Bravo Mauritius. Vox Populi has given its scathing and chastising verdict. There was unity, determination and single mindedness in the people’s vote across the country aimed at censuring and sanctioning the Labour-MMM alliance for endeavouring to undermine the foundations of our democracy and for their insidious intent to convert our vibrant democracy into a banana republic. It was a crushing victory of the people.
All those who voted fearlessly to make this historic day happen can be proud of their determinant role in saving and safeguarding our democracy and its unalienable core values shared by the multitude. The peaceful and disciplined manner the elections took place is yet again a testimony of the maturity of the electorate and the solid values which anchor our democracy.
All the daily ‘intox’ and brainwashing until the eve of elections about winning by an unrealizable 60-0, the indecent daily partisan propaganda on the publicly financed MBC TV and the multiplication of promises announced without any compunction or ethical restraint in the sensitive pre-election period, some of them with immediate or early harvest delivery, came out to be of no avail. The leaders of the Labour-MMM (LM) alliance thought that by horse-trading a power sharing alliance they would unite their electoral forces for a certain victory. As was the case for Blaise Compaore rooted to power for 27 years in Burkina Faso and still greedy for more, this was an enormous miscalculation.
There were many causative factors for the LM alliance’s resounding defeat. The two leaders of the LM alliance paid the supreme price of a rout at the polls for taking the electorate and the people of Mauritius for granted. For usurping the powers enshrined in the Constitution. For failing to consult the people on such radical changes to our Constitution and our electoral system. For the incumbent government’s poor track record in devising policy responses to alleviate the distress and hardships borne by the common man or to reverse the growth trend of a stagnating economy. The social media networks also played a key role. In their blind pursuit of power at the sunset of their respective political careers, the two leaders of the LM alliance totally miscued, in spite of their decades in politics, the electorate’s backlash to such transgressions.
The leitmotiv of unity of the nation was daily belied by the encouragement given to religious organisations to parade on national TV to give them support or the tailored speeches given blithely to pander to and canvass sectarian support. Republican values require that religion and politics remain separate. Unity of a nation is cemented on shared values, a bonding around a common national purpose and a level playing field with common rules providing equal chances for all. It cannot be grounded on a perpetual collage of communal or caste arbitrage.
Some of the arguments used during the campaign were disconcerting such as the PM roundly criticising his own past Cabinet ministers when they all functioned and defined policies under his stewardship or using the betting odds on the polls to claim a landslide victory while in the same breath announcing that the preliminary report on the enquiry on horse racing and MTC is damning.
The leaders of the LM alliance seemed so irremediably distanced from the ground reality of revolt of the people in the teeth of the crying evidence of a swelling multitude determined to sanction and teach them a lesson. On the day of the polls Berenger even invited the country to a big meeting to celebrate victory on Sunday next! The people resolutely refused to be hoodwinked by the shenanigans of the past year culminating in the conclusion of an alliance ‘contre nature’ driven by a relentless quest for power rather than an altruistic drive to strengthen our democracy and promote the interests of the people.
It was a lamentable misjudgement by two ageing politicians bent on realising their end of career ambitions of becoming President and Prime Minister respectively on the back of the people. Vox populi’s scathing verdict is also a strong warning to all those who dare tinker with our Constitution without seeking the people’s prior views and assent and who breach the contract of trust which underpins the delegation of the People’s power to the elected at general elections in a democracy for a specific mandate and a finite term of office.
The people verdict is also an unmistakable red card to Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Berenger as leaders of their parties and their cohort of sycophants who have been disavowed by vox populi. Should it not be a signal for them to step down to allow their respective parties to induct new blood and talent? In particular the Labour Party which has so markedly erred from the ideals and values of its founders needs a new leadership to reboot with the original ethos of the Party which is not a family heirloom but part of a respected and trusted international movement.
At this momentous and historic juncture of our political history, Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ) who became the anchor of the people’s revolt and backlash has a tremendous responsibility towards the electorate and the nation. There is a new hope in the country especially among the young for a sea change in our political ethos to re-establish the political ethics, values, ideals and sense of service to the nation of the founding fathers of our Independence. As an elder statesman who has nothing to prove and has the required stature and authority, he is cut to usher this necessary paradigm shift in our country to enable public governance to reconnect with the lofty benchmarks established by the stalwarts of our struggle for Independence as from the 1930s.
A lot has to be done to reform, overhaul and sharpen the export thrust of the economy, to uplift the standard of living and significantly improve the well being of the people. The challenges facing the new government are daunting. However, at the outset SAJ must set the tone for a new style of public governance by giving a few strong signals on the new approach for running the affairs of the State. These signals must establish fundamental rules and principles that will underpin his governance.
These should as stated in the programme of L’Alliance Lepep, include the rigorous application of the rule of meritocracy in both the public and private sectors. This should inter alia mean the induction of talented professionals with a proven track record in their field of expertise at the head of State Corporations and parastatal institutions or the appointment of career diplomats as Ambassadors in our foreign outposts to provide an added fillip to our economic diplomacy.
In a country which values and promotes excellence in academic achievements, our human capital is a prime asset of the country. It is therefore high time that we harness all this latent potential and stem their exodus to other lands, to help kick start through their innovative thinking and brain storming acumen transformational change to construct a fairer society and a more inclusive high income economy.
The concerns of the people must be at the centre of the social policy framework. This means taking cogent actions to tackle the problem of water, the distress afflicting the most vulnerable people in our society, the poor and the pensioners, introducing the safety net of a minimum salary to enable large swathes of people earning low salaries in principally the private sector to live with dignity and essential comfort against the backdrop of a constant erosion of their purchasing power.
There is also an urgent need, in the light of the important budget outlays involved, to review the Health services and the Education sector to assure a significantly improved, caring and people centric health service and convert our schools into vibrant centres of modern learning, of kinship through sports, the sharing of knowledge and the strengthening of nationhood through friendship and bonding.
As a priority SAJ must also urgently map out and establish a policy framework to address the abject state of inequalities in our society marked by the rich becoming much richer. In this context, the exacerbating concentration and ownership of land assets in the country must also be addressed through a cogent land reform policy. It is equally important that SAJ install through his policies and a caring ethos a new climate of trust between government and the people anchored on the paramount principle that the elected are at the service of all the people as one undivided nation.
Bravo Mauritius. Bravo to the Lepep Admirab of Mauritius. All those who voted against the LM Alliance can be proud to have been on the right side of history and made the right choice to safeguard the unalienable rights the people wrested at the time of Independence for their children and for future generations. This is the time for rejoicing but also of reconciliation of the nation towards the common goal of rebooting the country towards growth, social justice and a more equal society where the fruits of prosperity are more fairly and inclusively distributed.
Kautliya (370-283 BC), Professor of economics and political science at the world oldest recognized Takshashila (Taxila) University (600 BC-500 AD) and later the Chief Minister of Emperor Chandragupta codified the fundamental philosophy and rules governing the relationship between the ruler and the ruled in his political treatise Arthashastra. Its essence is summarised in the verse used as an epigragh: ‘‘In the happiness of his subjects lies his own happiness.” The people’s sanction at the general elections has aptly demonstrated the outcome of any transgression of this cardinal rule.
* Published in print edition on 12 December 2014