Editorial

Political Choice

The agenda of ethnic division should not be allowed to go through 

Voters have a crucial vote facing them on May 5th. When the government was negotiating for an alliance with the MMM, Labour was painted in the brightest of pictures by part of the media usually affiliated to the interests of the MMM. It was seen as a “rassembleur” and the potential alliance as a coalition par excellence. Once the negotiations broke down, the same media started depicting Labour in the most unfavourable terms. Suddenly, Labour’s alliance with the PMSD and the MSM started being portrayed as a “communal” alliance. This ambivalent attitude adopted alternately by that part of the media surely has an explanation. This part of the media does not want to see any alliance in which the MMM is excluded as being worthy of being voted to power. It will use all in its power to bring down any non-MMM alliance capable of successfully toppling over the MMM. One has to note that this stance dated back to before the announcement of the candidates who would be fielded for the elections. It preceded as well the publication by the two major alliances of their governmental programmes. In other words, the plan was laid down irrespective of the merits of the candidates and the programs.

This part of the media found it difficult to accept that as many as 18 tickets were allocated to the MSM. The intention was no doubt to put the MSM into antagonism with Labour.  The matter was stretched forward to present the so-called concession by Labour to the MSM as a scheme whereby Labour would have yielded to some blackmail by the MSM. Up till today, none of the protagonists voicing this kind of view from the anti-Labour media has come out to explain the nature of blackmail, if any. Although the newspapers claim that their job is to give information, it is clear that they have been giving out instead into a well designed program, intended to weaken the Labour-PMSD-MSM alliance in the eyes of the public. The slant taken by that part of the media has been mirrored by the MMM in its own public gatherings, forgetting that the party was itself busy only some days past negotiating an alliance with Labour – and earlier with the same MSM. The matter has been taken to such a high pitch that the current situation has started resembling the same conditions as prevailed during the elections of 1967.

Clearly, it is not in the interest of the Alliance de l’Avenir to work along a communal plan. This is because the forces which had joined hands in the elections of 1967 to isolate the Independence Party are very much alive today. They are operating in much the same manner as they did at that time. The tactics at that time included the tearing apart of the Hindu community in order to expose a split community against an alliance of so-called minorities. Has not Catholic priest Jocelyn Gregoire been speaking of his fight in favour of the minorities? Has he not spoken of the trampling down of the minorities by the majority community? Has he been reprimanded for taking such liberties which are totally unfounded? In 1967, the Tamils were induced to vote against the Hindi-speaking. Has not the difficulty faced by Mr. Sithanen with his party recently been transposed in an identical matter in an attempt to distance the Tamil-speaking component of the community from the rest of the Hindus? Have not divisions been sought to be made to stand up Rashid Beebeejaun as if he were facing difficulty in his constituency? The ethnic strategy has gone a little further this time inasmuch as attempts have also been made to split votes within the Hindi-speaking group along caste lines. Since the impact of all this attempted division is calculated to weaken Labour, it should be clear as to where the entire communal machination is originating from.

Voters have to decide whether they want to be trapped in the same ethnic ghettoes that have retarded Mauritius’ progress towards a fairer and more just society over decades. Clearly, unity of the nation is preferable to the division that the political and media adversaries of Labour have been seeking to exacerbate in the weeks after the date of the general elections were announced and after the decision of Labour to go its separate ways from the MMM. Although the desired amount of progress has not materialised in terms of achieving a fairer society than one would have wished for both in the public and private sectors, it would be an aberration to throw up the progress that has been achieved so far to get into a better social consensus. It is not because the democratic system guarantees the liberty of the press that the public should take for granted all the divisions that part of the media has been splashing out to target against the Alliance de l’Avenir. Voters must react against all these carefully laid-down plans to resuscitate a communal division similar to the one that was rife in 1967.

Looking forward, Mauritius cannot allow itself to be trapped into ethnic divisions of a past age. They really serve no useful purpose except to propitiate the demands of its advocates. Those who have been advocating this kind of separatism have, unlike the government which has enacted the Equal Opportunities Act, not at all suggested how they would make the national fabric work together after splitting the population into distinct parts for the sake of winning the elections. They have no concerns on how to stitch together the parts that they are prepared to tear apart for sectional pursuits. Their mission ends over there. Once the elections are past, it is only then that they would start thinking of repairing the damage done. It is better not to experiment with such things that have shown to be unworkable for the betterment of national integration and the promotion of a fairer society towards all.

The modern world holds different challenges for the Mauritian nation. These challenges are not even remotely connected with the ethnicity that is sought to be propagated by the pro-MMM media and certain private establishments. With America going all out for exports to cure its economic problems, there are reasons to believe that small exporting countries like ours will be facing a series of technical and global challenges. The economic chapter will become an increasingly dominant force to reckon with. We will need to push for more intense education and training of all our citizens without such petty things as ethnic discrimination. A political party that is looking forward to winning in the elections by splitting votes along ethnic and other similar lines will not be up to those challenges. Voters have a clear choice to make against the fracturing of society to neutralise the forces of division that have been making all sorts of inroads, with the nostalgia perhaps that they could bring back to life the work of ethnic division that failed in 1967.  This agenda should not be allowed to go through. 

M.K.

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