By Nobel P. Loser
“As a society, I still believe our fundamentals are strong. But what Mauritius would look like in 2036? What we do now as a nation will shape and reflect on us as a country in 2036. Contrary to Valentine’s Day, democracy can’t survive on fresh water and love alone. It’s about people. It’s also about politics and policies. It’s about the economy. It’s about justice and social justice. It’s about NGOs. It’s about civil society. What will be LP’s contribution in these different fields till 2036? And the contribution of Mauritians?”
What has been Labour Party’s contribution in the life of Mauritius as the party celebrates its 75 years. This letter to my daughter explains this. She will be thirteen some time this year. Through her this letter is also addressed to all Mauritians of her age. I do this now before the propaganda machine unfurls itself; which for sure may bring chaos and confusion in her tender mind.
At the time of LP’s birth, and the four decades that separate this event to Freedom Day in March 1968, the common man of this country had to survive under very extreme and almost inhuman conditions. Justice, let alone social justice, had no meaning then and it was denied to the masses and downtrodden; labour laws or industrial laws, for those who claim they existed, reflected the voice and power of the powerful; labour unrest was dealt with fiercely, even at the cost of death and blood; the powerful had all the means and privileges to bargain for their own continued prosperity which by all means had to prosper unhindered; human indignity was the reward paid to the downtrodden for their sweat and tears and sometimes blood.
Life then, my daughter, was a daily and continuous sequence of deprivation and humiliation. On the shelves of your Dad’s study room, there are strings of books, documents and papers that tell the shameful history of human beings made of flesh and blood. Many others are available at the National Library. I hope you find time to get acquainted with History. A good understanding of History is as important as the food you eat.
And reading, my dear, is the best medicine to fight ignorance; and please, don’t restrict your childhood and adolescence to school books, necessary though they may be for your academic journey, as they are largely insufficient to mould your character and being; beliefs and values; principles and ethics. As you grow, even after your academic journey, it’s good you familiarize yourself with the lives, works and deeds of local and international figures who have contributed to shape the world you live in. Gandhi, Mandela, Luther King are inescapable names. Obama is a newcomer; his achievements are unprecedented in American politics. Other extraordinary minds have accomplished extraordinary things in the field of science, IT technology, sports, literature, and economics and so on. Their lives and achievements are worth visiting.
Back to LP. I won’t recount its history in detail. But suffice to say that since 1936 men and women of all creed and colours joined hands together to fight for change. Change they believed in; change directed to give shape and substance to people’s dreams; change meant to alleviate their sufferings.
LP’s contribution in the life of this country cannot be underestimated. The right to vote and the need to establish universal suffrage; the unfettered belief that freedom for all was not all but just a beginning to make choices and assume responsibilities; that there was no alternative to good education and that access to education should never be denied to people; that democracy, the separation of powers and the right to property were the fundamental features of our Constitutional rights; that social security and welfare state were necessary to accompany the masses when life’s journey is made uncomfortable by factors beyond one’s control are part of LP’s achievements.
But, my dear, LP in 2036 will be a centenarian. What will be LP’s contribution during the next quarter of a century? The question is about building the future.
As a society, I still believe our fundamentals are strong. But what Mauritius would look like in 2036? What we do now as a nation will shape and reflect on us as a country in 2036. Contrary to Valentine’s Day, democracy can’t survive on fresh water and love alone. It’s about people. It’s also about politics and policies. It’s about the economy. It’s about justice and social justice. It’s about NGOs. It’s about civil society. What will be LP’s contribution in these different fields till 2036? And the contribution of Mauritians?
My dear daughter, while you grow keep this narrative in mind. I have been brought up in a family where love for others and sharing with others were a constant along life’s journey. As a kid, not once have I heard anything that divides people! And my mum will take utmost care to welcome whomever I bring home, in terms of food and drinks served and the love she puts in to make sure we are all happy. And this has never ever changed. Till today. Hard work and faith and love for people had the last word.
Remember one thing. The dreams of every human being are no different from one to another. In terms of basic needs. And the political establishment, including LP, should not shy away from their core duty. It’s part of their responsibility to see to it that the institutional, political, economic and social environment have the capacity to help each and every Mauritian realise their full human potential to fulfil their personal dreams without hindrance. And we need to tear down all barriers, if any, that can make that journey a nightmare.
Despite all weaknesses and a few isolated still undesirable happenings, it’s a miracle that this Paradise Island is still standing on its own and proudly so. Mauritians from all backgrounds have a big share in this achievement.
My dear daughter, I have always trusted our resilience capacity, as a nation and as one people. Mauritians are, as we say in Creole, “ene race à part” and I know from experience that if they are invited to move mountains to keep this country going and happy and prosperous they would do it with love and passion. Would LP be able to inspire this nation again and again during the next 25 years?
My dear daughter, what you do as a citizen will also help shape “Mauritius 2036”. I strongly suggest that you never ever walk away from your responsibility to do good to others and to your country. If need be, and even at the cost of your tears and sweat and blood, please make sure you see in every Mauritian a human being as you are and that if you all work together and if you all work hard, then in 2036 the happiness will belong to people of your generation.
While you grow, and in case of doubt, please go to the story of SSR. The faith in people, the love of people, the belief in progressive thinking, overcoming fear, and working without losing sight of the ground, are examples of his legacy. SSR’s accomplishments at the head of LP, like Obama in 2008, have proved the sceptics wrong. In life and in politics, and as proved, tomorrow does not belong to the sceptics.
I will end with two anecdotes. Way back in 1967, I witnessed how one night my grand mum was standing on her toes and through the window pane she was catching a glimpse of the fear atmosphere that prevailed then during the march to freedom. In May last year, I drove my mum to the polling station and walked side by side with her inside the school compound where she was to cast her ballot. I was tempted but refrained to advise her on the voting pattern. I rehearsed to myself how sacred this day and this moment is. I left her alone with her pencil and conscience. I respected her “political privacy” till today.
In 2036, LP would still be remembered for the gift made to mum. The right to vote freely.
* Published in print edition on 18 February 2011