“The real storm is happening on the international economic stage…

Interview: Nita Deerpalsing

…we have no time to waste with all kinds of “ragots” that the Medpoint 2 alliance wants to pin us down to”

“I see absolutely no discomfort between the Labour leadership and the PMSD…

…except perhaps in the minds of those who believe or hope that their wishful thinking is part of reality”

“It is absolutely shocking and unacceptable that an artist was silenced at a private concert paid for by private citizens”

Nita Deerpalsing, Director of Communication of the Mauritius Labour Party, does not, true to her usual self, mince her words when it comes to comment on the adversaries of her Party – the “bunch of passéistes who are well past their sell-by dates” as she puts it, and who would have taken the MMM leader for a ride “with all the ridiculous untrue stories that the old-dinosaur has been concocting in his desperate attempt to save you-know-whom”; the “ignoramuses in this country” who have silenced an artist (Susheela Raman) at a private concert paid for by private citizens” and who are “oblivious to the fact that we live, in this day and age, in an era where anyone, anywhere in the world can view these songs being performed on YouTube”. She also comments on the polemics surrounding the issue of medical termination of pregnancy, the Remake 2000-alliance…

Mauritius Times: It looks like the Ship of State is henceforth sailing in more serene waters thanks to the lacklustre performance of the ‘Remake 2000’ team, and the Labour-PMSD alliance’s fences having been mended, just in time, to discourage any Honourable Member from crossing the floor. So it’s back to (serious) business, again?

Nita Deerpalsing: I can tell you that on our side, we were never, even in the slightest manner, perturbed by the shenanigans, the sheer buffoonery of the Medpoint 2 Alliance!

So it’s not a matter of being back to business, we’ve been sailing our ship all along, focusing on ways and means to bring this country to its next level of development while they were fantasizing about an 82-year old dinosaur sweeping the country off its feet!

In fact it’s rather amazing that they actually thought that the young people of this country would even for a minute be dazzled by someone irremediably frozen in the past!

* It did however look like the government alliance was in deep water after Sir Anerood Jugnauth decided to step down and went on to put together a remake of his 2000 alliance with Paul Bérenger, which started off rather enthusiastically. Labour-PMSD propagandists would have us believe that the Jugnauth-Bérenger alliance has fizzled out. Do you really think so?

I grant you that it might have looked like that and even felt like that in the weirdly wired brains of the Medpoint 2 team, and those caught in their frenzy of wishful thinking. I find it baffling that the leader of the MMM could be so credulous as to be suspended to every single word that comes out of Mr Soodhun’s mouth for example! Even the thought of that makes me chuckle! But it wasn’t only Mr Soodhun. The MMM’s leader seems to have been totally taken for a ride with all the ridiculous untrue stories that the old-dinosaur has been concocting in his desperate attempt to save you-know-whom.

This in itself demonstrates that today’s MMM is totally bankrupt in terms of new ideas and innovative propositions for this country’s future. All they can bring themselves to offer to the nation as potential alternative is the rumour mill of a bunch of passéistes who are well past their sell-by dates!

What is even more incredible is that they actually thought that the people of this country would not be able to see through the dupery, that people would not figure out that these passéistes are only interested in saving their own skin and have absolutely not one iota of concern for the future of this country!

Now whether they’ve fizzled out or not, I don’t know. Personally, I hope not! I would like them to stick together. It’s really too sad to hear that a cold, passionless winter night mega-flop in Quatre-Bornes has forced them to postpone their pilgrimage.

Now is this funny or tragic? The guys were harping on and on about how much this country would fall into a calamitous precipice without them, and how very much the country needed them; and then lo and behold, the next thing they say to the country is: “ooops, sorry people, we can’t take the winter, so the saving of your lives will just have to wait until we can be in more comfort”!!! And to top it off, since they can’t actually say that, they say: “oh it’s not our comfort, it’s just that we want to show respect for a religious event”. Yeah, right! Anyway these days, we’ve become used to the MMM grasping on to religion to cover up for all kinds of masquerades.

