Constitutional Reforms

MT 60 Yrs — 2nd YEAR NO. 46 – 24 June 1955

The long-awaited event has at last taken place. His Excellency the Governor has announced that he will take an eight-member delegation to London to discuss reforms of our Constitution. That delegation is supposed to be made up of the leading members of the main schools of thought.

Last Tuesday when the names of the delegates were given in Council Dr Millien raised the point that the delegates had not been chosen by the people and consequently the delegation was a misnomer. But the Hon. the Colonial Secretary disposed of the point by saying that such a narrow definition should be avoided.

Dr Millien’s objection leads us to the question: How far is the delegation representative?

* * *

In considering whether the delegation is representative or not, what should we bear in mind, community or interest?

At first sight some people will be inclined to deplore the absence of a Sino-Mauritian delegate. That would be viewing things from a purely communal angle.

Our feelings may lead us astray easily when it comes to safeguarding the prestige of our Community. By dragging in communal considerations we shall be heading for political suicide. The only criterion of representation is that of interest. Let a class or a school of thought be represented but not a community.

The Labour Party is fairly represented by Hon Dr Ramgoolam, Rozemont, Seeneevassen and Forget. That choice is clear-cut and there cannot be two opinions about it. The next group contains Hon Koenig, Sauzier, Mohamed and Dr Celestin. Of these Hon Koenig and Mohamed are members of the Parti Mauricien which will no doubt be the biggest rival of the Labour Party at the next General Elections. The Parti Mauricien must be happy for securing two delegates.

The presence of Hon Sauzier and Dr Celestin in the delegation may create the undesirable impression that they have been chosen to represent respectively the white and the coloured communities as such. And this will cause people to persist in thinking that the absence of a Sino-Mauritian is deplorable.

* * *

Everybody is naturally curious to know what kind of Constitution ours is going to be after the reform.

When James Johnson, “Member for Mauritius” in the House of Commons raised the question of constitutional changes in Parliament on the 26th of January, the debate revealed the nature of the proposals: 25 elected members and 12 nominated members – six of whom to be elected by the majority party. If that still holds good, all we are going to get is an increase in the number of members.

We find it hard to believe that the delegation will limit the constitutional issue to an increase of members. What about adult suffrage? And what about responsible government?

* * *

In the course of a debate in Parliament on Colonies last Tuesday, Mr Creech Jones, Minister who was in charge of colonial affairs in the Labour government, said that the desire of the British people was to see colonial territories achieving responsible government or independence. And Mr Hopkinson, Secretary of State for the Colonies spoke about the recent constitutional reforms in some colonies and concluded by saying that he was proud of the work done in the sphere.

The constitutional changes carried out in British colonial territories since the end of the Second World War up to December 1954 are as follows: During Labour Government: 27 and during Conservative Government: 19.

Under these circumstances, is there not every reason to expect an appreciable change of our Constitution?

Plus ca Change…

When NMU wrote his “Conclusions” last week we thought he would calm down. But he goes on fretting and fuming and crying Uncle!

“Le petit hebdomadaire à la fois hindou, subversif et communisant. The Mauritius Times ayant réussi à passer de la dimension d’une feuille de navet à celle d’une feuille de chou laisse éclater un orgueil triomphal ». That is how NMU begins his article, ‘L’Heure de Verité sonne’ in Le Cerneen of last Tuesday.

He had called us feuille de chou before and even now in his eyes we remain feuille de chou. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

NMU must have cursed Andre Masson on reading in Le Mauricien last Friday that he, Andre Masson, does not regard us a feuille de chou.

We have been wondering why NMU is favouring us with so much attention, feuille de chou that we are. His weakness for us is no less than that of a famishing grub for real green crunchy cabbage.

Georges Sylvain also focused attention on us last Saturday. Is it because he too considers us as a feuille de chou? And Hon Sauzier quoted Mauritius Times in Council last Tuesday. Is there anything to show that he quoted us with contempt?

But for NMU feuille de chou we were and feuille de chou we remain.

NMU goes on « Pour qu’on ne puisse plus dire qu’il (le Mauritius Times) est ‘ennuyeux comme la pluie’, les bruiteurs anonymes des coulisses de Nalanda essayent d’y mettre un peu d’orage. »

One would say that Le Cernéen knows no anonymity. Le Cernéen can have Ramses, Georges Sylvain, Jean Aymar but we cannot have Titan, Jesse or Cassandre. Any paper in the world can have unsigned editorials but our unsigned editorials are something strange, mysterious, anonymous! Why NMU cares so much for names and not for opinions is something we can’t understand.

But will he understand this wise saying of Confucius, he who looks upon things oriental with contempt: “Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean”?

When we read in Le Cernéen last Saturday the urgent question put to the P.R.O about the loan of materials, made to us by Government we could see that NMU had a headache. By Tuesday that headache had developed into a heartache. He laments: “le Secrétaire Colonial fait prêter par l’Imprimerie de l’Etat au Mauritius Times, ce qui manquait pour améliorer la présentation de ses libelles contre la Religion et l’ordre établi, que le Gouvernement oublie de défendre. »

Enough of misrepresentation, NMU, we have a loan of some spaces and quads (spacing materials) for a limited period. But are we the first in Mauritius to whom such help is given by Government? What is that silly outcry then? Why don’t you tell your readers about others who have received similar help?

“C’est dans le Mauritius Times lui-même que nous répondrons désormais en nous conformant strictement à la loi, aux propos qui nous concernent,” thunders NMU perhaps with a view to threatening us into submission. And he has written to us.

We welcome him. More than that. We feel honoured by his august presence among us – “les bruiteurs anonymes des coulisses de Nalanda”.

The feuille de chou will ever be At Home for the Directeur of “Un des plus modernes parmi les plus anciens journaux”. Without invoking the law, we too shall just as a matter of returning a compliment call on NMU if necessary. We are afraid he will then have to suffer our irritating presence…

You can see Mr NMU that ‘plus ça change, plus ce n’est pas le même chose’!


  • Published in print edition on 11 September 2015

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