Letters

Readers’ Response/ Opinion 

 

To Our Readers  

 

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* * * 

Opinion

 

IDENTITAG

 

— Dev Virahsawmy

  

The Constitution recognises 4 ethnic groups, namely Hindus, Muslims, Chinese and General Population. The first two ‘identitags’ are determined by religion (Hinduism and Islam); the third is ‘race’ determined (race is a highly controversial concept and in the Mauritian context skin colour and facial features are privileged); the last group is made up of anyone who does not fall within the first three groups — an ethnic ‘ragbag’.

All these identitags cannot stand the test of rigorous and scrupulous investigation and scrutiny as so convincingly and brilliantly illustrated by Michael Sik Yuen. Yet a majority of citizens of the Republic feel that they reflect reality and any attempt to remove these pigeonholes could lead to a major social, cultural and political crisis.

The Creoles of the Republic (creole is another polysemous word meaning a great variety of things from an island with a specific history to a white/black person via a group of languages with a specific history) are now requesting that the identitag General Population be replaced by Creole. I sympathise with the legitimacy of this request but I am not sure that it will solve the problems of the AfroCreoles of the Republic. Moreover I am certain that it will create new difficulties and generate new frustrations. Indo-Mauritian Christians (be they Catholics, Protestants or members of various Christian sects) refuse the identitag “Creole”. For this reason, in order to have a consensus, it would be preferable to propose a fifth identitag “Creole” for those who choose to join that group. And those who feel that they don’t belong to any of the four groups could still choose to be considered General Population.

I recently wrote in an article (‘In search of an identity’) that “ I am a Mauritian of Telugu background who has undergone a rich voyage of discovery through cultural miscegenation. I live at peace with myself and every morning and night I thank Jesus, my God, for the opportunity I’m enjoying here in Mauritius, as a linguist and a poet. Incidentally, that could make me a member of what is known as General Population. An interesting thought!”

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I would be more comfortable to be in that slot. In fact this is where I belong with all Mauritians who do not believe in God or who believe in an Almighty God but cannot be at ease within any religious institution; with Mauritians who because of their different sexual orientation are ostracised, marginalised, persecuted; with Mauritians who are freethinkers; with Mauritians who choose to live with a loved one who belongs to another group; with love children; with Mauritians who are rejected because they are sex workers; with all those who courageously fight against prejudice and are forging new identities, etc. An ethnic ragbag? Yes!

Maybe one day this group will become the most progressive and dynamic one and will help the Republic chart the new course so much needed to survive. The Last Will Be First. Insha’Allah!

 

* * *

 A Post-electoral Review 

 

The electoral campaign fever is over. The suspense came to an end by 2 pm on the 6th of May, much earlier than expected. Observers who were predicting a close tie worthy of a Hitchcock film were disappointed. A few political analysts including D.E.V were aware of the results of the polls well before they were declared. The country has now gone back to business as usual. Newspaper vendors in Port-Louis have resumed their routine of shouting out newspaper titles to draw the attention of prospective buyers. Hardly a month ago they were selling their products like hot cakes. Some popular dailies have even lost their spiciness.

The last popular political gathering was held on Sunday the 23rd of May. This was an opportunity for the victorious party to thank its supporters and the electorate who favoured them and shared their ideology. The crowd and the orators were in a relaxed mood. It is reported that even those who voted against the winning team participated in the merry-making as a gesture of solidarity. This gathering was also an opportunity for the leader to express some aspects of his political outlook, among them a request to MPs to work in close proximity to members of their constituency.

This electoral bout has given the electorate an opportunity to assess its future representatives in Parliament. In meetings, the party in power needed very solid arguments to defend its cause. The opposition capitalised on the weaknesses of the government without coming up with convincing counter proposals. Mudslinging and character assassination tactics were regularly used to denigrate opponents, and this was not to the liking of the public at large.

