Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Somduth Bhuckory
His Excellency the Governor left for U.K. yesterday. He will, no doubt, strive hard to put a stop to our constitutional deadlock. Mr Lennox-Boyd must be waiting impatiently for him to get first-hand information and advice, although he seems to have made up his mind.
We gather from the parliamentary debates of the 31st of October that replying to Mr James Johnson (the unofficial member for Mauritius), