Points to Ponder
A First Point: Politics as Mauritians understand it or, to be more precise, as Mauritians are made to understand it. Quite a long time, I was told or rather I was made to accept that Rajesh Bhagwan, the strong man of Constituency No. 20 and elected several times to Parliament, was the secretary general of the MMM. But recently, I read in one of the papers that it was not Rajesh Bhagwan who was the secretary general of the party but Steve Obeegadoo. I have the feeling that Steve Obeegadoo is being groomed to take over the post of leader of the MMM eventually. It cannot be done now as the MMM has as its leader in the person of the remaining party-founder Paul Bérenger (the other two have been got rid of and completely forgotten). And Paul Bérenger himself has said that when the time is ripe, a new leader will be chosen. But for me, Paul Bérenger is the MMM and the MMM is Paul Bérenger.
Can the MMM exist without Paul Bérenger? As of now, I shall say that we cannot think or imagine of the MMM without Paul Bérenger. I will not be surprised that the party will fade out of existence slowly without the present leader. It looks so, this is a historical fact. Can you imagine the Independent Forward Block (the IFB) surviving the passing away of the founder of that party, Sookdeo Bissoondoyal? He was a good man, a good politician, but those who were around him could not keep the party alive after he was gone. Unfortunately, it looks like the MMM will suffer the same fate. I cannot see anybody who can aspire to take over; no one fits the bill. You cannot create a leader out of nothing — if you understand what I mean. Anyway, Paul Bérenger has said that a new leader will be chosen when the time will come.
The leader of the MMM has also said that there is no “rapprochement” between the Labour Party and the MMM. Nobody has said anything about any “rapprochement” whatsoever between the Labour Party and the MMM, nor with any other party whatsoever. I have just heard of such an eventuality from Paul Bérenger himself, though in the negative. Maybe the MMM is hoping for a “rapprochement”, an alliance that is with the Labour Party, and this can only happen if the MSM is out of the government as well as the PMSD. But there is no question of the MSM or of the PMSD leaving the government. Some people should not take their dreams for the real thing.
It seems that there is no such thing as a relationship these days between the MMM and the UN, that is the Union Nationale of Ashock Jugnauth. Paul Bérenger never mentions his electoral partner at any moment and Ashock Jugnauth also is totally absent from the political happenings in the country. I wonder whether he is still present in the political field. Or is he finally totally disillusioned with politics and politicians?
Creole elite against Kreol at school
A Second Point: One can occasionally hear of some very funny happenings that occur around us. The latest one is that the Creole community does not want to have Kreol to be introduced in the schools neither as a language nor as a medium of instruction. This is being said by the elite in the General Population.
I can say that the Mauritians of Asian origin are not concerned with the Creole language either as a language or as a medium of instruction. But if it forced upon their children by being introduced in the curriculum, I am sure that these children will do well in this language also. For them, studying languages has never been a problem. They will learn whatever they are asked to or made to. Whatever negative effects there may be only become apparent later.
But the immediate problem with learning Kreol would be, not only for the pupils of Asian origin but for all the pupils of the country, to read and write proper French. Creole is a derivative of French, a dialect that is written in so many different ways that nobody will be able to do a dictation that will pass any test. The Creole words are French in origin and pupils would have the tendency to write the French words as those words are written in Creole — that is they are written as they are pronounced. So also speaking French, the pupils will speak a ‘sophisticated’ Creole and they will think that they are speaking French. By the way, most Mauritians who think they speak French are neither here nor there. I will tell them that they should learn from the West Africans how good grammatical French should be spoken.
Maybe the pupils would not have much difficulty in so far as the English language is concerned. The Creole language has nothing to do with the English language; it cannot influence the latter language which will still be a completely foreign language for the pupils.
I have been informed that the Ministry of Education had appointed a group of high officials to find out whether Creole should be introduced either as a language or as a teaching medium, and that group recommended, unanimously, that this should not be done at all. However, some time later, those officials were called back, this time to be simply informed that that the ministry had decided to introduce the language in the school system as a matter of policy. The officials could not protest nor could they resign from their respective posts.
I believe that Creole is a nice dialect to speak, but people should be encouraged to speak their mother tongue as much as possible. I have in mind the Bhojpuri language and the other Indian languages.
By the way, what is Vasant Bunwaree doing in so far as introducing Bhojpuri in our schools both as a language and as a medium of instruction? He has talked a lot about it but in so far as action is concerned, we believe he is lagging behind many others. He should remember that five years would soon be up.
A multi-disciplinary permanent committee to examine certain major issues
A Third Point: I am of the opinion that government should think of setting up a multi-disciplinary permanent committee to examine certain major issues that the country is facing or will be facing in the future. The committee may co-opt the technical heads of the ministry that is concerned with a particular issue that it is going to examine.
Such a committee has to be made up of experienced people, of professionals in different disciplines, of well-qualified professionals, of persons who understand politics and who are prepared to work in a team. Perforce such a committee will have to be appointed by the government of the day and it will report to the Prime Minister.
