The Ministry’s, not the Minister’s Policy

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A First Point: Now that the year is coming to a close it is time to make an assessment of the performance of our national politicians, both in the National Assembly and outside. The matter that has struck us most is the walk-out habit of the opposition that they engage in whenever they feel helpless and have no valid answer to the arguments of the government or because they do not like the face of some minister or even of some other member. By so doing, the opposition have shown their contempt of the august National Assembly. All members are elected to serve the Assembly and the people but those members have shown that they have scant respect for either. Is a walk-out a solution for any matter? That is a question that the MMM must answer as its members are considered by its supporters including the mainstream press to be specialists in all fields.

Besides, the members are paid to perform their duty of parliamentarians to the best of their ability and they are not paid to effect walk-outs. The members of the opposition set a bad example for the people of the country. They act like the workers in some private enterprise who are not paid their wages, but those workers usually have a valid reason to effect a walk-out, however, the opposition members have none whatever. And we must understand that the members of the National Assembly are paid handsomely compared to ordinary workers.

There are some very good members on the opposition benches, but we cannot say the same of the majority of them. If they continue on this trend, I am afraid they will not have a bright political future. So they should start thinking of an alternative career, where maybe they will meet a greater success.

On the government side also we find some very good parliamentarians, especially among the ministers. They mostly do their work to the satisfaction of the people, they study their files, they prepare the answers to the questions put to them and they take part in the debates and they make some telling points. While this applies to most ministers, sadly one or two of them are not that sharp, as they do not know what is in the file under review, either because they do not like studying files or because they do not understand the intricacies of politics or what the duties of a minister involve. At times I wonder who decides the policy matters of the ministry and who executes those policies.

Again I shall request all persons interested in politics, especially all ministers, to read the following books 1. Yes Minister, and 2. Yes Prime Minister. Both these books are well known works of fiction by Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay and published by the BBC and there is much to be learnt for politicians of every hue, especially ministers. They will know how they are bamboozled by the Civil Servants, making the ministers believe that in fact they, the ministers, decide on policy matters when the Civil Servants believe and practice the famous idea that the policy is the ministry’s policy and not the minister’s policy.

How many ministers do we have who can say that it is their policy that is being implemented and not the policy of the ministry, which in some cases has been going on for twenty years or more, whoever may have been the minister during all those years and whichever may have been the political party in power?

And then there is another book that the ministers are advised to read. And that book is “The British Cabinet” by John P. Mackintosh. This is a serious book and it prepares a future minister to be acquainted with the duties of a minister and even a seasoned minister must perforce consult the book regularly. All these books have as background the parliamentary system of governance that we practice.

Among the Junior Ministers and government backbenchers also we have some who are good and some who should never have been politicians. Maybe the time is not yet ripe to pronounce judgment on the performance of our politicians in Parliament, especially that they are now trying to show us what they are capable of doing and, equally frequently, not capable of doing. 

Whose land is it?

A Second Point: Olivier Bancoult and others have been saying that the British are preventing them to return to their country, the Chagos Archipelago. When they say their country I am a bit nonplussed. Do those people consider themselves as full-fledged Mauritians? Or do they consider themselves as British citizens? They have been given British passports, I am told. Or do they consider that they are part Mauritian and part British? Or do they consider themselves as citizens of the Chagos or of the so-called British Indian Ocean Territory?

I read in one of the papers that the Chagossians or their ancestors were staying on the territories because they had been taken there on contract by the company that had leased the islands from the Government of Mauritius or its predecessor in title, for the economic exploitation of the resources in and around them. They were simply workers on contract and everybody knows what the rights of such workers are. As somebody who knows the situation first-hand has said in one of the newspapers, those workers were employed there, they were given their periodical ration and they were residing in buildings or rather huts belonging to the company. Every now and then, those workers were brought back to Mauritius and they were so very happy that they were given the opportunity to visit the mainland. And of course, there was no money for the workers to spend as there was no trading in the islands. They used to depend for everything they needed on the company that was employing them.

All the lands on the islands belong to the State of Mauritius. If anybody wants to occupy any portion of land on those islands, permission must be obtained from the government, with the Ministry of Housing and Lands being the first point of call. This applies to citizens of Mauritius as well as to foreigners, with the procedure prescribed for foreigners being a good deal more complicated than that for nationals.

When Bancoult and others say that they want to go to their lands, I take it that they mean that they want just to visit the place where they used to stay and then return where they are resident or domiciled now, be it in Mauritius or in London. But they cannot claim that the land is theirs as if they are the owners thereof. According to me such persons are given too much importance when in fact they are not fighting for the interest of Mauritius. Maybe later on I shall revisit this point and I will then try to focus on the interest they are trying to defend.

The authorities must be careful in not allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry to declare that he is the owner of those lands. The lands are State lands and that’s that. The government is fighting against the British as it rightly considers that Britain is an illegal occupier, a squatter to put it bluntly and the Americans are misguided in leasing property from squatters. Britain must therefore vacate the so-called BIOT which it has created to satisfy the Americans.

Even the High Commissioner of Great Britain has said that the so-called BIOT shall be given back to Mauritius when it will not be needed for defence purposes. Who will decide that that territory is no longer needed for defence purposes by the Americans? The British and the Americans of course, which simply means that we are not ever likely to get back our land? What can we do when the world is ruled by the dictum “Might is Right”?

Why does Britain not get out of our territory and then we can talk to the Americans on our own terms? Surely the Americans would not want to be privy to the illegal acts of the British for such a long time… 

Independent journalists? 

A Third Point: All persons have a political agenda, some say that they are with the government, others say that they are with the opposition. But we must distinguish who are with the Labour Party, who with the PMSD and who with the MSM. We must also distinguish who are with the MMM, who with the Union Nationale of Ashock Jugnauth and who with the party of Madun Dulloo.

People generally know who follows which party. However, some persons declare they are independent of any party, and this we do not accept. Just point out one person who says that he is independent of any political party and we will show you a person who does not want to reveal the truth about his party affiliation and loyalty. We have individuals who switch their political loyalties, depending on their whims and fancies and also if they think some other political party would give them what they want. They are mostly the persons who help in the formation of a government.

But I do not understand the reasoning of certain journalists who declare themselves as independent journalists when it is known where their political loyalty lies. I do not know who they want to fool by such a declaration. It would have been better for them to come clean and say openly for which party they hold a brief. After all, it is not an offence for a journalist to defend a political party that is close to his or her heart. People will appreciate them better for their clear stand and for his sincerity.

But maybe there will be a problem in the relationship between the journalist and the owners of the paper for which the journalist works if he would declare that he defends a particular political party. It can very well be that the journalist, the editorial board and the owners of the paper are all on the same political wavelength, but for reasons we all know, neither the journalist nor the editorial board nor even the owners would say openly which party they really defend and support, because then maybe they will lose a lot of support from the public. So it is better for them to declare that they are independent journalists and newspapers as well as independent proprietors.

Why is it that in England the journalists and the newspapers declare themselves as defending a particular policy and the political parties adapt themselves to what the papers say? Or maybe the party and the newspaper are on the same wavelength. Everybody knows that the Daily Mirror supports the Labour Party and the Daily Telegraph supports the Conservative Party. It is well known by the English people that such is the situation and the journalists working for those papers owe no apology for the causes they defend. Why is it not possible for our journalists and our newspapers to emulate their British counterparts? 

Tailpiece of the year: “Where there are political parties each party finds the source of such evils in the fact that the opposing party, instead of itself, is at the helm of the State.” This quotation is from Karl Marx.

* Published in print edition on 30 December 2010

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