Down with Proportional Representation?

Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago

This is the slogan of a movement. The movement which has become country-wide is daily gathering momentum…

This is the slogan of a movement. The movement which has become country-wide is daily gathering momentum. It seeks to explain to the people all the implications of PR.

Several meetings have already taken place in various parts of the country. What response and enthusiasm is there! I sometimes marvel at the degree of political maturity of the people. I have scarcely seen that amount of enthusiasm and zeal among the too-lettered. The people keep abreast of the events of this colony and of important events abroad. They lustily cheer and when the meetings are over press round to ask a number of searching questions.

Here are some of the matters that they are eagerly asking almost everywhere: Why did the officials vote on the motion on PR? Was it fair for Sir Robert Scott to allow them to do so? Was not the Port Louis by-election a sufficient reply to the vote of the council? Has the Governor realised by now that his survey painted an unreal picture of the country? Will the home-truths said in Council against PR create any impression on Sir Robert Scott or on Mr Lennox-Boyd?

Must we not boycott the elections if PR is forcibly thrust on us? Will this not make this loyal country embittered, hopeless, frustrated? Should not our Council members resign en bloc? Should they not refuse to be Ministers and remain in militant opposition? Should we not send a delegation to London to ask for the immediate integration of Mauritius to England on the model of Malta? Should we not invite a couple of British MPs to gauge public feeling in regard to PR? Should we not declare a day of mourning if PR is imposed, a day on which everyone in the country will down tools and sit at home to mourn and to pray? Should we not choose such a day during the sojourn of Princess Margaret in Mauritius?

These are some of the brainwaves of the people. They show how they are a thinking lot, not like dumb-driven cattle. The enthusiasm is growing. I am glad to hear that a Council member who voted for PR has overnight lost a large number of his hot supporters because they consider that he has betrayed the people. I am also happy to think that another member who does not customarily see eye to eye with the Labour Party is also campaigning against P.R.

The Down with PR! committee is formed with the help and co-operation of various organisations. It groups people of goodwill and who are imbued with the desire to serve. It has the mission of an interpreter. It seeks to interpret the political situation to the public. It seeks to interpret the wishes of the people to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It further seeks to keep important Labour MPs in Britain posted with the affairs in Mauritius particularly concerning PR.

PR hangs upon the country like Damocles’ sword. It is somewhat like the hydrogen bomb. We know that it is deadly, dangerous, damning but no one knows for sure the vast amount of damage it can do and in the various spheres. We cannot adequately foresee the extreme dangers resulting from the PR. Some credulous folks parade it as a propaganda stunt without realising that the Leviathan will make them its first victims.

We have sympathy with the British government at this juncture. We know that financially Britain is passing through difficulties. We also know that the existence of the British Navy has been challenged in Egypt, Cyprus, Ceylon and Singapore and that the government may be projecting to have a naval base in our Colony. I think that in matters like these it is always proper to enlist the full sympathy of the people. This sympathy can be enlisted in two ways: (a) by the grant of a generous constitution in which the people may have powers to sustain the British (b) by the integration of Mauritius to England on the pattern of Malta I have not the least doubt that British security and loyalty will eternally be ensured if the people of the country have a full say in the averring of their affairs.

So that in essence our movement is a loyal one. That is why we would wish to leave the charming Princess Margaret above politics as she is in no way responsible for the mistakes of the Governor or the Secretary of State. At any rate this is how the Committee feels so far. We are fighting against those who desire to check the march of progress in the Colony. We fight against those who consider that we are not to enjoy the democratic process only because our faces are not white.

We are convinced that the electorate here is as advanced as the electorate of any part of Europe. If the Government considers that the people are capable of understanding the baffling implications of PR voting, it is a kind of certificate to their political maturity.

The Committee will fight PR with all peaceful means at its disposal and will leave no stone unturned to stop its enforcement or to render its operation ineffective. It feels confident to tell the people that the country will not have a PR constitution, and, even if folly guides the authorities to foist it on us, it will have to be withdrawn because it will become impossible for it to function at all.

 

* Published in print edition on 9 March 2018

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