However, the SADC observers were quite impressed by the way the electoral campaign and the elections were held. Indeed, the electoral supervisory commission deserves to be complimented for its professionalism in dealing with such an event. ‘Le pep admirab’ should be congratulated for behaving in an admirable way. There were a few isolated scuffles with no serious outcome and the credit goes to the police force that did a wonderful job.

While the victors celebrated, the vanquished grieved. The latter did not expect defeat; their crystal-ball reading had gone wrong. They expected a comfortable win as predicted by their leader. They must be asking themselves by which wizardry the party in power won the elections.

It is now up to the members of the new government to roll up their sleeves and work for another win in 2015. Challenges are multiple and complex.

Good luck to you honourable members!  

 

S.K.R.

Curepipe

 

* * *

  “Liberté d’éxpréssion”… whose? 

 

The past week has seen an absolute panic among some people of the press and its sympathisers. Some have even gone as far as crying wolf! Dictatorship! Répréssion! Totalitarisme! By whom?

By those who happened to make history by being the first newspaper to boycott the activities of democratically elected parliamentarians?

By those who sabotaged the “prestation de serment” of newly elected MLA Pravind Jugnauth after winning the by-election last year?

By those who deliberately omit to report duly elected MLAs’ interventions during debates in Parliament?

By those who have been playing politics by a system of back seat driving? Those who have systematically been complimenting the ever so crippling parliamentary opposition in the form of an ailing MMM with its bunch of OAP’s still living in rumination and reminiscence?

By those who have consistently been giving the impression to have been “à la solde du secteur privé” and defending the interests of the “bailleurs de fonds” in any conflict opposing the government to the so-called ‘market’?

Those who have clearly attempted and miserably failed to spread reports not founded on facts during the recent electoral campaign; and later used the same fake reports to develop self prophesising analysis, opinions and prognosis?

A reading of our pre-independence history clearly flags up the pathological rhetoric employed by the NMU’s, and others in their ideological claim for intellectual and cultural superiority; according to them, all the rest could only be… just swear words! In this context, the term “le gnome de Belle Terre” tickles my memory from a not too remote past. Maybe some “Mahatma” may have a word or two to say about this!

There is also a conundrum from “ces messieurs de la presse” that needs to be clarified for some other uncultured individual like me: Why is it considered to be part of cultural and family values for some people to spend Christmas with their relations and friends in Australia, South Africa or even France whereas the Prime Minister becomes a “jouisseur” or a colonised-London-boy when he spends his Chrismas, still more offending, a White Christmas, with his in-laws in London?

The conflict between a government and the ‘market’ is nothing new. The ‘market’ will always tend to exaggerate its demands so as to maximise profits. The government’s duty is to draw parameters and make necessary regulations to restrict excessive ‘market’ aspirations. So, it is not that surprising that the some newspapermen react the way they do whenever there is a government/‘market’ conflict.

Very clearly, Navin Ramgoolam has not pleased them by not making an alliance with Bérenger to form the present government; they are not too happy either that Rama Sithanen could not stay on as Finance Minister; worse, it is Pravind Jugnauth who is the new man at the Ministry of Finance and he seems to share the same views on the economic situation and the appropriate monetary policy as the Governor of the Central Bank. They resent this coming-together of views in the Bheenick-Jugnauth case but it was anathema to them when Bheenick did not hold concurrent views on those subjects with the former Minister of Finance. The stances ‘à géométrie variable’ taken depending on who is in the chair should be well understood.

 

Vijay Ram

London

 

* * *

Mind Your Language
Jean and the English Tourists

 

Jean, the taxicab driver, drops an Italian couple at the St Géran hotel. Chatting with the security guard for a while, he hears a male voice calling him in an English accent. He turns round and spots Mr Smarty and his wife Betty.

Mr Smarty: Djan, don’t you remember us? We met at the Pamplemousses garden last year.

Jean: Yes, of course. I remember as if it was yesterday. Good morning, Madam, and Mr Smarty.

