Points to Ponder
A First Point: At the general election all Labour Party agents knew what was happening, and I would like to refer to only two constituencies, namely constituencies nos. 4 and 8, for people to understand that everything was not being done according to the normal accepted standards. And that particular method of campaigning was replicated in some other constituencies. Labour Party agents will remember the numerous obstacles they had to overcome in order to get the Party’s candidates elected — this is no secret.
The cracks and fissures in the Labour Party-PMSD-MSM alliance are getting quite visible now especially with what has happened in the National Assembly last week. We all know what has been happening at the level of the various constituencies since the last general election or maybe from the time when the MSM was told of the number of tickets that it would get and the names of the candidates were circulated.
This caused some bitterness among the followers of the Labour Party. And such bitterness has continued to this day. Members of Parliament are not immune from such bitterness and what we witnessed in Parliament last week is but one facet of this sorry state of affairs and there may be others.
Let me quote three vivid examples of the thinking of the Labour Party supporters. They say that they have voted for the three candidates of the Alliance de l’Avenir but they are not getting satisfaction from the elected members. An elected MSM member says that he looks after the interests of the MSM followers and if the Labour Party followers have some problem, they should get in touch with their people. Then they go and talk to the Labour Party member who is really too weak as a Member of Parliament and he/she cannot help anybody. The third member says that he/she is from the Labour Party but is now very busy looking after the interests of just her community and those persons who have worked so hard for him/her get the impression that he/she will not be their candidate at the next general election.
The Labour Party followers feel as if they are political orphans and they do not know to whom to turn to. And they are saying that they will not vote for the Labour Party candidates at the next local government election; however, this does not mean that they will vote for the opposition candidates. They will simply abstain from voting and this will be very bad for the Labour Party.
Is the Labour Party prepared to listen to the Labourites in order to gauge their feelings about such and other matters? Maybe a team should be constituted for this specific purpose and the team should include Devah Virahswamy, Suren Dayal and Nita Deerpalsing. And they must start cracking immediately and they must demonstrate that they are willing to listen to the people – in other words they should not be doing the talking.
Now there is still time to mend fences between the Labour Party and the MSM and party members should be careful about how they behave with the electors. They cannot favour only persons from their own party; they should look after the interests of all those who campaigned on their behalf as well as the constituency’s as a whole.
Is there more to it than what appears on the surface? We do not know. The leaders should sit down and take stock.
L’affaire de “femme”
A Second Point: I had a hearty laugh last week. I never knew that our friend Soodhun had such a keen sense of humour. Or was it involuntary? I do not know. He called Rajesh Bhagwan a “femme”. Both are members of Parliament and for us spectators Rajesh Bhagwan is a male, a man, but we cannot know more than Soodhun.
There were protests not from Bhagwan, but rather from the women members of the House. They said that the word “femme” in the context used was insulting to the women. Rajesh Bhagwan did not protest again, which means that he did not mind being treated as a “femme”. What is sexist in calling Rajesh Bhagwan a “femme”? Now why did Showkatally Soodhun used the word “femme” to qualify Rajesh Bhagwan? He said that he was paying a compliment to his friend Rajesh, nothing more, nothing less. So, according to Showkatally Soodhun, there is nothing sexist or insulting in calling Rajesh Bhagwan “ene femme”.
I started daydreaming and I imagined Rajesh Bhagwan dressed up as a woman, which is not against any legal provision, but surely it is very funny. Just imagine Rajesh Bhagwan in a flowery mini-skirt or better still in a gorgeous sari with a matching blouse. Would he then pass off as a feminine beauty with all the necessary attributes? Or would people take him to be one of the real feminists who are out to put down all the males?
Who would say that our members of Parliaments are not endowed with a keen sense of humour? I have told you we have many jokers and clowns among our politicians. They are at least good enough to make us laugh from time to time, so why should we try to get rid of them?
A Third Point: Everybody in Mauritius claims to be a specialist in political matters, not only of local politics but also of international politics. You must listen to them talking about politics at home or at the workplace, in the bars, at the races or when watching a football match, en bas la boutique or wherever they happen to be — they will discourse as if they know everything on the subject. This is how Mauritians are and you cannot do anything about it.
Most talk of gutter politics, but some do have an intelligent conversation on the matter and this does not depend on the intelligence of the person doing the talking. At times you have some very intelligent persons who talk utter nonsense when it comes to politics and you also have some not very intelligent persons who make very sound political points.
Take the case of democracy. Every foreigner we come across tells us that we have a very good democratic set-up that is an example to all the African countries. We have general elections every five years, all persons qualified are entitled to vote and exercise their franchise and anybody who satisfies the legal criteria has the right to be a candidate. We have a very efficient Electoral Supervisory Commission, an independent police, and above all we have a strong and independent judiciary. And our elections are held in a fair and free manner. What more do the people want?
Only some Mauritians say that they are not satisfied. Why is that so? We do not know, and if you will ask me, neither do the very persons who say that they are not satisfied. Are they not satisfied with the type of democracy that we have here? I would ask them to give us their definition of the word democracy and maybe we can start a meaningful discussion.
I have heard some people saying that year in year out they see only Navin Ramgoolam, Paul Bérenger and, to a lesser extent, Pravind Jugnauth. Even if this were true, what prevents those persons to join politics and fight the elections after forming their party and campaigning day and night to convince the electors that they will form a more performing government that the Labour Party, the MMM or the MSM, either alone or in alliance. I do not think that our democracy will stand in their way and of this I am sure. Talking of politics is one thing, be it anywhere, and becoming a member of either the Labour Party or the MMM and getting involved in the political campaign is another. It is not given to any Tom, Dick or Harry to do that. All Mauritians are armchair politicians, but for such politicians to become Members of Parliament they have a very far distance to travel…
And then we have our womenfolk. They consider themselves as belonging to some different species. If such is really the case, let them form their own party, ask for a separate voting list and contest the elections. But they want to finish off the male of the species but expect these very males to help them achieve their aim. Or perhaps they want to finish off what the majority stands for. That is a very twisted reasoning to say the least.
We also have some trade unions leaders, many of whom I am told behave as if they are the owners of their unions. These trade union leaders seem to be en mal de publicité. Instead of doing their union work, they get involved in politics. Some of them are saying that they are waiting for a situation to develop like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya. We have a working democracy and any change, if ever, as wished for by the trade unionists can only be brought about through the ballot box. If you want to change the politicians or the political system, you have to wait for the next general election. If you can convince the majority and form the next government, then you have arrived — as people say.
* Published in print edition on 22 April 2011