Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago — 1st YEAR NO. 19 — SATURDAY – 18th December 1954
Comments and reffections on the Robertson Commission by Mr Marquand M.P., Dr Jagan and Mr Ibbotson
Mr Hilary A. Marquand, a Member of Parliament, who has recently returned from a visit to British Guiana writing in the Manchester Guardian Weekly of the 9th December says that if responsibility is to be attributed to one man for the present acute problems of British Guiana it must be laid at the door not of Dr Jagan but of Dr Giglioli of the World Health Organization.
P.P.P. Victoriy – Overpopulation and Under-Employment
Dr Giglioli carried out public health improvements on the great sugar estates and among the workers. He waged an effective war upon malaria, yellow fever and many other killing and debilitating diseases. The population in B.G. is now increasing by nearly 3 per cent per annum. Mr Marquand says that no less than 38 per cent of the population is under 15 years of age and schools are crammed to bursting. Mr Marquand asks: “How are these youngsters to be properly fed today by under-employed parents? How are they to live when they themselves begin to have children in a few years’ time? It was because the people could see no effective answer being given to these questions that they voted for the People’s Progressive Party in April 1953.”
P.P.P. Must Remain The Majority Party
Concerning the following paragraph of the report of the Robertson Commission which has been investigating in B. Guiana crisis: “So long as the present leadership and policies of the Peoples’ Progressive Party continue there is no way in which any real measure of self-government can be restored in British Guiana without the certainty that the country will again be subjected to constitutional crisis,” Mr Marquand comments that the declaration seems to assume that the P.P.P. must always remain the majority party and it leaves the initiative in their hands.
The Weddington Commission Did Not Assess The Strength Of The P.P.P.
Commenting the above paragraph of the report, Dr Cheddi Jagan, the deposed Prime Minister of British Giana writes in the Tribune of the 3rd December. “But it isn’t the “present leadership and policies” which was really bothering the Commission. That was there all the time. It was there at the time of the visit of the Waddington Constitution Commission in 1950-1951. The only difference is the assessment of public confidence in the People’s Progressive Party. The Waddington Commission did not have its nose to the ground. Assured that no party system would be fully developed in less than five to ten years, and assured that we would not win a majority at the general elections, it dared to give us a “liberal” constitution with a policy making Executive Council of 6 – 4 in favour of the elected members. Our phenomenal success at the April 1953, elections – with 18 out of 24 seats – clearly upset their time table. That was their mistake and cause for their exposure.”
The Robertson Commission’s Cautiousness
“The Robertson Commission, on the other hand,” continues Dr Jagan, “is not to be caught in the same trap. They have “sounded” the people. And they have found that, as a correspondent of THE TIMES observed we were “deeply entrenched” and our “influence has in no way diminished.” He added: “There is little doubt what the result of another General Election would be. The P.P.P. remains the only organised political body in the sugar estates and the villages. The New Party, the National Democratic Party has made little impact and is almost unknown in many places.”
Dr Jagan says that the Commission having found that the people’s confidence is still 100% behind the P.P.P. decided that the PPP would more likely contest rather than boycott any elections and after such elections, either (a) refuse to take their seats, or (b) with a majority refuse to elect Ministers and thus be obstructive or (c) elect Ministers and again provoke a constitutional crisis. So, the Commission decided to postpone the elections – and mark time.”
“What is there left to the people?” ask Dr Jagan. “Are they to follow the example of their imperialist masters and put guns in their own hands?”
“…The Robertson Commission is an exposure. But the exposure is of Britain’s hypocrisy about leading colonial peoples to self-government. Britain’s democracy for colonial people can have only one meaning – Colonists have a right to vote, but they must only vote for those whom their masters designate. Otherwise their right to vote will be suspended – suspended until such time as they change their mind, throw out their militant leaders and sacrifice their anti-imperialist policy.”
Events in B.G. have a lesson for Mauritius
Mr Peter Ibbotson’s reflexion on B.G. crisis is:
“Event in British Guiana, spotlighted again by the publication of the White paper on the suspension of the Constitution, have a lesson for Mauritius. The events show the necessity for unity of the working class people against the old-style imperialists. To prevent such unity, the imperialists raise the parrot-cry ‘Communist’; Lyttelton has proclaimed the new-style colonial doctrine: “Her Majesty’s Government will not tolerate the setting-up of a Communist state in the British Commonwealth.” Hence the enemies of political emancipation in Mauritius are attempting to smear the Labour Party with the Communist tarbrush, to discredit it in the eyes of Whitehall, so that any move to grant internal self-government to Mauritius may be blocked by groundless charges of the danger of Communism in the Indian Ocean. It is certain to be said, too, as it has been said of Cyprus, that Mauritius has a great strategic value – anything is good enough as long as it serves to prevent the emancipation of the people and to prolong their exploitation in the name of Mammon. And for the imperialists, anything will do to have the tag ‘communist’ fastened to it; wage demands, or protest against race discrimination, or struggle for better labour conditions. And even reading Nehru’s autobiography is Communist, in the eyes of blinded fanatics.
“Coupled with Colonial Office bungling in Cyprus and the refusal early this year to receive a deputation from Mauritius, the Robertson Commission’s findings are a gift to Soviet propagandists which use them as an example of British hypocrisy in talking of free elections.”
* Published in print edition on 19 December 2014