Anti-social behaviour can be deterred by employment, education and a sense of civics. Do all potential NHDC applicants from lowest income categories have these benefits? — ByNita Chicooree-Mercier
The recent incident concerning NHDC flats raises the question of land scarcity and overcrowdedness in towns. Town dwellers live on an average 200 square metre piece of land, which is not a luxury. House owners from the middle-class had a legitimate claim to a sports ground in the area. The promise made to them vanished into thin air.
Villagers and town dwellers living among people with different income brackets have been the norm traditionally. It is just natural. It only becomes an issue in a modern economic context of societal ills engendered by unemployment, idleness, drugs and violence. Anti-social behaviour can be deterred by employment, education and a sense of civics. Do all potential NHDC applicants from lowest income categories have these benefits? Though burglary, theft and violence do not occur only in cités, a concentration of socially underprivileged people is more likely to breed anti-social attitudes.
A concrete example is a small cité in Sottise in the vicinity of Grand Bay. A cluster of individual houses overlooks a nice landscape of greenery. In a few houses, extended families live off the old age pension of the grandparents. A number of them are unemployed and start the day with alcohol. Burglary and theft are commonplace, and the police is often called to settle disputes. Complainants are those who work every day. Neighbours’ children climb over the fence and steal. Motorcycles parked outside are damaged. Adults use foul language to refute allegations, racial slurs are thrown fearlessly. Life has become a hell for some people.
It all boils down to what people make of their lives and what sort of environment they contribute to create for fellow neighbours. The question is whether a sense of discipline and a work culture are widely instilled in the population. Or whether in the name of freedom and democracy everyone is considered responsible and mature enough to become a decent citizen. Unfortunately, the number of road accidents, or abusive unparliamentary language, for example, show that everyone is not responsible and mature. Laziness is rampant among different social classes. Free to be lazy and idle is an abuse of democracy and is a widespread scourge in rich countries which has gained ground here.
In this ‘mediocre island’, a compliment by a Mauritian writer to describe this place, it is almost taken for granted that the least mention of a racial bias verbally expressed can trigger unrest and riots. Clerics then meet ministers, X talks to Y, and next the PM makes a serious announcement on the air.
It seems that after 50 years of Independence, the same violent scenario goes on repeating if someone verbally hurts your religious or ethnic identity – this contrasts with the tacit acceptance of the hypocrisy that exists as a ground reality in terms of discrimination and ethnic preferences, reflecting the superficial image of a society which believes its own lies.
One cannot help concluding that politicians have for decades maintained a vote bank of illiterate and uneducated people deliberately so as to serve their policy of divide and rule and to whip up and stage protests. It is high time for a movement driven by both the authorities and clerics for the general upliftment and improvement of the backward masses so that they do not flare up and go ablaze at the least provocation. Otherwise, the ‘mediocre island’ will simply drive all the good people away.
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Recently, the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal hit headlines in international press. The local press quickly joined the chorus to voice their indignation against the American film producer. But strangely, no similar outrage has been expressed about the other sex scandal concerning a well-known figure, scholar and preacher of Egyptian origin, living in Switzerland, who has been a regular visitor in Mauritius, whereas it has received wide coverage in Europe. Weinstein used his authority and power to decide on the career of actresses, whereas the controversial scholar allegedly issued death threats if the women denounced him.
Ian Hamel, his biographer, reveals details of his career as an ‘academic’ who studied theology in Egypt and England, and wrote a thesis on his grandfather who founded a radical religious movement, presenting the latter as an ‘Egyptian Gandhi’. He has been denounced by women who went to seek his spiritual advice. At some point it is alleged that there was sexual assault followed by violence and insults.
In early November, allegations of sexual harassment came from four women who were his former pupils at the secondary school in Geneva where he used to teach. Besides, he has been known to stir up trouble in the suburbs in France among immigrants to whom he was allowed to preach. Former PM Manuel Valls holds him responsible for poisoning the minds of youths with radicalism and creating an anti-White, anti-French and anti-other religions in France.