Down with PR Campaign

Mind Your Language

By Dr B Foogooa

In the late 1950s ad until the 1960s, there was fierce polemic on various subjects between political opponents, in the press, in Parliament and at public meetings.

On the one hand, the sugar barons consisting mostly of the Franco-Mauritians, with the help of the colonial powers, were ruling the roost. On the other hand, there were the Labour Party (LP), trade unions and several socio-cultural groups which, as a common front, used to oppose the former.

The mouthpiece of the oligarchs was the defunct daily Le Cernéen and that of the LP, the defunct Advance. With the advent of Mauritius Times with late Beekrumsing Ramlallah (BR) as chief editor and late Sir Kher Jagatsingh (SKJ), his right-hand man, the fighting became much fiercer.

As young boys, we remember how the issue of Proportional Representation (PR), as advocated by the Ralliement Mauricien of late Jules Koenig, later to become the Parti Mauricien and then the PMSD, raised a hue and cry among the LP sympathisers. My contemporaries recall well how BR, with the help of SKJ, D. Napal and others, launched his “Down with PR” campaign by holding meetings nationwide.

It was harvest time when one of these meetings was being held one afternoon in Long Mountain. I, along with my brothers and friends, agog for news and out of curiosity, never missed a public gathering. Needless to say, we were present at the meeting that summer day.

The first speaker to have the floor and open the meeting was SKJ. He briefly explained to the audience all the complicated intricacies of PR in the political context of a nation. Then, Messrs BR, Napal and Dabee explained lengthily how PR would engender disunity, communal hatred and disharmony among the different components of the Mauritian nation.

The meeting was about to draw to a close in half an hour when I noticed Tamby, Villoon and Anglais standing behind me. Anglais was actually an Indo-Mauritian, but was so nicknamed because of his fair complexion. All three, labourers, had been doing overtime cutting sugar cane in my late dad’s field. As they had not been at the meeting from the very beginning, they could not make head or tail of the subject, which was still unclear to most Mauritians.

Finally, Tamby turned to Anglais for explanation, “Eh do, Anglais, hai Pee Arr, Pee Arr, ka ha do?”1

Anglais pretending to be the most knowledgeable of the group, replied full of confidence, “Hoi don, konon Saheb ke naam!”2

Dr B Foogooa

  1. Hey Anglais, what is this Pee Arr?
  2. Must be the name of a Franco!

* Published in print edition on 9 September 2010

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