Labour: The Party Must Outlive The Leader

On the occasion of the ‘celebration’ of the anniversary of SSR on Sunday 20th September,  it is is most approriate and timely to take a look at the Mauritius Labour Party’s past and reflect on its future, especally in light of the debacle that befell it on December 10, 2014, followed by the events that have subsequently taken place concerning its leader and the leaderhip issues for the Party.

Any political party which allows its fortunes to be hitched to the personal political ideologies and private conveniences of its leadership, which are usually of a short term nature, is bound to stagnate and ultimately most likely to flounder on the rocks. For it is not always the case that the interests of the leadership should or do coincide with those of the Party.

When they do not, both get inevitably censured by the electorate, even if such censorship should take a little longer to actually happen – as it did in the case of Labour Party (LP) in December 2014. The LP-MMM political project which was actively promoting constitutional changes to suit the private conveniences of the leadership of the two parties did not go well with their respective electorates, and what was already obvious to independent observers actually happened: both parties went down with their leaders.

Who and what the party votes for is also the business of its electorate – and the people. It is specially so in the case of LP. From its origins, this party has belonged to the people. None of the other parties can truly claim as such – and rightly so, given the breath and depth of LP’s political engagement in favour of and for the people over such a long stretch of the history of this country.

The foundations of a just, caring and democratic society through the establishment of the welfare state, free education, appropriate constitutional safeguards for all irrespective of class or creed, among other such critical fundamentals, were laid down by the Labour Party, then manned by a forward looking leadership committed to the national interest.

Those were men devoid of appearances and make-believe who put the interests of the people above their own and strived with great perseverance to leave a legacy based on the sound values of any democratic polity, relating to equality before the Law, fairness, equal opportunities, and so on. These still are and will ever remain valid. But such was not the perception then, or acceptable to those who held power and wanted at all costs to continue holding sway over the masses. The struggle to overcome this mentality and desire to go on dominating was arduous and long, but LP did not give up because its leaders knew what was at sake for the people of the country. It was not for themselves that they fought: it was for the people.

And that’s one overriding lesson that the current leadership must absolutely keep in mind and prominently so on the radar screen of LP.

LP has two strengths which it can count upon: the foundational values mentioned above, and the absence of dynasty. The other major parties at present are all based on dynasties, and the respective successions seem also to be going in that direction.

In the case of LP, following the demise of SSR, for a while there was a firm leadership that managed it until such time as another leader was annointed by due process accepted by the LP structure then in existence and the ground base of LP electorate.

As LP goes on to commemorate the anniversary of SSR, let this principle be reaffirmed, that the LP structure and the people it represents will collectively decide on the leadership. However, given the changed times and higher expectations in terms of proper and adequate methods of going about to lead a party, it is important that a solid structure and process be put in place to ensure that LP thereby becomes self-sustaining for the future, continuing through the selection of leadership based on merit.

That is assuredly the most desirable forward for a party which, in the most trying times of the pre-independence struggle, gave the labouring masses their true dignity and allowed them to improve their lot. LP on its own now deserves such a dignity too, and it is only through a genuinely and similarly democratic system within the party that this will come about – and also enhance the dignity of the eventual leader as well as his credibilty both in the party and vis-vis the country.

  • Published in print edition on 18 September 2015

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