After a handshake and a good laugh, it was decided that Jean would come back the following morning to pick up the English tourists.

The next day, Jean, a very amiable and punctual fellow, is at the St Géran car park, at nine sharp. After breakfast, the Smarty couple gets into his cab.

Mr Smarty: Djan, today we would like to visit Curepipe and the extinct volcano of Trou aux Cerfs, another place called Le Val and the marine park at Blue Bay. Moreover, Djan, we would very much like to taste a typical Mauritian veg snack.

Jean: Sure thing, trust me.

Driving through different villages of Flacq and Moka districts, they reach Trou aux Cerfs in less than an hour. The Smarty’s cannot help marvelling at the valley surrounding the crater. After taking a few pictures, they make for the botanical garden and, thence, to the town centre.

Passing by the Monoprix supermarket, Jean notices some people queuing up at his favourite veg food stall, where three Indo-Mauritian ladies usually sell chapattis and different veg curries. Jean has a bite here each time he comes to Curepipe. And it is so cheap; only Rs15 for a chapatti and curry roll!

But Jean is having some difficulty explaining to Mr Smarty the type of fast food he wants them to taste. At last, he says, “Mr Smarty, would you and Mrs Betty like to taste something I myself love very much? It’s chapatti and Indian brède1 plus chutney.”

Mr Smarty: But Djan, how can one eat chapatti with bread? Both are bread, aren’t they?

Jean: No, Mr Smarty. Here, in Mauritius, we eat chapatti stuffed with steamed Indian, Chinese and many other brèdes. Let’s eat first, and then we’ll walk over to the market, where I’ll show you the different types of brèdes.

No sooner said than done; they are at the Curepipe market.

Jean: Here please, this uncle is selling all sorts of brèdes. This one is Indian brède, also known as brède malbar, that one is Chinese brède and, on the right, at the end of the shelf is Martin’s brède.

Mr Smarty: I see. So, every community has its own brède. Even the English have their Martin’s brède! Djan, if I were to go to Le Val on my own, how should I proceed?

Jean: Let’s get into the car and I’ll show you the way. Driving from Curepipe and going towards the airport, the first place we reach is Forest Side, precisely where we are now. Then, a couple of kilometres further, we’ll leave the main road and turn left to drive through a village called Midlands.

Mr Smarty: How strange! All these places bear English names.

Jean: Leaving Midlands, we’ll reach Banana.

Mr Smarty: We just saw plenty of them at the market.

Jean (laughing loudly): Yes, but this Banana is not an edible fruit. It’s the name of the village after which we’ll reach Le Val.

Mr Smarty: It’s a funny name for a village, though.

Very satisfied with their visit to Le Val and Blue Bay, the Smarty’s wish to go back to the hotel for shower and rest.

Mrs Smarty: Djan, couldn’t we go back to the hotel by a different route, so as to see other places. And would please name them, since I’m noting down all the place names in my diary.

Jean: Yes, madam, of course. We are now leaving Mahebourg and we’ll travel past several villages of the Southeast coastal area. But first, we’ll stop at Vieux Grand Port for a while, where we’ll visit the Dutch museum.

Having seen the relics of the Dutch settlement in the island, Jean resolves to drive to the hotel non-stop.

Jean: Mrs Betty, now we are driving through Big Sand followed by the next one — Small Sand. After that, we’ll reach Two Brothers and finally Four Sisters, with which ends the district of Grand Port.

Mr Smarty: What a coincidence! In England, we have a place called Seven Sisters.

They finally reach the St Géran, slightly exhausted due to the heat and the humidity of the costal area. Mr Smarty hands over two twenty pound notes to Jean, who says he would only charge Rs1,500 and nothing more.

Mr Smarty: Djan, I know this is slightly more than Rs1500. But, please take it.

Jean: Thank you, Mr Smarty. Thank you for the fare and also for the small tea2.

Bidding good-bye to his tourists, Jean leaves for home.

