Points to Ponder
A First Point: Let us see what is happening on the political front in these opening days of year 2011. The National Assembly has gone on holidays but not the members. The ministers have to run their ministries and the backbenchers and the members of the opposition have to look after the various constituencies together with the ministers of course. The opposition is, as always, making very tall claims. Paul Bérenger is the first among the opposition members to have started with such a claim. He has said that the MMM is the best party in the country and that the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance has won the last election unfairly and the MMM could have challenged the results. But he added that he preferred not to do so for reasons known to him, maybe he does not trust our legal system.
We would like to ask Paul Bérenger and the other members of the party that if the MMM were really the best party, why is it that the party loses nearly all the national elections that are regularly organized in the country. The voting public decides and that public has decided that the Labour Party and its allies are the best and strongest party as opposed to the MMM and its allies. The MMM cannot and should not consider the Mauritian as being unaware of the real situation on the political front. The ordinary man can give a lesson or two to these tall claimants about politics.
Paul Bérenger has also said that the opposition is as important as the government in our system of governance. Some may agree with him, others not. But what we fail to understand is why the MMM goes through such difficulties simply to be in the government when the party should be satisfied with being in the opposition. The opposition does not have to satisfy anybody or any group; it has the political role to criticize the government for any measure that the government takes, whether good or bad. And the opposition members just have to inform those electors who ask whether they can solve any problem, that they cannot solve any problem, that they are in the opposition and it is not in their capacity to solve the problems in the constituencies. At best they can put some questions to the responsible ministers in the National Assembly and their job is done. They have the best roles in Parliament and this is accepted by everyone, including both members of the government and those of the opposition.
The MMM has always said that it loses the general election because the Labour Party and its allies spend an untold amount of money, apparently to buy the votes of the electors, organize their campaign on communal and racist lines and misuse the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation to influence electors.
Do Paul Bérenger and the MMM think that Mauritians are that stupid that they will sell their votes or they will fall for a communal argument? Paul Bérenger should look in his own direction first, analyze the voting pattern in constituencies like Stanley-Rose Hill, Beau Bassin-Petite Rivière and Port Louis-Grand Rivière North West. He must add this to what people like Jocelyn Grégoire and his ilk said just before the previous general election about which party the Creole electors should vote for. There are examples galore to be quoted, but for the moment let us rest here.
If Paul Bérenger and other members in the MMM have the evidence to support a case under the Representation of the People Act, they should not hesitate to seize the Supreme Court and if they can convince the Judges of the Supreme Court that a section of the Act has been breached, they will win their case. Otherwise, they should know what they must do.
The MMM says that it is very patriotic on the Chagos issue. But when it comes to taking a firm stand against the British, it chickens out. Navin Ramgoolam has decided to take the British to the International Tribunal on the Rights of the Sea because the British have created a fictitious zone to supposedly protect the sea around the supposed BIOT. It seems that the British are becoming a virtual people with a virtual territory known as the BIOT and a virtual supposedly marine protected area.
What does Paul Bérenger say about the case the Prime Minister is about to start against the British? He says that he supports the matter half-heartedly, which means to say that he does not support it whole-heartedly. Says a lot, does it not? He also says that he would have gone through a different route, but he says that he will not divulge what that other route is.
The Alliance de l’Avenir is going up in its popularity as judged from the opinion of the international institutions and other international bodies that judge the performance of the country, whereas we hear people talking of the loss of popularity of the MMM as is seen by all political observers in the country as well as by foreign observers who are conversant with our political landscape. Should we conclude that on the opposition side, we have some intellectually challenged members who are contributing to bring the party down in these difficult times?
We would like to have the MMM in our political landscape for a long time to come, but it must change its way of doing “politics”. It must stop this perception that it represents only the minority community, it must have a better presence in the majority community and, above all, it must be sincere with itself as well as with the people as a whole.
