Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By D. Mark
Since the Constitutional Proposals of the Secretary of State for the Colonies were made public, the inhabitants of Port Louis have had two occasions to give their verdict. In May last both the Mauritius Labour Party and the Parti Mauricien appealed to the people to vote on the issue of Proportional Representation. The Labour Party made a case in favour of Adult Suffrage and Responsible Government and their opponents used all possible tactics against this. The fear of Hindu Hegemony was made use of to the maximum. We still remember such stupid slogans as: “Restez Mauricien, Votez Mauricien” and if “Labour was returned, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi would replace that of Marie Reine de la Paix.” Labour won decisively. Then came the Municipal Elections. The same tactics were employed. The Parti Mauricien pleaded that Port Louis should remain the citadel of a “Mauricianisme intégral” about which we hear so much at election time. Port Louis, where the Hindus are in a minority, again voted Labour and gave the denial that the minorities were in danger.
Now comes the turn of the people of Moka-Flacq.
The late Mr Ackbar Gujadhur voted in favour of Proportional Representation and we would have liked to see another Gujadhur fighting the battle out. We regret none of them has decided to stand for election. Labour is again taking the Lennox-Boyd proposals to the electorate. There are only two candidates: Mr R. Balgobin and Mr R. Rey. Mr Balgobin is the nominee of the Labour Party. He represented that constituency from 1948 to 1953 and he did it well. We know where he stands and we are sure the electors of Moka-Flacq will return him to continue the fight for a better future.
On the day the municipal elections results were proclaimed, Mr Jules Koenig, the successful leader of the unsuccessful Parti Mauricien in his speech of thanks described the independent candidatures “candiddats fantaisistes”. Mr Robert Rey was present and we are surprised to hear that he is standing as an independent candidate in Moka-Flacq. His party is not apparently prepared to back him officially but we honestly feel that Mr Rey, instead of calling himself independent, liberal, etc., should tell us honestly that he is still a member of the Parti Mauricien at Port Louis and he would not, at any cost refuse to call himself “a member of the Parti Mauricien” outside Port Louis. We would like to know if Mr Rey is independent of the sugar estates in Moka-Flacq. We know that sugar estates are organising bara khana and sega parties to influence the electors.
Some people in this country are afraid or ashamed to call themselves Conservative. One of their preoccupations is to find a name that would attract the people towards them. They are perhaps convinced that the word “conservative” stinks. This is not true for this country alone. Major George Cornwallis-West, late stepfather of Sir Winston Chruchill had this to tell to the Tories of Bournemouth in 1949: “I believe, I honestly believe, that the Conservatives will not stand a chance at the next election unless they alter their name… unfortunately the words ‘Conservative’ and ‘Tory’ stink in the nostrils of a great many people, including the younger generation of the country. Why not call it the British or National Party”. — And the Tories lost the 1950 elections.
The News Chronicle in its leaders of 24 Jan 1950 wrote: “Conservative use of the liberal name has gone beyond the bounds even of election licence. To many the trick of fighting under false colours is transparent. These will not be taken in. But others may be confused, and where confusion is deliberately sown there is ground for public challenge.”
Two months ago Mr Robert Rey was a candidate of the Parti Mauricien at Port Louis. He found himself on the same platform as other leaders of that party who insulted the Hindus and their langoutis. Wives were threatened to be turned into widows and children orphans. Has he ever publicly condemned these threats and vituperations? If he did not, he could not remain true to himself and at the same time go to Moka-Flacq, shake hands with Hindu labourers in the fields and tell that he loves them all. Even now while he is canvassing for Hindu votes, his party has started a campaign of posters with such slogans as “Mauriciens, défendez vous enfants!, Mauriciens, sauvez votre patrimoine! Mauriciens, vous n’avez pas le droit d’être indifférents!“ etc, etc. He cannot deny that these posters are directed against the Hindus? Honestly we believe that as a loyal member of his party Mr Rey should carry those slogans with him to Moka-Flacq even if his party has decided not to take part officially in the by-election of 19th November, 1956.
Mr Rey ought to come out in his true colours. He should stop going to baitkas like a “pèlerin nocturne” and should meet the electorate in public meetings. He should not be afraid to reply to the following points in public meetings and in the press. He should place his programme for social and economic action before the electors and tell them in clear, unequivocal terms what his stand on the Proportional Representation issue is, whether he is in favour of Responsible Government elected on Adult Franchise. He should tell them that he is a member of the Parti Mauricien and agrees that the slogans on the posters are appropriate and timely and that the Hindus are really nationalist monsters who should be dreaded. As someone who stands solidly behind the Parti Mauricien, he should without fear of defeat, do all this before the day fixed for the poll.
The strength of the Labour Party must be increased. If the electors of Moka-Flacq had elected another Labour member in 1953 instead of the late Mr Gujadhur, Hon Bissoondoyal’s motion on the Police would have been carried and the Secretary of State’s proposals thrown out inspite of the three official ordered votes. They have now got an opportunity to redress that error and we are sure that they will do it. We appeal to them not to abstain but to go to the polling stations without fear and vote Labour without hesitation. When the Labour candidate is returned, the Labour Party will resume the fight for a more progressive Constitution with renewed vigour, leaving Mr Rey and Co. to ponder on the following words of Disraeli:
“Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for Antiquity, it offers no redress for the Present, and makes no preparation for the Future.”
Friday 2nd November 1956
* Published in print edition on 15 March 2019