* But it’s also true that the current spate of crime and court-related crime cases – one chasing the other from the newspapers’ front pages, and the polemics the abortion issue has given rise to have provided a necessary political respite to the present government, isn’t it? But it usually feels eerily calm before the storm, don’t you think?

Why are we so “nombriliste”? While our local “politicaille” gives good fodder for all these vacuous radio talk shows, and some sensational gossip-headlines, local politics should be and is the last of our worry. The real storm is happening on the international economic stage. We have no time to waste with all kinds of “ragots” that the Medpoint 2 alliance wants to pin us down to.

* As for issues that are making the headlines these days, there is the government’s proposition to legalize abortion in specified circumstances, and Mgr Piat has put up the question: “Est-ce que le fœtus est un objet ou un sujet ?” What’s your take on that?

Is the Mauritian woman an Object or a Subject? I wish Mauritian women were as lucky as fetuses who have no social existence in terms of personhood but yet elicit so much attention. If only so much concern and energy could be devoted to condemning and destroying deeply entrenched patriarchal structures which perpetuate the processes of women’s conscious and unconscious subordination in this country, we may well get to the point where there may be very little demand for abortions.

In any case, the crux of the matter here is that everyone should be able to live in a decent society where women don’t have to risk their lives in back-alleys because a bunch of patriarchy-indoctrinated women and men believe that they have some moral right to impose their worldview on everyone else.

In this debate, we’ve heard so much concern for “life”. I’d appreciate it if the pro-lifers could specify that their concern is for HUMAN life and not life in general. Don’t animals have life? And yet don’t you find it a bit curious that none of the pro-life people have ever expressed any deep outrage at the tons of murdered, dead animals which find their way on dinner plates each day?

So when we hear all these holy professions about “life”, let’s be very clear that what is meant precisely, is “human” life. And this is not just semantics. It’s about a worldview in which a dead animal on your dinner plate elicits no holy discomfort because according to that worldview, human life has a superior ranking and in this human-centric worldview, we humans have precedence over all other forms of life. And that these animals deserve their existence on our planets mainly to cater for our needs whether as dinner, or the “thrill” to be experienced in “chassés” or the “joy” of watching horses being ruthlessly whipped at the racehorse.

Now let’s say I’m aware that factually, meat eating is the third largest net contributor to climate change pollution in the world. And that about 30 times more energy is required to produce one calorie of beef than to produce one calorie of corn for human consumption. Despite the large probability that the forceful imposition of these facts on others may well go a long way towards protecting our planet, does that give me any right to be a preachy vegetarian who tries to force vegetarianism down everyone’s throat?

* What do the comments heard on the abortion issue inform you about the degree of evolution of Mauritian society? Is Dev Virahsawmy right when he speaks in terms of “antidemocratic hysteria” of those who oppose the proposed amendments of the Penal Code?

Evolution? We seem to be still stuck on creation even in the face of incontestable scientific proof that the world was not created, but evolved! And that fossil evidence shows that we didn’t miraculously appear on this planet as humans but that we evolved from earlier primates, which is why we share something like over 90% of our DNA with chimpanzees.

But yes, there is a lot of hysteria in this debate! Although I can understand people’s personal beliefs, I fail to understand their non-comprehension that this is a major public health issue pertaining to women’s fundamental rights in an aspiring non-discriminatory society.

Now as far as religion is concerned, and as far as I understand, all religions provide guidelines for people to seek to perfect themselves so that they can live good, decent lives as human beings. Unfortunately, the very noble guidelines found in religious texts have also been used by men, to create mass-religions which have demonstrated that men can also kill, rape and massacre millions across the world in the name of all strands of religious beliefs. Have you ever given any thought to the idea that the process of subordination of women in a deeply patriarchal structure like ours, relies to a large extent, on the very patriarchal underpinnings of men’s convenient interpretations of religion?

