Points to Ponder
BLS: an alternative to divisive communal representation
A First Point: All of a sudden Mauritians have again started talking about electoral reforms. Do we still need the best loser system (BLS) in our electoral process or should we scrap it altogether? The answer is simple. So long as Mauritians will remain communally minded, there is the need for the system. It has served us well for umpteen years. Why go for another system that may yield the same results but that will give rise to certain social problems and political unrest?
Some persons are keen to have Proportional Representation (PR) introduced in our political system. They seem not to be alive nor do they seem to care for the harm PR will cause to the entire system that we have practiced here. Many small and very small parties will spring up, thus causing further fragmentation of our society right, left and centre.
Different forms of PR exist and it is known that it has ushered in instability in many countries. Which form of PR will be introduced here? No precise details have been made public. Will the party leaders have an upper hand in the election of candidates who will be on the PR list? Will this not make the supposed Members of Parliament ‘redevables’ towards the party leaders rather than towards the electorate and their respective constituencies?
Is this the type of democracy that we want to practise? We have fought for a certain form of democracy and our elders have been dead against this pernicious system of proportion representation. It’s so easy to wax eloquent about the merits of PR, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. It’s only when a legitimately elected majority is overturned, thanks to the operation of PR, that our glorified politicians will realise the mess they would have created. Anybody can write convincingly about PR, but do inform us as to whether the system they are proposing for Mauritius has produced electoral and political outcomes to the satisfaction of the people elsewhere.
It seems that however much we try to keep the communal element away from the political system, it still manages to creep in. It cannot be avoided. What should be done in the circumstances? I will request the politicians to explore the idea of putting up a Senate, a Second Chamber composed of thirty members — 15 members of whom to be appointed by the Prime Minister, ten by the Leader of the Opposition and five independent senators by the President. In appointing the Senators, the parties will see to it that a balance is maintained in terms of communal representation.
All the Members of Parliament are elected, all the Senators are nominated and everybody would be satisfied except that that there is one question that still remains. Should Senators hold ministerial portfolios? Some people say that only elected Members of Parliament should have the privilege to serve the country as Ministers; others argue in favour of the appointment of say two or three Senators as ministers, especially to look after specific areas that require special skills.
At the end of the day, we have to think very carefully about the following: what would be more dangerous for the country — the abolition of the Best Loser System or the introduction of the PR?
Hinduism: gaining the correct perspective
A Second Point: Never write on matters that you have not studied or that are beyond your understanding. You are likely to make a fool of yourself and become the laughing stock of all who are around you. I am here referring to a piece published in one of our papers about Ganesh Chaturthi, which was celebrated a few days back. The author starts by stating that “l’hindouisme est une religion polythéiste, c’est-à-dire avec plusieurs dieux.” That shows total misunderstanding of the subject.
It is no secret that Hinduism is the oldest extant ‘religion’. One of its greatest exponents, whose teachings guide all Hindus to this day, was Adi Shankaracharya, and he lived about 1200 years ago.
The doors of Hinduism have been kept wide open for anyone, whatever his faith, who wish to draw inspiration from its teachings or to get acquainted with its tenets. You may study it, discuss it; if you want to follow it, you can do so as many others are doing all over the world, having made the effort to understand it properly, without any misinterpretations.
Anyone interested in Hinduism should read and study about it with an open mind, out of genuine interest and not with the idea of finding faults. Those who have approached Hinduism in this manner have found profound intellectual and philosophical satisfaction. This is the religion that will not expect you to stay away from any other religion, nor to refrain from taking part in any other religious ceremony. Freedom from any form of bondage, in particular freedom of thought, is the cornerstone of Hinduism.
Anyone is welcome to write about and on Hinduism, but there is a caveat — write what is correct, after checking at source if need be.
How safe is the food we eat?
A Third Point: Are our restaurants, especially what are called the Chinese restaurants, still making use of monosodium glutamate in their cuisine? I am putting this question because further studies have revealed that this chemical compound is one of the principal causes of cancer.
I know that this substance gives a very good flavour to the various dishes, it whets the appetite and at the same time it causes the consumers to drink a lot of water. But the problem concerns the side effects. People talk of the good flavour that it gives to the dishes but they are unaware of its unhealthy side.
What about the stand of the authorities? Do they accept that the substance is harmful to our health? This is a well known fact and the officers of the Ministry of Health cannot ignore it. What have they done so far? Why have they not banned the use, especially in the restaurants and other public eating places, of any dish that has been prepared with monosodium glutamate added? Or better still, the authorities must ban the import of such a substance because when the consumers become ill and fall prey to cancer, the State has the responsibility to look after those consumers.
Another matter relating to food: A few weeks ago, I wrote about genetically modified food crops and I drew the attention of the authorities of the bad effects of consuming genetically modified vegetables and other stuff. I am putting the question today. Is there a department in government that has the responsibility to monitor what are the vegetables that are sold in the markets that are produced from genetically modified material, as well as all seeds and items of food that are imported made from genetically modified items?
Recently some research has been conducted in France on genetically modified maize which was fed to mice and it was found that such genetically modified maize had the effect of causing cancer.
I am putting this question because many people would like to know whether the food that they consume comes from a genetically modified source, and they would prefer staying away from such food. The ball is now in the court of the authorities. Somebody in a ministry must have the responsibility of this matter. That person either knows what his responsibility is or he does not. If he does not, he must be called to account in the interest of the people. Can some Member of Parliament put a few questions on the subject to the Ministers concerned with the subjects so that we shall know what the authorities are doing?