Mauritius Times – 60 Years
By Somduth Bhuckory
Our budget is swelling year after year and yet Government has recourse to supplementary budgets to carry on. Last week such a budget was presented in the Legislative Council for ratification. It involves a colossal sum of about one-sixth of the budget of the current financial year.
The Supplementary Estimates are for various items which have either cropped up after the elaboration of the annual estimates or which existed then but for which provisions had not been made. Now that the whole financial structure of the colony is being re-organized, it is to be hoped that such staggering supplementary estimates will become a thing of the past. Generous and yet miserly, that is how we see the Estimates – both annual and supplementary – when it comes to the teaching of oriental languages.
From the time the annual estimates were discussed we had been struck by the fact that the number of teachers of Oriental languages had not been increased. In the annual estimates for 1956-57, provisions had been made for 95 teachers. The same figure was maintained in the estimates for 1957-58, although there had been a marked increase in the number of head teachers and 1st, 2nd and 3rd class teachers. The school population had increase by about 24,000 children in a year and yet the number of Oriental language teachers remained static.
This is how we felt about the question on the 10th of May when we wrote the following: “We are of opinion that Oriental languages are not receiving the consideration they deserve in schools. Now that the budget is being discussed we appeal to our MLCs – including Hon Koenig – to see to it that the number of Oriental language teachers is increased by twenty-five this year.”
And Nestor had this to record the following week: “At the Council meeting last Tuesday, Hon Koenig speaking in French contrary to his habit, pleaded in favour of intensifying the teaching of Oriental languages in our primary schools. The Indo-Mauritian and Muslim members must have felt quite uncomfortable in their seats while Hon Koenig took the defence of their languages.”
What has happened after that? The problem seems to have simply vanished. When money to the tune of thousands are being earmarked for all sorts of works, it is a pity that no thought is being given to such an important feature as the teaching of languages. If the Government maintains this attitude, the only inference the people will draw is that Oriental languages are officially considered as pariahs.
To pay twenty-five Oriental language teachers, Government would not have had to drain its resources. The salary of one minister would have sufficed to pay the twenty-five teachers for a year. And yet nobody thought of it. Had another minister, a tenth one, to be appointed, we must surely have seen eager faces with dazzling eyes nodding acceptance.
There is nothing in the Annual Estimates and there is nothing in the Supplementary Estimates. It only seems to mean that there will be nothing till the present financial year comes to an end.
Meanwhile the people are carrying on social work throughout the island to keep Oriental languages alive; it is surprising with what zeal and devotion they are doing his. But it pains them to find the indifference of the Government towards their languages.
The Government has accepted the principle of teaching Oriental languages in primary schools. It has got to stop doing justice to the Oriental languages with reluctance.
Labour’s 4th Victory
And so, Labour won again. Its success was tremendous. Of the 16,098 electors on roll 9,276 voted, i.e., 57.6%. Roy scored 5,424 votes, i.e., 58.4% of the total votes, while his opponent, Curé, got only 3,366 votes, i.e., 36.3%. These figures are indeed significant, but had the Muslims not boycotted the election the margin would have been thinner. Of the two thousand and odd Muslim voters only a score or two voted.
In the course of exactly 17 months, Labour contested four elections and won all of them. It is sufficient indication that the people have pinned up their faith in socialist principles. This election took place while the Ministerial System of Government is being tried. By electing the Labour candidate, the people want to give Labour the chance to show its worth.
Six important factors have stood out in this election. They may serve as a lesson for future contests:
- Trade unionists have shown as much dynamism, organizing ability and power of rhetoric as the Executives of the LP themselves. Moignac, Badry, Lacoze, Cloridor, Napal and Ruhee displayed such inherent qualities as may well qualify them for future leadership of the proletariat.
- Muslims are a well-disciplined community. Given proper leadership they can make their weight felt in Mauritian politics. By having successfully persuaded the Muslims to boycott the election – an unprecedented event indeed in the history of this island – Mohamed, Dahal and Ramjan have shown their mettle.
- People do not forgive those who have betrayed their trust. Curé fell a victim to his reactionary outlook and doings which stand in contradiction to the avowed principles of the LP which he himself founded.
- The people have got disgusted with Bissoondoyal’s irresponsible opposition and stunts. He may be swept off his feet for ever if Labour makes a determined effort. It is for the first time that Bissoondoyal was seriously challenged in his own fortress and made to suffer an ignoble defeat. In fact, the contest was Labour v/s Bissoondoyal who was backed throughout by the Amalgamated Labourers’ Union.
- The Party spirit prevailed over communal consideration during the election. Most of the agents of Curé were Hindus. Several Hindus even lent him their cars. On the other hand, hundreds of Creole artisans and dockers flocked to the Labour camp to help Roy.
- Elections cannot now be won by merely haranguing the electors, but by a progamme which appeals to the masses, the past and the personality of the candidate, the organizing ability of the party or of the candidate and personal contacts are, among other things, the fundamental factors which help to win elections. There is another thing which needs special mention. It is those hundreds of voluntary workers – the majority of whom, artisans and labourers – who sacrificed their time, gave up their work and did the canvassing for Roy from door to door.
Now that the excitement of the victory has subsided, people will keenly watch whether Roy keeps his promise. Roy must live up to the expectations of his party of those who have voted and worked for him. He cannot afford to squat over his responsibilities and let time slip by till the general elections which are expected to be held in August next year.
To end, may we congratulate Roy on his resounding success.
A Memorable Day
Manilal Doctor’s 50th anniversary was commemorated with much enthusiasm on Sunday last (13th October 1957) in various places at Port Louis. Many people from the towns and villages of the island had flocked to the Company’s Garden to attend to the laying of the foundation stone of the pedestal that will receive the statue of Manilal Doctor.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Sangeelee said of Manilal Doctor: “His was a life of truth, of friendship and zeal, a life of hard struggle. He had dedicated his life to the welfare of the poor and oppressed labourers of the island.” Mr Sangeelee added that the aim of the Manilal Doctor Memorial Committee was to set up a bust only, but sympathisers’ response made it possible to pronounce for a statue itself. But as the statue is not yet ready, the MDM Committee has decided to lay the foundation stone of the pedestal of the statue.
The foundation stone of the pedestal was laid by a poor and old immigrant, Mohabeer Itchaye. A prayer was said by Swami Kritananda of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Mr Bhuckhory, speaking in Hindi, said that the statue will turn a new page in the history of the poor labourers of the island. “This memorable day will be written in golden letters. This statue will not only be a witness of the struggle that great philantrophist had undertaken to free the poor and the oppressed labourers of this island from the shackle of ignominious servitude; but will also be the token of imperishable gratitude that every labourer feels for Manilal Doctor. It will be an emblem of truth and of disinterested struggle for the betterment of oppressed mankind.”
After the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone, Mr Sangeelee requested those present to move to the Taher Bagh Fancy Fair. There was a generous response and the Commissioner for the Govt. of India opened the Fair by the sale of a cushion, which was bought by Mr Sunassee.
Many people then moved to the Gymkhana, Champ de Mars, where a gathering was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of M. Doctor to the island. Hon Seeneevassen presided over. Speeches were delivered by Messrs J. N. Roy, V. Govinden, Pundith Dhoorundar, H. Toorawa, G. Forget. In his speech Mr Forget said that he hails Mr Manilal as the greatest fighter for the betterment of the working class and to him caste or creed made no difference as every worker belongs to only one Community. He further added that in his person he associated the Labour Party with this commemoration.
A night fete crowned that memorable day at which the Veeramundar Band and local singers entertained the people who had come from every corner of the island.
* Published in print edition on 27 July 2021
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