After their shower, the Smarty’s are relaxing in bed. Suddenly, Mrs Betty sits up with a jerk and says to her husband, “Darling, I’ve been thinking. Do you think Djan wanted us to invite him for a cup of tea? Poor man, he must have been as parched as we were after the long drive.”

Dr B Foogooa

 

1. A local edible green
2. A tip

  

* * *

 Une affaire d’élégance

 

Il espérait une reconnaissance internationale appuyée, pour l’exploit diplomatique qu’il estime avoir réalisé. Mais le voilà accusé de maladresses, et même sommé de se justifier. C’est une bien triste histoire que cette affaire du rôle joué par le président Abdoulaye Wade dans la libération de la Française Clotilde Reiss.

 

En faisant annoncer un peu trop précipitamment que c’est grâce à sa médiation que les autorités iraniennes ont accepté de rendre sa liberté à la jeune dame, le chef de l’Etat sénégalais a pris le risque de réduire à néant la bonne action qu’il a posée.

L’ancien Premier ministre, Moustapha Niasse, diplomate chevronné, a même parlé d’« inélégance ». Jugement sévère, que les griots du président mettent sur le compte des mesquineries d’un opposant « rancunier, aigri, aveuglé par la haine et la jalousie ». Et de conclure, sans rire, que « le succès retentissant de Me Wade dans cette médiation consacre le leadership mondial du chef de l’Etat sénégalais ».

 

S’il avait eu seulement douze heures de patience

 

Nicolas Sarkozy attendra d’avoir reçu Clotilde Reiss, avant de publier un communiqué dans lequel il remercie, en effet, Abdoulaye Wade, mais aussi le Brésilien Lula da Silva et le Syrien Bachir al-Assad. L’exploit revendiqué par le Sénégalais s’en trouve amoindri, le trophée devant être divisé par trois.

Il n’empêche. S’il avait eu seulement douze heures de patience, le président Wade aurait vu son image rehaussée par cette reconnaissance partielle de l’Elysée. Sa troublante précipitation à revendiquer les premiers rôles laisse la désagréable impression que sa médiation était motivée par des calculs trop personnels. Il se murmure, à Dakar, que le président Wade attendait de ses efforts davantage que la seule gratitude de la France.

Hélas ! Pour être une bonne action, la libération de Clotilde Reiss ne relève pas pour autant de l’exploit diplomatique de haute volée, susceptible d’impressionner, par exemple, le jury du prix Nobel de la Paix. Et s’il voulait à tout prix jouir, seul, de la gloire d’avoir réussi à rendre la Française à sa patrie, le président Wade aurait peut-être dû demander à son ami Mahmoud Ahmadinejad de faire publier par la République islamique d’Iran un communiqué lui rendant hommage pour son rôle de premier plan dans cette médiation. Cela aurait été moins inélégant, en effet.

En attendant, la cause du prix Nobel de la Paix serait perdue d’avance, parce que, nous dit-on, les petites prouesses diplomatiques n’ont aucun sens, lorsque, comme le président Wade, l’on a tant de mal à dialoguer avec ses propres opposants, dans son pays. L’élégance, on y revient toujours !

 

Jean-Baptiste Placca

MFI

 

* * * 

Coupe du monde/Afrique du Sud

Coup de balai ou Opération coup de poing ?

 

C’est un classique en amont des compétitions sportives d’envergure. En Afrique du Sud, une opération de nettoyage est en cours, en vue de la Coupe du monde de football le 11 juin. Des opérations coups de poings au cours desquelles on interpelle les mendiants. Des opérations dénoncées par plusieurs ONG sud-africaines.

 

Le coup d’envoi de la Coupe du monde en Afrique du Sud, c’est dans moins trois semaines, et dans la plupart des villes organisatrices, les équipes de police municipale mènent des opérations coups de poings au cours desquelles elles interpellent les mendiants, le plus souvent aux intersections situées sur les routes protocolaires, mais aussi dans les quartiers résidentiels et dans les quartiers des hôtels. Des opérations dénoncées par plusieurs ONG sud-africaines.