A Second Point: What lessons can we draw from the celebrations of the New Year? There has been an abuse of alcoholic drinks, especially among young and the teenagers. We all know that this situation prevails and repeats itself at the beginning of every year but nowadays it seems to be continuing throughout the year. We all know that alcoholic drinks are as bad as any drug, be it gandia (also known as marijuana) or cigarettes or other hard drugs. But alcoholic drinks are not considered and classified as drugs simply because adults consume them, be they from the political class, from the lower economic groups or from those considered as the middle class or from those considered rich. They all drink and they will never classify alcoholic drinks as drugs. People abuse alcoholic drinks but nobody would agree to an existence of an alcoholic problem.
What leads youngsters into developing such an alcohol problem? There is a combination of causes, but first is total absence of parental control. And parents fail to exercise such control over their young children because they themselves are heavy drunkards. How many adults can say that they are not drunkards? By drunkard I mean any person who consumes about two or three drinks three or four times per week, whatever that drink may be — wine, beer, rum, whisky, vodka, tequila or whatever. How can they tell their children that alcohol is bad for their health when they are drunkards themselves? On the contrary, they are the first to serve a drink to their children and they say cheers together. And they think that they are doing a service to the youngsters when in fact they are contributing to the destruction of their lives. And those same parents like to think that if their children will not take a drink, they are not in, they are not following the modern trend or they are not civilized enough. Shame on those parents! They should ask themselves if drinking is part of their culture, their civilization and their religion.
The second cause is that alcoholic drinks are easily available to all drunkards, whatever their age. Who is the shopkeeper or the manager of a supermarket who will refuse to sell to a willing purchaser a few bottles of wine or a few cans of beer or a bottle of rum or a bottle of whisky for that matter? Do you think that those traders will ask of the purchaser a copy of his birth certificate or other relevant document or would they be more concerned with their profit?
And the third cause concerns this funny idea that no party organized by the youngsters is a success unless alcoholic drinks are served as much as the participants can consume and at times more than they can take. You know how youngsters are, they try to prove that they are manlier than their friends and when they start thinking so, they commit many mistakes and errors for which they live to regret for a long time.
We know that some of the youngsters consume alcoholic drinks and at the same time they smoke cigarettes and at times ganja or marijuana. These youngsters have already taken the downward path in life and the main blame should fall on the parents.
Cigars for export
A Third Point: Cuba is known for many aspects of life, among others as a hard-line communist state, as a country that has a head of state who controls the affairs of the country for as long as we remember, and for its cigars. And we would like to say something on cigars and ask the authorities whether we can produce good quality hand-rolled cigars for export. We have always been against the smoking of cigarettes by our people as we consider cigarette smoking to be as harmful as consuming any drug like gandia or rum or whisky.
Those who can afford to smoke cigars, the price of which is rather high, I am told, can do so at a calculated risk to their health. Anyway, the local cigar smoker can afford to pay one of those modern clinics to look after his health. I am more interested in a local cigar industry which would employ a substantial number of workers as this industry is very labour-intensive.
We know that cigars and cigar smoking has a long history, beginning with the peoples in South and Central America and the Caribbean Islands. The habit was picked up by the sailors of Christopher Colombus and then it spread all over the world.
I do not know what varieties of tobacco we grow in Mauritius but I have been told that we have at least two of them. I do not know whether these varieties are suitable for producing cigars. But the people at the Ministry of Agriculture should know. However, if these two varieties do not make the best cigars, then the Ministry should tell us what the best tobacco varieties are for the purpose.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Industry should get together and prepare a plan for the production of cigars. Cigar has a very good market on all continents and I am sure that Mauritius has a bright future in producing good quality, heche a mano, rolled by hand cigars.
Government must always think of coming up with new and better products. The days of the ordinary cigarette seem to be numbered as cigarette smoking is attracting too much criticism from all sections of society, so why not switch to cigar smoking? And I am sure that we have a good market for a good product everywhere.
* Published in print edition on 14 January 2011