I don’t know about you, but when I was still a kid one day it occurred to me that it was rather strange that God would only want men to be her messengers. I felt that I was being told only half a story. I asked myself if there wasn’t something wrong in any system which relies on exclusively male-hierarchies. Somehow I felt that perhaps these kinds of systems didn’t quite suit God, as much as it suited the men who saw what amazing a power system they had in their hands to exert power over the lives of others.

Now please don’t go thinking that I’m not a believer. Not that I’d apologise for it if I weren’t! But I prefer defining myself as a spiritual being. I prefer to believe that God is not sexist and never meant for women to be regarded as second-class citizens over whom men have lifelong tutelage either as father, brother, husband, lover or employer.

So while religion gives us many good things to grasp on to, if used wrongly, it can also give rise to sentiments which render us insensitive to other’s opinions or plights. This is why we are faced with policy-making, it’s best to keep religion out of it!

* Another issue that made headlines: the “censure” of Susheela Raman’s concert in Mauritius. We have seen the Culture Minister going back on his initial position, and together with some Tamil socio-cultural associations taking a beating from press scribes and a few others from civil society – and not least from the Senior Adviser of the Prime Minister on Cultural matters – for having, in their view, acted against the freedom of expression of an artist. Would you say that Raman’s freedom has been sacrificed on the altar of religious convictions?

Isn’t it wonderful that in our little Mauritius we are so uniquely Hindu that even people of Tamil Nadu aren’t endowed with the skills that we in little Mauritius have to uphold the Hindu faith?

Honestly, it is absolutely shocking and unacceptable that an artist was silenced at a private concert paid for by private citizens. And that too, by Mr Rama Poonoosamy who happened to have been the Minister of Culture of the MMM in 1982. You will also note that our dear Opposition which prints “Sanzman pe vini” without blushing on its ‘banderoles’ have been very silent on the issue.

I don’t want to go into the justifications or non-justifications of the matter. Suffice it to say that it would seem that some ignoramuses in this country are oblivious to the fact that we live, in this day and age, in an era where anyone, anywhere in the world can view these songs being performed on YouTube. Perhaps we should place cameras in each room of each household or cyber cafés to ensure that no-one is viewing these concerts with a piece of meat or a glass of beer in their hands? These people seem to ignore that anyone can for example, order The Rape of Sita or Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to be delivered directly to a Kindle or an Ipad without any intermediary. So what are they going to do? Put an alert on each and every PC, Kindle or Ipad in the world so that people are not able to watch, listen or read texts that are not to their liking? Come on, these people are so ridiculously frozen in time!

As for Minister Choonee, it was really pathetic of him to hold a press conference in the company of socio-religious/cultural organisations. He should know that as a minister, he represents the Republic and not X, Y or Z. Even if I would not have agreed with the contents of what he had to say, it would have been better if he had held his back-peddling press conference alone. I can only hope he realizes how totally inappropriate it was for a minister of the Republic to be surrounded by members of a socio-cultural organisation at a press conference which he’s holding as a minister of the Republic.

* There are other instances where government bashing would seem justified to the layman: an executive of the Mauritius Duty Free Paradise being reintegrated and promoted after having been allegedly found guilty of forgery; apparent ministerial double standard with respect to Insight Forensics’ inquiry into STC’s past management, and “zones d’ombre”, as reported in a weekly concerning the lease agreement of Mauritian authorities with Patel Engineering with regard to the Newtown Project… How do you react to these allegations?

I do think that there could have been better management of the issues in some of these cases. For example, regarding the MDFP case, I don’t know the ins and outs of the gentleman’s case so I wouldn’t want to comment on this. However, I do think that it was inappropriate that his re-integration be the subject of a Cabinet decision announcement.

