I refer to the article by your correspondent M.A.X., in last Friday’s issue of the Mauritius Times, entitled ‘A Perversion of Democracy’. I think your correspondent hit the nail on its head regarding the issue of electoral reform.
Since my return to the country, I have felt that, even if its defenders say it has served us well, the present electoral set-up is all wrong. Not only does it give the Party leaders a stranglehold on the choice of candidates and panders to freeloaders but, more fundamentally, it is responsible for the communal poison that permeates our political landscape today. And we can only guess as to the amount of collateral damage it may have wreaked on our nation-building process.
I happen to be of a generation who lived through the 1/1 (single member constituency) era when two Hindus, B. Ramlallah (Labour Party) and S. Jugdambi (Independent Forward Bloc), fought for the constituency of my boyhood. The multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-caste electorate either voted for the LP or the IFB candidate, pure and simple. Nothing about their ethnicity, religion or caste was ever a consideration to their choice.
So you can appreciate my utter shock, horror and dismay when — upon return — I discovered that this healthy system had been replaced by the cancerous 1/3 (three-member constituency) that splits communities every 5 years, and creates this very palpable tension that threatens our very fragile social stability. One cannot help feeling that we are sitting on a potential Vesuvius* that is apt to explode any time. With the rise of extremism in every quarter, this is getting more and more likely, alas!
During my life, I have lived through elections both in the UK and in Norway; never did I see a single soldier patrolling the streets or manning check-points in those countries like the SMF here during election time, when the law-abiding citizen is scared to go out for a dinner/Haldi with his family.
It is my sincere hope that your correspondent’s article will remind those who feign ignorance that there is a far, far better alternative to the pernicious 1/3. Thus, if reform we must have, ignore the awful REHASH cooked up by Sachs, Carcassonne, Sithanen and Berenger — they add nothing to the present undemocratic system except more costs to the public purse – directly or indirectly.
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Just for the record: Much to my dad’s chagrin who was a dyed-in-the-wool IFB supporter and one of S. Jugdambi’s right-hand man – B. Ramlallah carried the day and was still our Representative when I left Mauritius for pastures new.
Those were the days when supporters of opposite sides could be seen having a banter, and sneaky drink behind the closed doors of the local “cambuse” after the results were announced. They may have been less educated than today’s electorate, but they took winning and losing philosophically as forming part of life. And the next day, all the villagers would be working together in the same sugar cane field, whilst the Hindus would be sitting in the same Baitka to discuss their common problems, and the Holy Scriptures.
It would be nice to feel we can get back to a similar age one day. But that is unlikely so as long as we insist with the 1/3, the biggest impediment to nation building in my opinion!!
* Mount Vesuvius – This mountain has erupted more than 50 times since the eruption in 79 A.D., when it buried Pompeii and its sister city, Herculaneum. After Pompeii was buried and lost to history, the volcano continued to erupt every 100 years until about 1037 A.D., when it entered a 600-year period of quiescence. In 1631, the volcano killed an additional 4000 unsuspecting inhabitants.
* Published in print edition on 1 November 2012