Are we Losing Our Way?

Mauritius has a long political tradition. Our political struggle was born in a fight for fairness and justice towards all.

Political leaders were motivated much more by the fights they had to deliver for the improvement of the lives of the people than by seeking for themselves.

They borrowed the most noble ideas of their times in order to chart a fairer and more equitable course of history for the population. They had a vision of where they wanted society to come to eventually at a time things were not so clear for an island isolated in the south western confines of the Indian Ocean, left to itself. Nevertheless, they sacrificed themselves enormously for the principal cause they pursued relentlessly. Given such lofty pursuits, they had little time to concentrate on their own well-being.

However, we have seen over time a serious dilution of the strong values by which political figures lived their careers in the earlier stage. Political parties gradually emptied themselves of their ideologies, veered course at will depending on the opportunities to grab, brought down mercilessly potential rivals within and outside the political parties and very often ended up with serious infighting to secure leadership of the party. At whatever cost.

We’ve recently seen how tenacious some political leaders become when it comes to choosing between the future of the party and their own future. The latter has often become the dominant theme for the very existence of the party.

That could be the reason, why many voters, disillusioned by the turn of events, have on second thoughts come to the conclusion that all political parties are in the game solely with the objective of securing power and handing it over exclusively to the party’s leader. After voting, they’ve come to the frustrating conclusion, once governments have done the same detestable things that their predecessors had been doing, that it’s “blanc bonnet, bonnet blanc” across the political spectrum.

For example, all was so much concentrated on the imminent passing of the baton, now that the new government had been installed, from SAJ to Pravind Jugnauth that the recent verdict of the Intermediate Court sentencing the latter to prison, appears to have upset the entire MSM party, if not the government itself.

Yet, the latter still has the right to have recourse to the appeal process against the judgement. What the situation shows is the fragility around which the political establishment has come to be built up over time.

But this is not a situation exclusively applying to the MSM. The Labour Party is also focussed on Navin Ramgoolam as leader. Such is the void created around existing political leaderships – in whatever weak conditions they find themselves in — that it appears no one else can lay down a rightful claim to the “throne”. All appears to have been concentrated around specific individuals having no substitutes.

In the cases of the MSM and Labour – parties which have more often been associated with the exercise of power than not – the problem is worse. Not only are the leaders of the two parties made to be seen as irreplaceable. For long enough now, the two of them also see each other as implacable enemies on different sides of the fence.

This has as if introduced a fight from across their parties to finish each other off, politically. The political energy has been concentrated on how fast and how irretrievably one or the other of the two leaders, drawing from the same common pool of voters, will have dealt the final blow to each other.

The drama has occupied so much of the political stage that all other considerations have apparently been relegated to the background. It is not strange therefore that while they appear to be engaged in this fight to the very end, the care and consideration they should have had for safeguarding the interests of the common pool of their voters has gone completely out of sight. They have been completely oblivious of this critical dimension.

After having gone down in successive elections in which its voters repudiated it, the MMM should have been enjoying the spectacle offered by the chief protagonists of the MSM and Labour. It must have been hoping secretly that its chance will come when those two leaders would have devalued and exhausted themselves completely in their sterile fight against each other. Can it be blamed for so doing when the spectacle offered is free for all?

Everybody seems fully absorbed in the drama playing out presently. A country can afford to enjoy the spectacle its political leaders are playing out in public in their quest to destroy each other. But a country also has other preoccupations. It cannot go on de-constructing itself for too long, courting economic disaster in the process, when it should have been consolidating the economy.

So long the political leadership will remain focussed on walking away with the prize at a personal level, it will not be concentrating – as much as it should – on things that really matter.

Don’t we have to deliver a series of fights to stop increasing the level and rate of unemployment in the country? Don’t we have to overhaul the education system to make it produce for the new era of a world going out increasingly into technology? Don’t we have to lift up the stagnating level of our national investment?

Don’t we have to balance the social equation so that no part of the population feels left out? No part of the population can go on accumulating its grip on the levers of power invisibly? Don’t we have to groom up a new generation of entrepreneurs capable of taking on the emerging challenges of the globalizing economy? Don’t we have to follow a foreign policy which strengthens partnerships towards greater local social stability, instead of being condescending and giving away to specific groups in society?

Given the evolution of the global economy, we should have had a lot of collective thinking on the most strategic course to chart and follow for the country, gathering the efforts of the best brains we can put together. How come we used to have serious brainstorming in the past when we were less developed to work out new strategies for development? And not now?

How come single individuals are now more relied upon to draw whatever course of action key economic sectors should commit themselves to? We may be taking undue risks to the detriment of the whole country by giving too many degrees of freedom to such individuals who might take the country to the point of no return.

It appears that the confusion is becoming more complex at the level of our political leadership. Whereas it was the practice in the past not to allow situations to drift in particular unsafe directions, the clinging after power at the top appears to have become so entrenched that we have lost sight of this imperative. We will regret it sorely when things have gotten out of our hands but what will it serve when the milk is already spilt?

The problem is: the concentration of issues on single personalities has gone so far that one wonders whether we can get back the threads of solid and purposive redirection of affairs of state back in truly responsible hands once again.

 

  • Published in print edition in 10 July 2015
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