Points to Ponder
Chagos and the International Court of Justice
A First Point: If an individual or a legal person goes against a provision of any specific law, that individual or that legal person is sued before the competent local Court of Justice. If an international legal provision is not respected by a State against any other State, the violating State can be sued before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. However, there is one condition before a case can be taken up by the International Court. And that condition is that both States must agree to submit the case before the Court and only then the International Court will have jurisdiction to hear it.
Let us take a living example of an obvious case. The case is about the so-called British Indian Ocean Territory, and everybody knows that such territory does not and cannot exist, legally speaking. It was supposedly created by the British by dividing the territory of Mauritius when Britain was the colonial power even though it had absolutely no right to do so. There are resolutions of the United Nations that specifically say that a colonial power has no right to dismantle a territory before it giving it its independence. This has been clearly specified and anything done against those resolutions would be illegal under international law.
But contrary to these resolutions, the British government went ahead and distracted part of the territory of Mauritius creating what they pleased to call the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT); they are sitting on it as if it were a territory inherited from their father or grandfather.
There are two important matters that have to be considered relating to the matter. The first is that the territory was created by the British simply to hand it over to the Americans for some alleged defence purposes. Defence of what, you will ask. I do not know, but I think that I have the feeling that in the beginning it was to defend the American idea of democracy and lately against international terrorism. What has Britain got to do with fighting for democracy and also against terrorism around the world? We know that Britain is a third-rate power, or it is on the way to becoming one, be it in the economic field, in defence or in any other field. The United States of America, its one-time colony, is far, far ahead of Britain, and it dictates all this latter’s policies. The four BRIC countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China look down upon such a third-rate country. In Europe, Germany and France are well ahead of Britain. And so also are Japan and Australia and others elsewhere. What is great about Britain except the word ‘Great’ in the name Great Britain? It looks to me that sooner or later, Scotland will go its own way, so also Wales and that part which is on the island of Ireland will join in with where its roots are. What will be left of Britain?
The second matter that has to be considered is that Britain has said that the BIOT will be returned to Mauritius when it will not be needed for defence purposes. And it has already returned two of the islands in the BIOT to the Seychelles when this country was given its independence. I have said that Britain should get out of the so-called BIOT and let Mauritius exercise all regal rights thereon as part of its territory.
If Mauritius decides to lease part of its territory to the United States, that is the business between Mauritius and the United States and Britain has nothing to do with any such transaction. It is simply trying to curry favour with the USA and nothing more. The United States knows full well that the supposed BIOT belongs to Mauritius but it still deals with the British for reasons best known to the Americans and the British. However, the Americans cannot expect to get any favour from us in the future because right now they are against us. I mean about the future use of the supposed BIOT.
But right now, Mauritius should find ways and means to get the British out and resume full sovereignty over the whole territory of our country.
Can we go to the International Court of Justice and wait for the ex-colonial power take the argument that it is not agreeable that the International Court hears the case? The British would not dare give their reasons, but we all know that they do not have a leg to stand on in that forum. They have simply created the BIOT to please the Americans and that’s that.
Or maybe Mauritius can think of going to the United Nations or to any of its subsidiary bodies, request for a debate and ask for the proper remedy when a member country acts against one of the resolutions voted in these organisations. Can this be done? Britain has breached one or even two specific resolutions of the United Nations, there must be remedies for such breaches. The United Nations cannot simply accept the British has acted contrary to the resolutions but there is no way to enforce the findings of that august body.
Mauritius is a small country, are the Mauritians supposed to engage the British in a real war to get back their territory? We know that the Americans will side with the British and on our side, well, we shall be alone. What can we do except appeal to the world bodies. However, we are conscious that “la loi du plus fort est toujours la meilleure”. Might is right, they say. Can we rely on friends? Or on the international institutions? I wonder, because in politics you rarely have friends. And the international institutions are always at the beck and call of those who are strong. How unfortunate!
Revive our African culture
A Second Point: Can anybody in Mauritius give me a definition of a Creole in the Mauritian context? I have talked to several persons and nobody has been able to give me a satisfactory reply. I have looked at the various Statutes, at the various judgments of the Courts but I have not had any help. I am talking of the Creole person and not of the Creole language. All references to ‘Creole’ persons in this article will refer exclusively Mauritians regarded as belonging to the Creole community.
Everybody accepts that Mauritian society is a very much divided society, though everyone in Mauritius has friends and acquaintances in every community, and we respect what the others stand for. But the fact remains that each of us belongs to one community and not to several. It is in this context that I am putting this question as to the meaning of the word Creole.
