Nothing good is achieved by staying out of the fray

Points to Ponder

By Lex


Why do we have an opposition in Parliament? Of course, to oppose the government. The opposition can also be viewed as the alternative government but this has to happen; to do this, it must show to the electorate that it has a better policy to give satisfaction to the people of the country. It must show that the measures that the government is taking are detrimental to the country and that the government’s policies should be what the opposition would have done had it been the government. It must convince the people that it will be a better government than the parties that are now in power.

The best place for such an exercise is Parliament but for this to happen the opposition must be in Parliament to take part in the debates. Here lies the problem. How can the population be convinced that the opposition has better ideas than the government unless it is told what those ideas are? The opposition has chosen to be absent when the Government Programme is being debated. Politically speaking, government has an easy task as it does not have to answer back to any opposition. And the opposition itself is responsible for such a situation. We must put the question as to what we must do in such circumstances when we do need an opposition.

Being absent from a debate or from a fight implies that you cannot answer to your opponent because you have no counter argument or you feel too weak or you do not care for those who have sent you in the ring. What do we least expect from our members of Parliament? That they attend Parliament regularly and take full part in all the debates to our satisfaction. And then, they also have to look after their constituencies and see to it that the problems over there are solved.

Government has to govern and it has been elected for a period of five years to do so. The opposition must respect these two conditions. But in Mauritius, as from the very next day (in a manner of speaking) after election results are out, the opposition starts asking for a fresh election. I do not know why it behaves so unpatriotically; it must learn the art of patience.

The politicians must also learn the art of politics, which implies that everybody who now claims to be a politician is not so. And I am here talking about politicians both in government and in the opposition. At times you feel disgusted when you watch the behaviour of these politicians or listen to their ideas or speeches. Some more grooming would have improved the situation.

So on this point, I will conclude by saying that the opposition politicians should behave responsibly, attend Parliament sittings fully and prepare their future. I know many of them consider themselves to be more intelligent than others, but I consider this to be far from the truth. I say that for a Member of Parliament, to be absent from the sittings has never been, is not, nor will be in the future a valid option. Nothing good is achieved by staying out of the fray.

Unemployment & Equal Opportunity

A SECOND POINT: Why is it that we have so many unemployed people in the country? We have been told that we have about 35,000 “chomeurs”. That is too much for a country like ours.

We are also told that we have around 30,000 foreigners who are gainfully employed in various sectors here. Maybe we need about a thousand foreigners to cater for the sectors where we do not have properly qualified persons and we need therefore those one thousand foreigners. Apart from that, we do have enough employment in the industries, in the construction sector, in the catering industry and in other sectors to employ 30,000 employees to replace the foreign workers. Why is it that we employ so many foreign workers despite having unemployed Mauritians?

We can understand that people do not generally get the work which they want, that they are qualified for some other job than the one that they are offered, but this is one of the risks of life. I remember so well that when I was young I was in the government service. In those days, there was real racial discrimination both in the private sector as well as in the public sector. In the course of my duties, I had to deal with the upper echelons of the big conglomerates, it is understood, of the private sector. All the employees, without a single exception, belonged to only one particular community. Literally no Indo-Mauritians were employed except at the very low levels, such as ‘pions’ or as “cooks. Indo-Mauritians of different religious callings could not even aspire to obtain a clerical job. Those were the days when certain people at the higher strata held sway by virtue of the status they had gained from their inherited wealth.

Now that we have the Equal Opportunity Act, we expect that all employment in the private sector will be open to everybody and that only the best qualified persons will be offered the job. But it seems that we are preaching in the desert. How many classical big private firms can say that they recruit the best qualified employees without regard to their ethnic belonging? It would be rare to come across such a one.

In the public sector, there are bodies like the Public Service Commission responsible for the recruitment, promotion and discipline of employees. Anybody who feels that he/she is the best qualified for recruitment or promotion to a job but that he/she has been passed over can approach the Courts and obtain justice. And now we have an additional safeguard in the form of the Equal Opportunity Commission. Fairness in the public sector has been provided for. The only problem that we have is that there is a total lack of discipline, an attitude of could-not-care-less and there are many employees who only look for the end of the month to get their pay packet.

The public service is overstaffed, the work output is relatively low in most cases and certain employees have become past masters at proving the correctness of Parkinson’s Law. The obvious case is about some doctors in the public hospitals and dispensaries. If people are angry with those doctors, it is not without reason. What is the Medical Council doing? How many doctors have been disciplined? How many have been dismissed for failing to comply with professional responsibility? No deterrence has come from this angle. Is government satisfied that all the supposed doctors who practise in Mauritius are really well qualified and are able to put into practice the ethics of their profession? Why is the government reluctant to conduct a test to find out the aptitude and the capacity of certain supposed doctors? Other countries do it and they get satisfaction after eliminating ninety per cent of foreign supposed doctors. Why should we not do as much? But the present situation shows that we cannot rely on our politicians now. Or can we?

People must not get me wrong. There are certain doctors practising in hospitals and dispensaries who are the best in their profession and they make us proud. They can match any professional anywhere in the world and we would like all our doctors to be in that category. But we cannot ask the impossible from them!

Taming the Prisons

A THIRD POINT: More and more violent crimes are perpetrated in the country and the reasons thereof are not far to seek. Some people do not want to earn their livelihood by hard work, others simply have a criminal streak and still others find the punishment for their activities to be too lenient or they take their punishment to be akin to a paid holiday.

If, with their soft policy, the authorities think that they would bring down the rate of violent crimes, they are completely mistaken. Just consider the number of men and women who have met their end at the hands of criminals, and you will be surprised. Are our politicians alive to this fact? Maybe they are waiting for people close to them to become victims of the like before they wake up from their slumber.

We have a Commissioner of Prisons who appears to be a softie. Increasingly, some categories of criminals are not scared to be sent to prison for crime committed. A prison should be a place where the most hardened criminals should be scared to set foot and therefore once they have been to prison, they will never again want to commit criminal offences. We expect the Commissioner of Prisons to drive this message to prisoners. He has to be a really hard taskmaster in the job to fully work up to his responsibility towards the wider society.

Some past prisoners commit criminal offences because they find life in prison to be easier for them than the life outside. Their families are given pensions while the prisoner is interned. Is this policy of the authorities compatible with the objective of bringing down crime in society? We are not quite sure.

What I fail to understand is the reason for which some of our politicians appear to be so understanding towards certain criminals when they should have been completely on the side of the victims. Does the bias in favour of criminals prove anything those politicians would be having in common with the criminals? Would any politician dare to answer this point? And would those criminals getting support from these quarters dare say that they have nothing in common with the politicians? We shall wait for and watch responses, if any, from both the politicians and the criminals on this point.

* Published in print edition on 18 May 2012

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