People’s voices are heeded only when they occupy the streets. The right to protest in large numbers should get into the political culture of the public
By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Any idea why MBC-TV international news is limited to cyclones in Japan or the Uber solution to traffic jams in Lagos? Nothing about a black-out on social upheavals in several countries, economic turmoil, likely hike in oil prices due to Middle-East tensions, urgent measures to counter climate change, threat of global slowdown and terrorist attacks in Paris, Afghanistan and England.
MBC’s failure to fulfil its duty as a public body to properly inform the public who pays for the running of the Corporation including the salaries of its management and staff is a matter of serious concern. Withholding significant news items from the public should be considered as an insult to the intelligence of Mauritians, a serious act of incompetence that should entail the dismissal of culprits. Selective news broadcast presumably dictated by the people at the top underestimates the public’s right to information and amounts to treating adults as ten-year-olds living in a delusional world of Alice in Wonderland.
What all governments, be they democratic or autocratic, dictatorships or kingdoms, fear most is youth uprisings in the streets and demands for change. Mauritius fits into the category of democratorship: a façade of all the trappings of democracy, national and local elections, supposedly independent institutions, dominated by a leadership with a feudal mindset dictating policies from above, lack of accountability and transparency, non-declaration of assets, arbitrary transfers of public officers, retaliatory measures, nepotism, millions of unaccounted sums in politicians’ hands and lavish lifestyle for families and cronies at public expense. Worse still, the plague of dynastic politics is propped up by seven families who feel entitled to a self-appointed uninterrupted legacy of political power to decide over the fate of the future of the people of Mauritius.
People’s voices are heeded only when they occupy the streets. The right to protest in large numbers should get into the political culture of the public. Why should young men and women demonstrate and what for?
There is a feeling of frustration among qualified young adults who find themselves in a paradoxical situation whereby they are given opportunities to study and gain practical experience in work placements in the fields of their choice. After the graduation ceremony, getting the right job and recognition for their skills and know-how becomes a nightmare because the work environment prevents them from fully deploying their talent and skills.
For instance, a young engineer in electro-technical field or robotics may end up doing a job much below his skill level after frustrating experiences in private firms where a less-qualified senior may obstruct his progress and an ethnic-biased secretary can file an unfavourable report and have him ousted. Private companies feel free to discriminate against anyone because for decades governments have failed to instil a culture of meritocracy in the country, let alone in the public sector. In this country, a failed SC candidate can get a government job at the CEB because his father is a senior employee there while a smart engineer is forced to take up a dull job while waiting for better days.
What a waste when skilled young adults develop a passion for new technology, renewable energy and Artificial Intelligence! What future for them in the country? Are there incentives to create innovative sectors akin to the firm planned by Ramesh Caussy where a pool of talented young engineers can use their skills and further technological progress?
“What a waste when skilled young adults develop a passion for new technology, renewable energy and Artificial Intelligence! What future for them in the country? Are there incentives to create innovative sectors akin to the firm planned by Ramesh Caussy where a pool of talented young engineers can use their skills and further technological progress?”
There are youngsters over here who believe in sharing knowledge and fostering progress. Unlike chartered accountants and the finance sector which draw other ambitious professionals, engineers’ motivation and commitment are geared towards the improvement of conditions in society and for the public in general. Engineers wake up in the morning to reflect about ways and means technology can bring solutions and change obsolete methods and know-how for the betterment of one and all.
It is in the general interest of the younger generation from all walks of society and work categories to demand the right opportunities for everyone with an open mindset so as to set the country on the road of modern progress. Societies cannot always live in the past with an outdated way of thinking. The older generation of politicians is unable to have any empathy and to imagine the needs of the population.
An individual’s need to develop physically, intellectually and emotionally
The Ministries of Sports and of Culture have been glaring failures. The lack of modern sport infrastructure is a crime committed against citizens. The Ministry of Sports has no idea of the modern trends in leisure and sports. Even small towns in Chennai have skateboarding tracks. Not in Mauritius. There is no infrastructure for skateboarding, a sport which young people are fond of worldwide. The old ways of seeing things probably expect people to play ping-pong and carom! Surfing has not been not developed and is therefore not accessible to a wider number of youngsters. With some imagination, district councils can figure out how to widen opportunities at Tamarin and Roche Noire, encourage competent coaches to open up and provide training. The fees charged are currently too high. Surely, there must be a means to set up a number of surfing clubs and raise funds to sponsor the sport. The natural facilities, which are indeed the blessings of the island, cannot be reserved for foreigners only and a small moneyed elite. Water ski is another sensational aqua gliding sport which needs to be promoted.
The lack of leisure for the young is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go on. Our youngsters are full of life and bubbling with energy. There is scarce nightlife, something different from work and sleep to look forward to occasionally. Life in the island can be made less monotonous and boring.
Succeeding governments here have had no clue about the meaning of culture. Their ignorance has deprived the public of avenues to arouse their curiosity and interest in different forms of Art, improve their sensitivity and humanity — hence, the wrong model shamelessly displayed by rulers marked by brutal and vulgar language, utter arrogance and cynicism and ultimately mimicked by citizens. There is a total lack of ambition to uplift the people culturally and intellectually. Uncultured politicians cannot go on ruling the country.
There is no platform for young people to express themselves. The national television operates like a control freak, a propaganda machine which selects guests whose opinions and ideas suit the governing body. No private local channels are allowed. It all results in muzzling speech, and the free flow of opinions and ideas. How long will the population put up with restrictions on what should be shown on the screen? There should be a culture of debate, discussion and free discourse. It is quite worrying to observe a lack of interest in local politics among the young. The rotten state of affairs puts them off.
Many young men and women aspire to live in dignity without bending their knees to incompetent authorities, without knocking at the doors of ministers for jobs or selling their principles to please corrupt individuals and join the ranks of sycophants. They have the right to aspire to a modern and conducive environment that will foster their mental and professional development. No solutions are to be expected from the same old political class which has captured power for decades. The advent of the metro is an example of the failure to deliver the goods 19 years ago, and has deprived citizens of modern public transportation for so many years. A real shame.
It is time to mark a turning point in the history of the country. Change is not brought to you on a platter. The onus is on the youths of Mauritius to make their voices heard with the support of the rest of the population.
* Published in print edition on 18 October 2019