A Johannesburg, les mères seules qui font la manche leurs nourrissons sur les genoux, sont moins nombreuses aux feux rouge, les aveugles accompagnés aussi, comme s’ils avaient tous retrouvé la vue et gagné au loto.

 

Les lois locales bannissent la mendicité

 

« Le but n’est pas de cacher nos pauvres pendant le mondial », a indiqué le porte-parole de la police métropolitaine de Johannesburg, Wayne Minaar. « Il s’agit d’une campagne tolérance zéro mise en place certes en vue de la Coupe du monde, mais qui vise aussi les excès de vitesse et l’alcool au volant ».

Les lois locales bannissent la mendicité. Les contrevenants s’exposent à une peine maximale de 50 euros, soit la moitié du salaire minimum d’une femme de ménage. Les mendiants handicapés et les mères seules sont orientés vers des centres municipaux où ils peuvent manger et dormir.

« Leurs mouvements sont libres », répond Minaar aux responsables d’associations qui parlent, eux, de camps de concentration. Ces opérations coups de poing ont été recensées dans la plupart des villes qui accueilleront des matchs. Près du Cap, des centaines de personnes ont été déplacées. Il y a trois mois, elles résidaient dans un bidonville à proximité d’un stade où s’entraîneront les équipes de football durant le mondial.

 

Nicolas Champeaux
MFI

 

* * *

 

Etats-Unis/Finance

Le Sénat américain adopte la réforme de Wall Street

 

« On ne pourra plus parier avec votre argent. Le rodéo à Wall Street sera bientôt terminé. » C’est le chef de la majorité démocrate, Harry Reid, qui l’a dit après une étape importante franchie le 20 mai à Washington. Le Sénat a approuvé par 59 voix contre 39 une réforme du système de régulation financière présentée comme la priorité législative numéro un de Barack Obama. Des mesures qui auraient été d’un grand secours en septembre 2008.

 

« J’ai fait de l’adoption de la réforme de Wall Street une de mes priorités en tant que président, de sorte qu’une telle crise ne se reproduise plus », a déclaré le président des Etats-Unis, Barack Obama. Le texte de la réforme approuvé par le Sénat le 20 mai dernier reprend l’essentiel des réformes bancaires proposées il y a près d’un an par la Maison Blanche et le Trésor. Il s’agit en particulier de doter le pouvoir exécutif des moyens de saisir et de liquider un grand établissement financier, et ce de manière ordonnée. Ce qui aurait été d’un grand secours en septembre 2008.

 

Des produits dérivés moins lucratif pour les banques

 

Pour le président américain, les tentatives des lobbyistes pour empêcher la réforme ont échoué. Wall Street, où se tenait la pire séance en plus d’un an, a fini à -3,6% pour le Dow Jones et -4,1% pour le Nasdaq. Le projet de loi obligerait l’essentiel des produits dérivés à opérer dans le cadre de bourses organisées avec des chambres de compensation. Ce qui le rendrait plus transparent, moins risqué pour l’ensemble des participants mais moins lucratif pour les banques.

Un amendement particulièrement critiqué par Wall Street obligera les banques de dépôt à pratiquer leurs opérations de trading de produits dérivés dans des filiales distinctes dotées de leur propre capital. Par ailleurs, un nouveau bureau au sein de la Réserve fédérale des Etats-Unis, la FED, serait chargé de réglementer les services aux particuliers notamment en matière de prêts immobiliers et de cartes de crédit.

En revanche, les mesures de surveillance imposées aux fonds spéculatifs, les fameux hedge funds, semblent relativement peu contraignantes. La plupart des Républicains ont voté contre ce texte qui ne touche pas au statut de l’agence de refinancement hypothécaire Fanny Mae et Freddy Mac – qui a pourtant joué un rôle majeur dans la crise.

 

Pierre-Yves Dugua

MFI

 

 

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