Our political history has shown that strong policies, economic and social progress have been made when strong governments have been in place.
The strength of governments derives from the comprehensive political majority they enjoy in the House. Paradoxically, the first of the strongest governments we had numerically, notably the 60-0 government of 1982, imploded within one year after securing power. The principal reason for this was its inherent internal instability which sought to run the affairs of state by marginalizing the majority community of the country.
The more inclusive government that was placed in power following the elections of 1983 has one of the most significant records of economic and social progress to its credit. It was balanced in terms of representation of the different constituents of the country’s social make-up with the majority community in the driving seat restored, as it were, in its rightful place. More importantly, the government of 1983 gave back the element of self-confidence to the majority community which the government of 1982, confounded by the hubris of its resounding victory, had sought to alienate in order to give to its supporters a false feeling that the majority community had now been relegated to an inferior position.
Past experience shows with tangible evidence that giving an effective front role to the majority community in any political set-up is key to successful implementation of sound policies for the country’s progress. It has to be reckoned in this context that the government of 1967 and the ones formed in coalition with the PMSD thereafter ruled in such a manner that equal opportunities were given to all people, irrespective of their religious/racial/cultural backgrounds, to empower themselves. Air Mauritius under Harry Tirvengadum, conglomerates like Rogers, Harel Mallac, Ireland Blyth, the Currimjee group, Poncini, Sun Resorts, New Mauritius Hotels, Beachcomber, the large sugar estates forming part of the Mauritius Sugar Producers Association, the Export Processing Zones, wholesale trading houses, Development Certificate import-substituting companies of all sorts, the Caudan Waterfront, big financial companies like the MCB, Swan Insurance, Anglo-Mauritius and Offshore Management companies – all of these prospered under the rule of such governments.
This is the reason why commanding heights of the economy are today in the hands of people hailing from diverse cultural backgrounds. This outcome is an actual result of governments taking universally applicable non-discriminating and unbiased policy decisions, not a figment of the imagination. Anybody can aspire to educate himself the best he can, to invest freely and to develop his faculties because all social plans are open just the same to everybody. The element of tolerance of differences and freedom to one and all to do better, without any single component of the national make-up claiming to have more than its pound of flesh in this context, has imparted the necessary political stability on which substantive progress has been made from time to time. Representatives of the majority community in those stable governments have not acted as if they were using the occasion to snatch advantages to themselves for mere reason that they were at the helm. Indeed, it was claimed by some non-objective observers from within this group that “their” representatives were making too much allowance for everybody else other than members of the community, witness the fact that despite decades of rule since independence, none of the economy’s commanding heights is in the hands of members of the majority community.
Despite such a commendable track record of having provided the necessary stability for the country to make progress, some parties in the country have always sought to upset the applecart. Part of the media has not missed the least opportunity at its hand to weaken governments in which the majority community has a powerful say. They are still at it. Certain political parties have kept up the hope during selective communal nightfall “private meetings” to state that they will eventually unseat the majority community from power. But the undermining of this stable, result-giving political structure has come not only from outside the majority community.
In the quest for personal gratification at any cost, certain members of the majority community have misbehaved to such an extent that internal cohesion has often proved to be a receding target. In some cases, overarching private pursuits, irrespective of merits, have led such persons to run for offices of which they do not master the fundamental requirements. Not surprisingly, prevailing on their specific belongings within the community, they have failed to advance the horizons of institutions which they have been put in charge of. In certain cases, they have incompetently undermined even the fundamental structures on which institutions operate. Needless to add that cases like this have been fully generalized and exploited by the media having a subtle agenda against the majority community. The latter have gone on to hit at the political structure itself.
Thus, the comfortable majority of yesterday has continued being eroded. Politicians from the majority population of the past generation did make accommodations and arrangements to give all a fair representation across the board. With one significant difference. They appointed the best and the brightest from the lot. They picked up those best able to manage institutions from any social group from within and outside the majority community. The latter did not disappoint them. Quite the contrary, they harvested a rich crop of ideas from all around and set up formidable and enduring institutions. This has enriched the range of opportunities available to one and all to this day, irrespective of communities. The men and women who were thus put in charge of public establishments were reputed and feared for their no-nonsense attitude in the running of affairs of state. It appears this has been giving way, forcing the government to allow itself to be held hostage by small groups and parties (and misdoings by the latter’s appointees) given that its overall majority has slimmed down considerably.
In politics, it is dangerous to test how far the rope of credibility can be held up tenuously. Moreover, the oncoming challenging agenda that the country has to face up to implies that the government cannot take it on with a tottering majority. To drive this agenda, it cannot but found itself on a comfortable majority solidly grounded in its own natural pool acting as a stable base of support. The situation calls for urgently working towards unity and removing the disunity that repetitive scandals have been fostering, chiefly with the support of those who nurse a long-held agenda to sweep the majority community out of political power. Politicians of the past generation were able to rouse the required unity because there was a genuine emotional link between themselves and those they led, not because they appeared smarter than the rest. The pursuit of vaster objectives dwarfed outrageous individualism. The task ahead is arduous and tough but politicians can still get back the plot and the lost equilibrium if they show the right mettle.
* Published in print edition on 12 July 2013