MPs: Representatives of Religion or of Electors?

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A FIRST POINT: Should a Member of Parliament vote according to his conscience or his religious belief or should he vote according to the opinion of his electors? We must keep in mind that a Member of Parliament represents the voice of the majority of people who have elected him; he represents them, he is not the porte-parole or the representative of whatever religion he follows or even of his conscience.

I have heard a lot about religious groups, mostly from the Roman Catholics, that members of Parliament must vote against the amendment of the Criminal Code. I do not think that MPs represent the Roman Catholic Church in Parliament; in our system, this cannot be. All MPs are elected by electors representing all the communities and faiths. However, if a member can claim that he has been elected by electors of only one community, so much the better for him. He can then work exclusively for the Roman Catholic Church and he can say so urbi et orbi.

What about our members of Parliament? Do they believe in democracy? Do they practice it as it should be practised? Do they understand all the implications? I wonder. Mauritius is still a secular state, at least since our independence. Thank God.

You must not bite the hands that has fed you

A SECOND POINT: On Friday last the politicians that are Sir Anerood Jugnauth and Paul Bérenger held a public meeting at La Louise in Quatre Bornes. This is a normal exercise in a democratic set up where the opposition criticizes the actions of the government. It is generally recognized that we practise a vibrant and living democracy and nobody can gainsay this fact.

During that meeting, Sir Anerood Jugnauth said certain things that cannot do any credit to him. We agree that freedom of speech is guaranteed by our Constitution provided the speaker does not go against any provision of the law. But we say that not everything that is legal is necessarily acceptable to society. What did Sir Anerood Jugnauth say?

According to a report in one of our dailies, he is alleged to have said “après le père, c’est au tour du fils de conduire le pays à la dérive.” Of course he meant Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who led the country to its independence, and Navin Ramgoolam who is now the Prime Minister. If he considers Navin Ramgoolam as his political adversary, that is his right to criticize him on the political front. But as far as the government’s performance is concerned, I consider that it has been doing reasonably well as compared with other countries.

England and so many other countries are already in recession but such is not the case here. Granted that we cannot match the 13% growth that the State of Bihar in India has shown, but we are certainly not in a situation of recession. Sir Anerood must take cognizance of the opinion of international experts – those of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and various other bodies. Let us be guided by their opinions.

I am not saying that Sir Anerood is a soothsayer but when he speaks of the future, I wonder!

If someone were to write the real economic history of the country between 1968 and 1975, especially if that person is a good economist and a good historian, then everything will be understood by all of us. We shall know the demagogy and lies that the MMM of the 70s propagated, how that party came up with an electoral programme but immediately after the election it changed course and adopted the programme of the Labour Party. But at the moment it is neither here nor there.

Maybe Sir Anerood Jugnauth has forgotten how much Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam helped him when Paul Bérenger had thrown him out of the MMM. It was Sir Seewoosagur who convinced the Labour Party to back Jugnauth’s MSM to retain power then and thereafter as well.

However each and everyone has his own sense of morality and we are not going to judge Sir Anerood according to the standard of some other politicians. Sir Seewoosagur has been accused of “conduire la pays à la dérive” — this can form part of a very interesting debate in a completely independent forum. I do not think that was the case under the prime ministership of Sir Seewoosagur. Let this be understood though: you must not bite the hands that has fed you in times of need.

Paul Bérenger talked on the ongoing saga surrounding the trafficking of Bois de Rose from Madagascar. It is not known when this trafficking started, but we are more or less sure that it has been going on since quite long. Who are the local persons involved? Whether they happen to be businessmen or politicians is a different matter.

The local police or the ICAC, in collaboration with the relevant authorities in Madagascar, could have conducted an inquiry to ascertain who are those involved in such illegal activities. But then if any member of the opposition happens to be one of the persons concerned, we are sure that the opposition will raise hell, saying that the ICAC or the police is working under the dictates of the government and that the inquiry is biased.

The government has taken the decision of calling for the expertise of the World Bank to conduct an enquiry in the transaction of the rose wood. Paul Bérenger is not happy with this decision of the government. In a different forum, he has questioned the capability of the World Bank to conduct such an enquiry. At the public meeting, he said that it is not business of the World Bank to conduct such an enquiry; he added that he will anyhow monitor matters related to the inquiry.

Should we read more in what Paul Bérenger said or should we stop at the literal meaning of his pronouncement? We must trust some persons at least. There are people who are independent of anybody, you must accept this. You must accept that most of the time you are wrong and you should not judge yourself. Let others judge you.


A THIRD POINT: Who does not gamble on the Loto in Mauritius? I am talking of people above the age of say fifteen. I have yet to come across such a person. We would like to know for each week the total sum of money that the organizers of the Loto receive, this is for a start. I know that the organizers have some expenses to meet, so we would like to know what are the expenses involved, as well as the profit they take on each draw.

Do the organizers clear their account every week? This will make good practice, except maybe for income tax purposes? We are putting this question because we do not understand one very serious matter. Suppose I gamble say two hundred rupees for next week’s draw. If the takings are to the tune of twenty five million rupees, I hear the organizers publicizing that they will add ten million on the winning numbers. Where do the additional ten million rupees come from? I am sure that they do not come from the pocket of the organizers. They collect more money than they pay to what the players should be entitled. This is most unfair to the gamblers.

If they will say that no one has drawn the correct six numbers, the sum is carried over for the next draw. Why do they not increase the amount that goes to those who have come up with five or four or three correct numbers? This week’s collection should be distributed to this week’s gamblers, and this makes sense.

Does the Ministry of Finance exercise some form of control on the takings, the expenses and on the sharing of the winnings? Why not publish the accounts every week so that all the gamblers would know where or in whose pockets their money goes.

* Published in print edition on 8 June 2012

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