Points to Ponder

Jocelyn Grégoire: A man of the past 

A First Point: Those who read this paper regularly will surely remember that before the last general election, a man by the name of Jocelyn Grégoire, who is a Roman Catholic priest and, depending on the meaning of the word “politician”, is a politician as well, gathered around him a majority of electors of the Creole community. I am talking of Jocelyn Grégoire — the politician, not the priest. He started by saying that he would not give any call as to which party his followers must vote for. So far so good, but Jocelyn Grégoire had a different agenda. He organized a last meeting in the course of which he called upon the Creole electors to “vote ek ou lecoeur” (vote with your heart). The heart, as we all know, is the symbol of the MMM, and everybody could easily read into the “message” of Jocelyn Grégoire to the Creole electors. This directive was understood in two different ways. On the one hand, it brought the Creole electors, in their vast majority, to side with the MMM, and on the other hand, it caused most of the Hindu and Muslim electors to get together and vote for the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance. Those who are conversant with Mauritian politics were not surprised that the MMM lost the general election. All because of what Jocelyn Grégoire said and did.

It will be easy for Jocelyn Grégoire to say that he meant something else, that he never meant what people understood. He can say whatever he wants, people understood what he said and his followers did what he wanted them to do.

He now says that he has nothing against this or that political party. This reminds me of what used to happen in the past. A group of persons were supposedly with the Labour Party for 364 days of the year, on the 365th day, they switched over to and voted for the party which was against the Labour Party. That 365th day was election day.

Immediately after the general election, Jocelyn Grégoire left the country, leaving his followers to face the music alone. Now that things have calmed down, he is back and he says that he will hold meetings. According to me, he has joined the ranks of those who have brilliantly succeeded in putting our Creole countrymen into an economic and political gutter. He tried to be with them once, but he could not help them. He says that the greatest enemy of the Creole community is poverty. He acts as if he will take them out of the poverty in which they find themselves. He does not know how to do politics, yet he does it. I wonder if he has ever heard the saying “Chacun à son métier et les vaches seront bien gardées.”

Will he now petition this government for certain advantages for the Creoles knowing full well that he was on the opposing side, that is with the MMM for the general election? I would advise him to declare himself openly as being with the MMM till the next general election and show us what he can do for the Creole community himself in person and together with the MMM. But surprisingly, he is keeping very quiet since his return from the United States. Anyway, he must have the guts to assume responsibility for his acts and doings.

Jocelyn Grégoire must understand that in the government there are people who can defend the rights of people of all the communities very well indeed. He is doing a great disservice to the Creole community by getting involved in politics. He can limit himself to his priesthood and as a subsidiary, he can do some social service. He must stay away from things he does not understand. Of course he can become a journalist, for which, in Mauritius at least, no understanding is required; of course he must make as if he understands everything, from the most complicated subject to what a person means when he says something else. Most of our journalists are in this category, don’t you agree?

I was reading the interview that Henri Souchon the priest gave in one of the papers. A question was put to him concerning Jocelyn Grégoire. His answer was sans appel. He said that Jocelyn Grégoire is of the past. Point, à la ligne. How right he is! 

A Weightless MMM 

A Second Point: It is very surprising that we feel almost like we are living in a single-party country. We agree that there is a strong government made up of the Labour Party, the PMSD and the MSM and an opposition made up of the MMM, an erstwhile relatively strong party that made its weight felt. These days, the MMM seems weightless, waiting for a new lease of life. What has happened to the MMM of days gone by that it has had to make an alliance with the like of the UN, a mini-party of Ashock Jugnauth during the last general election?

The MMM started as a party of the extreme left; it was inspired by the political philosophy of the old days of the then Soviet Union, of Madagascar and of the Seychelles of those days. All those have countries have ditched their philosophy of old, but the MMM kept on to that philosophy till late.

Paul Bérenger and the other leaders of the MMM tried to lead Mauritians into believing that they were better than the leaders of the Labour Party. They succeeded up to a certain extent. But then the MMM leaders convinced themselves that they could easily fool anybody who rallied around the MMM since its inception. The MMM thereafter quietly adopted the policy that was being followed by the Labour Party, as if they had always followed such a policy. Even then, they could fool some people that they could do better in government than the Labour Party.

