Proportional Representation

MT 60 Yrs — 2nd Year No 55 – Friday 26 August 1955 —

When the parliamentary delegation left for London everybody was wondering what the non-Labour members were going to ask. It has been known since that Hon Koenig has pressed for Proportional Representation to safeguard the interests of the minority communities of the island.

Proportional Representation has consequently caught the imagination of the public and people are eager to know if it can safely be introduced in Mauritius.

By the trend of thoughts expressed around us we see that it is being generally understood that Proportional Representation and Communal Representation are one and the same thing. In fact, there is some difference between them. That is why, perhaps, Proportional Representation has been mentioned together with the qualification “sans avoir recours, toutefois, à la représentation communale”.

* * *

Communal Representation has been defined as “a method of ensuring that different communities in a country are represented in the national assembly. It is a question of reserved seats.

And what is Proportional Representation which is generally known as PR? We gather from the Report of the Royal Commission on Electoral systems (1910) that PR is an electoral system which works either through the Single Transferable Vote (STV) or the List System. We shall quote a few lines by way of explanation.

In the case of the Single Transferable Vote, constituencies return several members and the elector votes by a system known as the Alternative Vote: the voter has to arrange the candidates in order of his choice by placing figures 1, 2, 3 against their names. It has been said that very small minorities will not automatically secure representation by this method (if a constituency returns, say, five members, a group must exceed one-sixth of the voters to secure a representative).

As to the List System, candidates group themselves in lists, and the seats available are divided among these lists in proportion to the total numbers of votes obtained by their candidates. Regarding this system it has been remarked that, if introduced in plural societies, it would almost certainly encourage the tendency to create parties on strictly communal lines.

From this brief account of PR, it can be seen that it is both complicated and dangerous.

* * *

It is settled that PR does not automatically ensure minority representation. We should be glad to know how its supporters propose to make it work to their advantage.

One thing, however, is certain. It is being feared already that PR will encourage communalism. Andre Masson has sounded the alarm in Le Mauricien of 18th August. He concludes his article on PR with the following words: “N’est-ce pas un nouveau mythe proposé à notre culte? Au moment où l’île Maurice connaît l’époque certainement la moins stable de son histoire politique, une délégation reviendrait-elle de Londres avec le pire des importations; le Racisme choisi pour crible? Ce serait la reculer d’un demi-siècle au moins…”

Le Mauricien has devoted at least half a dozen “manchettes” lately to point out that the proposal of communal representation had been rejected in 1945 when Sir Donald Mackenzie Kennedy had come forward with it. Out of 29 members of all communities sitting on the Consultative Committee only 4 or 5 had been for it.

And now ten years later when there is talk of Proportional Representation it is evident that even members of the minority communities are against it.

Under these circumstances, will the Colonial Office be disposed to grant PR?

* * *

At the present stage of our political development, thinking on communal lines should not be encouraged. On the contrary, it should be done away with once and for all.

We are pleased to see that the attitude of non-Hindus towards Hindus is gradually changing. In Le Mauricien of 18th August, Andre Masson has acknowledged that the Hindu majority “a rendu d’immenses services au pays” and Dr Millien has said in the same issue: “La population indo-mauricienne est formée des citoyens paisibles et labourieux, dont le soucie très légitime est de s’assurer de leur bien-être et de l’avenir de leurs enfants, sur un pied d’égalité avec les autres communautés.”

If Hindus have done so much for the island and they are such good souls why should a league be formed to fight them en bloc? And why should strange things like PR be imported into Mauritian politics?

In a plural community like the Mauritian community some clash is bound to arise. But is that a reason why we should not have ideological parties rather than communal ones?

* * *

In Memoriam: Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath Tamankar

Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath Tamankar silently passed away on Sunday last at Mr Deepnarain Padaruth’s residence, 36 Etienne Pellereau Street, Port Louis, at the ripe age of 74.

Born In India in 1881 in a Marathi Brahmin family he acquired a sound college education. Besides his mother tongue and Hindi in which he had good command he knew Gujarati, English and some French.

In 1911 on recommendation of Mr Manilal Doctor, the Servant of India Society sent him in 1911, though not officially, to work for the uplift of the Indian immigrants of this colony.

A good speaker and a talented writer, he spent a lifetime writing, lecturing, discussing and advising on various subjects ranging from metaphysics to household problems.

He collaborated in the Oriental Gazette, Arya Patrika, Jagriti and in his last days he was the editor of Aryoday.

In 1936 Pandit Atmaram joined the Arya Paropkarni Sabha and since has served it either as office bearer or as Committee Member.

Pandit Atmaran will long be remembered and honoured for his contribution to the Hindi literature of this colony. Among his various writings, the most noteworthy are The History of Mauritius, God in Mauritius, Satyanarain Ki Katha, Shivajee, Laxmibai, Hindu Mauritius and several Hindi Readers. Some of his works are in Marathi and his last work: Truth At Last is in English.

Pandit Atmaram was a man of conviction. He can be best known by his writings.

(Mauritius Times – 26 August 1955)


* Published in print edition on 29 January 2016

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