Tolerating squatting on State lands 

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A First Point: Why do the authorities encourage illegal activities by certain persons? Or rather should I say why do the authorities not take proper legal action against those who act in contravention of the law? I am talking about squatters. We know that there are lots and lots of squatters on State lands as well as on private lands. We also know that the Minister of Housing and Lands is responsible to see to it that State lands remain free from encroachment and that squatters do not pitch their tent or their shack on any part of State lands. Quite a number of land surveyors and other officers have been detailed to look after the State lands. It is the duty of the surveyors to report any case of squatting to the Chief Surveyor and the latter must take the necessary measures to get the squatter to vacate.

If the squatter thinks that he has a stake or an interest in the land in question, he can go to Court and establish his rights. However, we know that squatters rarely challenge the Chief Land Surveyor.

We have said that there are many squatters all over the country. Therefore the question arises is whether surveyors report cases of squatting in areas falling under their responsibility? Are such reports made in writing in the appropriate the file/s of the ministry? If they do so, we assume the file/s must have gone to the administrators, then to the Permanent Secretary through the Chief Surveyor and eventually to the Minister. Who is the officer who has failed to take appropriate action?

Are all the persons mentioned above involved in an exercise of keeping quiet, of not taking action and of protecting the squatters or some of them? People say that there are squatters in the area of Grand Bay. What are the surveyors responsible for the area doing? If they have reported the matter, who has failed to take action to clear the State land?

And then there are squatters in and around Port Louis. We have been told that some landowners have become squatters because they want to get a piece of State property and this is the aim of all squatters. Why do we have a Ministry of Housing and Lands? I find it surprising that government takes the decision to “regularize” the situation of the squatters, that is give them a title to the lands they have illegally occupied. That is they are not only tolerated for being in an illegal situation, they are told that they were right in doing so. I think that Mauritius is the only country where squatting is not only tolerated by the authorities, the State goes one step further and makes a matter that is completely illegal to become legal with a stroke of the pen of the ministry.

Government is spending so much money on housing for so many supposedly poor people. I say supposedly poor people because many of those poor people can afford to have the latest model of everything, from television sets to all sorts of electronic gadgets, which members of the middle class can ill afford to purchase. And many of those supposedly poor people not only stay in the houses meant for the really poor, they also do not pay the rent/mortgage! Why is government tolerating such conduct? The genuinely poor must be helped; this is the duty of the government, but the others must be told that they should look after themselves and their family, otherwise they will have to answer to the authorities. But are the authorities willing to apply the law against them? I think not. And you cannot say that everybody is treated alike before the law in our blessed country.

 Stop this monkey business!

A Second Point: The human race is a funny lot. Human beings do not justify their conduct after critically thinking as to how they should act in any given circumstance but rather they justify their conduct after the event. Take the case of all those who are meat eaters, or rather as my friend calls them the devourers of corpses and cadavers. They eat the corpses and cadavers, sorry, the meat and then they justify that it is good to eat meat and that is why they do it.

And my friend’s reasoning is that if you eat one type of meat there can be nothing to prevent you from eating any other type of meat, be it the meat of the cow or the pig or of any human being for that matter. It is easy to say so but putting it in practice is a different matter. But I tend to agree that one type of meat is as good or as bad as any other type. Just as consuming one type of alcohol is as bad as another. And here I am talking of whisky, rum, wine, arrack, beer, tequila, local wine, rice wine, local spirits, our ti-lambic and the list goes on and on. Do not think that if you drink the very expensive drinks you are a better person than the one who partakes of ti-lambic, the effect is the same on all persons who drink alcoholic beverages, the behaviour is the same and both categories become like the lower animals…

I am talking about animals now. There is an organization called the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, otherwise known as the “BUAV”. The members are doing a very job and they need to be congratulated and encouraged in their venture. In so far as Mauritius is concerned, they are asking the authorities to stop exporting our monkeys for supposedly research purposes. The poor monkeys are captured from the wild, kept in cages and exported to foreign countries. All this is done in very cruel circumstances; those who are making money say that the monkeys are not captured from the forests but they are sort of domestic animals. But for me, the cruelty exercised on the monkeys is as heinous as that exercised on any human being. Or rather more heinous because a monkey cannot protest.

These poor animals are not defended by politicians because they cannot vote. It reminds me of the treatment meted out to the slaves, when these species of human beings were not recognized as full human beings and were treated as mere chattels. They had no right whatsoever and the slave masters had the power of life and death over those poor slaves. And slaves were bought and sold in the open market.

Hindus have always adhered to the belief that God exists in all creatures. Remember the Ramayana? Remember the acts and doings of Hanuman? Hanuman was a monkey. And yet, our government is made up of a majority of Hindus. And who has jurisdiction over the export of our monkeys? The Minister of Agro-Industries. So far as I know, a Hindu has always been holding the portfolio of Agriculture. So I am asking the question whether they are for the deliberate killing of our poor monkeys for monetary gains that accrue to some foreigners. Are they only concerned with a few rupees that the trade brings to the country?

Non-Hindus from other countries are concerned but our local Hindu politicians just do not care. We are against the policy that our monkeys are exported and killed for research purposes. We are against the killing or maiming animals of different species. The solution is in the hands of the government. Would they listen to the voice of reason?

* Published in print edition on 1 July 2011

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