First Impression

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

Sir Colville Deverell has created a very good impression. His first speech has been widely acclaimed and rightly so. It is full of meaning and in between the lines one can find pointers to the direction we shall henceforth be following now that Sir Colville is at the helm.

Before commenting the speech further, we hasten to say that we agree with Sir Colville when he observes, “In the past it has, l believe, been the custom for Governors, on occasions such as this, to make some reference to current events and to give some indication of the policies they hoped to pursue. I feel, however, that I arrive at a time which in this respect is sharply distinguished from the past, and that it would be clearly inappropriate and presumptuous of me to touch on matters of policy without the counsel and concurrence of my Ministers.”

Sir Colville Montgomery Deverell

Such words falling from the lips of a Governor take on special significance: it is now more than evident that the Governor’s role in our affairs is totally different from what it used to be. We have begun to have a real say in shaping our destiny.

We are pleased to know of the views of Sir Colville on the necessary adjustments that must be brought about in the wake of constitutional development. He believes that “these adjustments have to be made not only by the politicians, but by the public service and by the general public as well.” He goes on to add, “they involve the modification of deep-seated mental attitudes, the adoption of a new code of conventions and a new pattern of loyalties, and the exercise of novel restraints end disciplines.”

His Excellency is impressed by the amount of work done in the past, but he seems perturbed by the prospects of the Island. Again, he echoes a thesis we have always tried to bring home to the people and Government of Mauritius.

He seems to share our doubts and fears about the overpopulation spectre hovering over Mauritius when he says that we have to surmount “the extremely formidable and intractable problems posed by an ever-expanding population in a finite area already developed agriculturally and economically. ” This is the central problem facing Mauritius,  and Sir Colville surely knows that if it is not tackled, we are sure to lapse into chaos and social disintegration. In fact, he agrees that it is a “challenge to all sections of the community.”

Sir Colville has addressed “a few words of salutation to the Civil Service”. He has been well-advised to do so because it is a fact that at this crucial juncture of Mauritian history the future welfare of Mauritius depends to a remarkable degree on the Civil Service. His view of the situation is worth mentioning: “Constitutional changes of the kind undertaken here entail adjustments that are not always easy, but are vital, nonetheless. To achieve this adjustment requires a sense of dedication to the public interest, transcending personal considerations, and an acceptance that public office is held in trust for the community whose servants we all are. In assuring the members of the Mauritian Civil Service of my keenest interest in their well-being, I feel sure that I can count on them to provide myself and my Ministers with their loyal assistance and service so that we all may be enabled to make our maximum possible contribution to the happiness and prosperity of this Island.”

It appears too that Sir Colville is aware of the social problems of the Island and he speaks the language of ‘Entité Mauricienne’ when he says, “I suggest to you that here, too,  in Mauritius the problem of inspiring human understanding, tolerance, and co-operation transcends all other considerations and that all our problems can be tackled confidently, if this crucial problem of our age can be surmounted.”

Finally, there is one sentence from this memorable address which is pregnant with meaning. It is: “The first general election to be held on the basis of universal adult suffrage was a demonstration of orderly and responsible political behaviour.” And that is not all, “The representatives of different communities have shown that they can work together in a common task.” All this means that we are ripe for self-government. Sir Colville said at the very start of his speech that he did not agree with the dictum of Robert Louis Stevenson namely that, “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”. So are we. However hopeful it is to travel on the road to self-government, we feel it is better to arrive.

* * *

Thought of the week

What do we mean by efficiency in government? It is not, I think, a simple conception, but a complex of a number of variables. For the first thing we have to ask is: efficient for what? The answer must be given on a number of planes, each one of which has its own special contribution to make to the end result for which we seek.

There is the constitutional plane. Parliament, local government bodies, the Civil Service, the judiciary, the forms of nationalised and municipalised industry, must all be so adapted to the purposes of democratic socialism that they assist in, and do not operate against, the fulfillment of a higher standard of life, material and spiritual, for every member of the community.

Our institutions must not only be conceived to achieve this over a reasonable period of time; as they operate, they must also be clearly seen to be doing so, since only in this way can they persuade men and women to take an interest in and accept important innovations, against which the forces of privilege will mobilize every power of destructive attack they possess.

6th Year – No 273
Friday 6th November, 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 24 May 2024

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