Let us take an example of what the committee can be called upon to inquire into. An important question is whether there is a mismatch between our education sector and the job market. The ministries concerned would be the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Employment. The technical heads of these two ministries can be co-opted on the committee and the committee can enquire and find out what the situation is and the report will be communicated to the Prime Minister.
Another example would be our water sector. The committee may be asked to inquire into the overall complaints concerning our water sector and the reasons therefor, how much water is produced, how much water reaches the consumers and how much is lost, and the reason for the loss. But more importantly, it should inquire into the total volume of water that we shall be needing in future, for domestic use, for agricultural use, for industrial use as well as for other uses. The question may be examined whether we shall have enough water in the future to satisfy the various competitive demands, how this can be done, if not to how the available water shall be apportioned.
Government will thus have the much needed information that will make it a little bit easier for the authorities to take a proper decision. Of course the Prime Minister will have a look at the report of the committee before giving it to the Minister concerned who will take the best decision in the matter. The members of the committee should not be influenced to act in a particular way, they should just inquire on a specific matter and state their factual findings; they should be bound by the terms of what they are called upon to do.
The findings of such a committee will surely help the Ministers as well as the government. More so, the Ministers can have relevant facts to motivate their decisions. Can the government give some thought to this proposition?
Fiji. No, thank you!
A Fourth Point: Let us see what is happening in Fiji these days. The Fiji Times so far owned by the group News Ltd, is supposed to be the best newspaper in that country and it has been published without interruption for the past 141 years. It has just changed hands. The Motibhai group, headed by Mahendra Patel, has now purchased the Fiji Times which looks like going from strength to strength. Many people over there feel that they have not started their day if they have not had a look at their Fiji Times.
Some politics in Fiji now: Our readers surely remember that a few years back, the Prime Minister of Fiji was Mahendra Chaudhry, duly elected in election that was held according to the democratic set-up under the Constitution. But the army controlled by the native Fijians staged a military coup in the course of which Mahendra Chaudhry was deposed and since then, the country is under the dictatorship of the army. All laws have been suspended, and that includes the Constitution and the country is being governed by decrees, and the people have no choice but obey the army.
There is a severe drought over there and the planters, made up of mostly Indo-Fijians, are suffering the most, because most of the farmers are in fact Indo-Fijians. Mahendra Chaudhry, who is the political leader of the Indo-Fijian community, was visiting the planters in one of the countryside areas to find out the effect of the drought.
The police did not appreciate what Mahendra Chaudhry was doing and proceeded to arrest him as well as three other persons. They were kept in police custody without any explanation for three or four days, at the end of which all four persons were charged with the offence of taking part in an unlawful assembly. They were presented to a Magistrate who released them after they furnished bail.
People in Fiji are calling for proper elections to be held in the country, for restoration of democracy, for proper institutions and laws and for the army to give back the political power to the people. But those who have usurped power through a military coup are not interested in election or the rule of law or allowing the common man to have political power. Even the international institutions like the United Nations have not had any influence on the coup leaders. This begs the question as to the real powers of the United Nations, or rather whether the institution has any real power and if it has, why it does not use it? If you have powers and you do not use them when the need is felt, it is as if you do not have the powers.
We are thankful that we are in a really democratic country, where people are free to criticize the government or any institution or corporation to their hearts’ content for any fanciful reason. They do it mostly for communal reasons, simply because their group is not leading the government. Those people, at some time in the past, were very close to the persons holding power in Madagascar and they were following very closely how the country was being governed. Thank God they were not given the opportunity, otherwise we would have been in the same political and economic situation as Madagascar and maybe we would have had to witness what happened in Fiji.
Mauritius at the Commonwealth Games
A Fifth Point: The Commonwealth Games has started in New Delhi and the opening was simply marvellous. We agree that the Indians were somewhat late with the preparation of the infrastructure and they had to put in extra efforts to be ready by the scheduled date. Fortunately, they were ready by the date of opening and things went on very nicely.
Mauritius has sent a very good team and our only wish is we can get some medals. A relative of mine who practises his profession in the United Kingdom rang me up the other day and obviously we started talking about the chances of our team winning some medals. I told him that I can envisage our team bringing three gold medals, eight silver and about fifteen bronze. He started laughing very loudly but I told him that my teacher of the old days used to say “when you aim, aim high”. This is what I am doing.
You see, people say that in sports what matters is participating, not whether you win or lose. For me, this is simply crap, and I do not believe in such crap. If you take part in any competition, whether it is a sporting event or in any matter whatsoever, you must put your sights on winning. Otherwise, there is no point in participating. Do not believe those persons who say that participating is what matters — not winning or losing. They are the losers. You must participate and win; this is my message to our people who have gone to participate. I will not go to the extent of telling them: ‘Do not come back if you do not bring an adequate number of medals.’ I will leave it to others to say it.