As for the other cases you mention, well I would not want to bet my money on what the press writes. I know from personal experience how they can invent, distort and manufacture at will. Take the infamous Briani story in Quatre Bornes. They thought they finally had me in a place they’d like me to be and so they lied, they invented, manufactured, and distorted joyfully. And when the PM answered a question in parliament which revealed that a police officer – who had falsely written something that I had never said – was not even physically present on the spot at the time that I was there, the same people who day in, day out, posture themselves as “donneurs de leçons de morale publique” did everything they could, to blot out this significant piece of information from the public!

* It would also seem that those who were intended to stand accused for alleged wrongdoing in the MedPoint and Bois de Rose affairs are being able to turn the tide in their favour by distilling suspicion about the motivations of the PM and the DPM/Minister of Finance. Either they are well versed in spin doctoring or there is more to what have been alleged. Which is which?

I’m sorry to say this but some journalists in this country cannot think for themselves if the thought that comes across their pea-brain has not been pre-blessed by Mr Bérenger. As unbelievable as it may sound, yes, they are that hopelessly mentally colonized! I witnessed the whole drama in Parliament when government brought the new bill regarding municipal and district council elections. Mr Bérenger went on and on about how the Bill was illegal, how government had violated the law, how he was going to go to the Privy Council and so on. Never mind that it was quite incredible that Mr Bérenger had overlooked the simple fact that Parliament is sovereign and can make and un-break laws. Anyone with a tiny bit of grey matter and capacity for independent thinking would have understood that Mr Bérenger was hopelessly wrong.

But you know what I heard some of the journalists say in the corridors when ministers Faugoo, Varma and Mohamed were explaining to them the basic flaw in Mr Bérenger’s reasoning? “Of course, what you’re saying makes sense… but can Mr Bérenger be wrong?” For the poor souls, in their little pea-sized colonized minds, Mr Bérenger can just never be wrong! So you see, in the case of these inexperienced kids, I wouldn’t even give them the capacity for great spin-doctoring. It so happens that some here just can’t peel themselves from being colonized by Mr Bérenger’s every single word. And of course when poor Mr Bérenger himself gets taken in by the Soodhuns of this world, whether on Medpoint or Rosewood, it makes for a wonderful cocktail of nonsense!

* It would have served the interest of justice and fair play if inquiry reports had been made public and investigating bodies would expedite their inquiries in these matters (MedPoint and Bois de Rose), isn’t it?

I was just about to say that the investigating bodies should expedite their work. I have no doubt that there are some people in the opposition who actually hope these inquiries never end. But it will be indeed good if they could speed up matters.

* We started off this interview with the question concerning government getting back to serious business and acting on the mandate it has been voted into power. We do not know if the Labour leadership is comfortable with its present ally, but the “guerre à distance” between the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Mauritius in relation with monetary policy would suggest otherwise. Is that indeed the case?

I see absolutely no discomfort between the Labour leadership and its ally. Except perhaps in the minds of those who believe or hope that their wishful thinking is part of reality. No, it’s quite the contrary – in fact we don’t think of ourselves as different blocks. We think and act as one team.

Regarding the Monetary Policy Committee, I do believe that the member who leaked information to the media about an MPC decision, should have had the decency to step down. Ok, it was not a life-and-death matter but it reveals that the person who leaked the information has absolutely no sense of what professional ethics or conduct means.

Some people may think that the Governor overreacted but I think that it was the absolutely correct thing to do. You simply can’t have people on the MPC who think that they can be so cheap as to cut corners on standards of professionalism or ethics!

* We thought the recent Address by the Acting President had clearly spelled out the intention of government to separate the planning functions from the routine activities of the Finance ministry. It does not seem to be the case so far, isn’t it?

What I know is that this government is keen in taking our country to its next level of development. And that the National Strategic Transformation Commission, under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office will have to come up with a comprehensive plan to that effect. In fact, I know that a number of people both from the PMO and the Ministry of Finance are already working in that direction.

* Published in print edition on 8 June 2012

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *