of up to 12 nominated members, a provision for which the Commission are not responsible.
As to their “scrupulous” observance of the three main principles of the London Agreement, the fact is that they have broken two of these principles. The first one relates to a system of voting that “should be such as to facilitate the development of voting on grounds of political principle and party rather than on race or religion.” In order to achieve this the Commission have divided the country into 40 constituencies based exclusively on racial and religious grounds. We are far from the deliberate intent to “steer away from any form of communal voting”.
The second principle is the one which concerns the provision of “adequate opportunity for all main sections of opinion to elect their representatives in numbers broadly corresponding to their own weight in the community.” This has been achieved (i) by ignoring the Franco-Mauritians as a main section of opinion (ii) by allowing the Muslims to elect one representative instead of five or six, and (iii) by providing opportunity for Hindu-Mauritians to elect 25 to 27 representatives instead of 21.
The only principle which has not been broken by the Commission is the one relating to universal adult suffrage — this being outside their terms of reference.
It is therefore surprising that Mr Lennox-Boyd should have accepted the findings of the Commission; this is nothing short of a complete volte-face in view of his previous proposals for proportionalrepresentation and his decision to link the introduction of universal adult suffrage with proportional representation “as interdependent parts of an integrated plan,” inorder “to meet the needs of an extremelycomplex political, social, and religious situation” — to quote Mr Lennox-Boyd’sown words in a dispatch to the Governorof Mauritius in 1956.
The 40 single-member constituencies ispositively the worst possible system for Mauritius; it completely ignores the historical background of the colony and its only certain consequence will be to perpetuateracial and religious segregation, encouragehatred and prejudice, and lead to chaosandanarchy.
I can only express the hope that it maynot be too late for Mauritius to be spared such a calamity.

Yours faithfully

A. Guy Sauzier,
Member of Legislative Council, Mauritius

* * *

 London S.E., 23
12.3.58

To the editor of The Times
Sir,

Mr Guy Sauzier, Member of the Mauritius Legislative Council, whose letter you have published today, is deluding bothhimself and your readers in his animadversions on the Report of the Mauritius Electoral Boundary Commission.

He alleges that the Commission has”divided the country into 40 constituencies based exclusively on racial andreligious grounds”. If he will read theReportagain, he will see that the basis ofthe division into 40 single-member constituencies is in accordance with the Commission’s terms of reference; and the boundaries of the 40 proposed constituencies have been drawn by reference topresent local government boundaries.Certainly, the Report lists the ethnic composition of the population in each proposedconstituency, but this is for information only and it is made quite clearthat the constituencies are not based onracial and religious grounds.
He also alleges that the Franco-Mauritian community has been ignored as amain section of opinion: that the Moslems are “being allowed” to elect 1 member instead of 5 or 6; and that opportunity is provided for the Indo-Mauritians to elect25 or 27 representatives instead of21. These allegations indicate a preoccupation (which in some sections ofMauritian society amounts almost to a pathological occupation) with racial considerations, and suggest thatMrSauzier’s judgment on theReport iscoloured by his conviction that all voters will votecommunally –a conviction which has surely been fully exploded by the last two Legislative Council by-elections.
In any case, if the Commission has “ignored” the Franco-Mauritians as a main section of opinion, it is because of their numerical smallness. Moreover,spokesmen of the Franco-Mauritian community, giving evidence before theCommission, referred to their community and to themselves as being part of the General Population, with which theCommission has therefore naturally included it. And when MrSauzier speaks of the Moslems “being allowed” to elect 1 member instead of 5 or 6, and the Indo-Mauritian having opportunity to elect 25-27 instead of 21, he is referring to the fact that Moslem are in a numerical majority in only 1 of the 40 proposed constituencies, and Indo-Mauritians are in a majority in 27. He seems to think (which recent events have amplydemonstrated to be wrong) that only a candidate’s co-religionists and alla candidate’s co-religionists, will support that candidate. MrSauzier completely ignores political considerations.
Far from exacerbating racial feeling (which anyway plays but little direct part is in Mauritian politics, as an article in the last issue of the ‘British Journal of Sociology’ showed), the 40 single-member constituencies will help to reduce it. Only one candidate from each political party will contest each constituency, so that supporters of that party will in many cases have to vote for a candidate of a race or religion different from their own.

Far from meriting blame, the Commission deserves all praise for their imaginative solution to a thorny problem. Theyhad to devise a system which would giveall main sections of the population anadequate opportunity to secure representation in the Legislative Council, proportionate to their numbers in the whole community. Election will ensure Coloured and Hindu representation; the device of nomination of up to 12 members will enable under-representation of minority sections to be redressed.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Ibbotson
London Representative, Mauritius Times,

5th Year – No 189
Friday 21st March 1958


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