Who judges a government, or who can form a government, that that will give satisfaction to the majority of the people? Obviouly the electorate. Every time that the MMM loses a general election, it comes up with all sorts of excuses. It starts by saying that the Labour Party has used the communal card to win the election, but the MMM always forgets its own doing. For the last election, it has failed to mention that it benefited from the openly communal help that it received from Jocelyn Grégoire who had given a directive to his followers of the Front Creole Mauricien to vote with “le coeur”. And this made it easier for the MMM to lose the election. Only the MMM should benefit from the communal vote, others cannot and should not – that seems to be the reasoning of the MMM.

At long last, the MMM has found a subject to talk about. Alan Ganoo and Joe Lesjongard have discovered that government must build houses for those down the economic ladder, and they have found the finance necessary for the project. Take all the money accumulated in the Corporate Social Responsibility Fund, that is money contributed by the private sector and build houses.

But then what about the funds that are spent by the firms themselves? The State does not have any control of what the firms do in the circumstances. Does the MMM not think that some sectors will contribute to build houses whereas other firms will do what they want to do? And then what will happen to all the projects that are being implemented or are in the pipeline?

It is very easy to say how to give satisfaction to targeted groups when you are in the opposition, especially with money that does not belong to you, but I will say that they should look for some other sources of financing and above all they should work towards ensuring the election of a majority of theirs to sit in Parliament. In the meantime, the MMM should suggest measures that will be implemented with resources that have not been committed for other projects. 

Creole language and culture

A Third Point: I know that the Creole language ne fera pas long feu in our educational system. Those who will profit with the teaching of the Creole language in the schools would be the Hindus, Muslims and Sino-Mauritians, simply because the pupils of these communities are more motivated in their studies and the parents give all their attention to their children. Those who think that they are doing a service to the children of the Creoles in promoting the Creole language are mistaken. Creole language cannot be taught in the schools, or at least now, because there is no standard form of writing nor is there a proper grammar.

If the Minister of Education is that much interested, he should appoint a team of persons headed by a lexicographer to prepare a dictionary of the language. This team must give us the origin of every word used in the Creole language and their development over the years. Those dictionaries now existing, though prepared by well-meaning persons will not do. The team members can use whatever is presently available as a help for their proper work, but the members will have to do a specialist’s job.

There must be another team headed by a grammarian to come up with a proper grammar so that the pupils can understand what they are called upon to study. Should we follow closely what the French language dictates? As an example, should we say la tab? Or mo frère and mo soeur? Should not government appoint an organization like the Academie Francaise to look into this matter?

Using the Creole language as a medium of instruction in the classroom or to facilitate learning is a different matter. This has always been done, but has this been to the benefit of the Creole pupils? Definitely not. Formalising Creole will make it more difficult for the pupils. Those who are behind this idea are doing a disservice to the Creole community. This is akin to taking one step forward and five steps backward.

In so far as the Hindus and Muslims are concerned, they must be told in clear terms that their culture is transmitted in the language which supports their culture. This is accepted by all teachers who understand what they are called upon to teach, especially those who have some intelligence. And the more so, by all sociologists.

Creole culture is transmitted by the Creole language. If you will teach Hindu children the Creole language, they will learn a culture foreign to their own. If the Hindu parents agree that their culture be killed, then who am I to dispute this fact? If the Minister wants to do just that, that is his idea and he will have to accept the consequences, this is fair is it not?

I would ask the Minister of Education to discuss this matter of Creole in the school curriculum with independent specialists in the ministry itself, those who are not mesmerized by the ideas of the Minister and he will get good advice.

Let the Minister read, and of course ask his advisers to read as well, the research and the work undertaken by Bernstein and his colleagues on language especially relating to education. They can read what Olive Banks has written on the subject as well. And there are scores of learned authors whose works can help the country. I prefer to go by the opinions of persons who really know what they are talking and writing about.  

Mukeshwar Choonee’s Speech

A Fourth Point: I read what Mukeshwar Choonee is alleged to have said at a gathering of members of the Vaish community and others at d’Epinay. I am not judging him because I do not have a copy of what he has said in the original version. Both some private radio stations and some supposedly independent newspapers have been trying to make as if there is no more important news item but the alleged utterances of Minister Choonee.

What if Mukeshwar Choonee had said that Dr Navin Ramgoolam is, to start with, the Prime Minister of those who have made him the Prime Minister? It is very well to say that Navin Ramgoolam is the Prime Minister of all Mauritians, but there is the feeling that those who were against the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance are being pampered whilst those who did everything to get this alliance in power are being left to fend for themselves. If the government MPs believe that they can bring the MMM diehards to switch over to their side, they are very sadly mistaken. They should know that their own people, and I am using these words advisedly, will be by their side in times of need.


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