Hindus are not Creoles, otherwise every Mauritian will be called a Creole. The same reasoning should apply in so far as the Muslims are concerned. The Chinese also are not Creoles, though most of them are Christians and Buddhists at the same time. The Franco-Mauritians are Christians but not Creoles.
Do the Hindus and Muslims who embrace Christianity become Creoles? This is a difficult question to answer; some say that they become Creoles because the Hindus and the Muslims reject them from their respective communities. But many of these persons themselves say that they are not Creoles.
What about the Mulattoes? Are they Creoles? Non-Mulattoes say they are, the mulattoes say that they are not or at least some of them say so, whereas the others accept that they are Creoles.
What group of our population forms the Creole population? That is if we discount the above-mentioned groups. The Afro-Mauritians, for sure. The persons in this group say it loud and clear, for everybody to hear that they have a part of Africa in their psyche and their blood. They are proud of this fact and they show it.
Just as we have the Indo-Mauritians, the Sino-Mauritians and the Franco-Mauritians, we must have a distinct group called the Afro-Mauritians. This group must be empowered to start relations with the different African countries from where the ancestors of the Creoles came. And that was a long time ago. If there is no relationship, how can we celebrate our belonging to Africa?
What is Creole culture? It cannot only be the sega songs and the sega dance. These are only a very small part thereof. Real African culture is elsewhere. It is well known that a culture rests on a particular language and it is transmitted through that language. If the language is killed or made to die, the culture just vanishes. This is what happened to our African culture. The languages that supported the culture died because the African ancestors who were brought as slaves were discouraged to speak their language and they were looked not upon as human beings and their culture was laughed at. And so we can say that we barely have an African culture, barring the sega, and that also has been mixed with other cultures. Maybe in Rodrigues in certain regions they still preserve a little bit of African culture. So much the better.
The point I am trying to make is that we must revive our African culture. It is so rich in music and songs, in its religions and in its behaviour.. Without the real creoles taking the lead in the matter, we cannot make any headway, but they must be helped. They should never rely on those supposed Creoles who pay a lip-service to African culture whereas in fact they promote the European culture.
Promoting Bhojpuri culture in Mauritius
A Third Point: May I ask the Minister of Arts and Culture what is he doing to promote the Bhojpuri culture in Mauritius? There is no need for me to stress on this particular culture in the local context. Compare what it was in the fifties to what it has now become and you will be sure that it is on its deathbed. The Minister of Arts and Culture has been given the responsibility to promote Arts and Culture, that is Art in every form and all the different cultures that we have in the country. He has not been given the responsibility to see to it that the Bhojpuri culture disappears, and I am sure of it. But unfortunately, this is what is happening today and the Minister must bear the responsibility for such a sorry state of affairs.
For a culture to exist, the language that carries it must be currently used. We all remember, for having read in official documents and also in books, that at one time 70 to 80 per cent of the population were conversing in Bhojpuri. The Minister must tell us what is the percentage of the Mauritian population that is now conversant with Bhojpuri, why has the percentage sunk so low and what is the Minister doing to remedy the situation?
Why do two persons who are conversant with the Bhojpuri language speak another language when they are talking between themselves, and that other language is not their language and everybody seems to be satisfied with what is happening? What language does the Minister himself speak? What is his language, at least this much he can tell us? In his official capacity, as a Minister of the government, he must speak English, but does he do so? Or does he speak in his own language or some other language?
What is the Minister doing to encourage Mauritians of all cultures to speak Bhojpuri? Nothing, absolutely nothing; in other words, he is encouraging the language to die. Our radio and television programmes are worse than the programmes of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, if that is possible. If they, that is the Ministry and the MBC, will consider the population of Mauritius and the Bhojpuri Culture, at least more than 50% of the programmes should be in Bhojpuri. What percentage of the programmes are in Bhojpuri, both locally produced and imported? Not even 1%, I would say. Those people at the MBC know very well that they have to cater for all the communities and all the cultures. They must strike a fair balance between the various competing groups but this is not being done.
If the Minister is not doing his duty as he should, according to the various laws and regulations, then he must be somewhere else. In matters of Arts and Culture, he represents the government. If he cannot give satisfaction to the Bhojpuri-speaking group, it means that the government is tolerating him. Government must act in a fair and reasonable manner vis-à-vis all groups, and this includes the Bhojpuri-speaking group. A long time ago, I was under the impression that the various socio-cultural and religious groups will stand up for the Bhojpuri language. But over the years I have been disenchanted with all of them. And here I am specifically referring to the Arya Sabha and the Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation, etc. We cannot rely on them. They will not even dare discuss the subject at their committee meetings. Ask most parents, even the leaders of the organisations, what language they use at home with their children, you will be surprised with their answer.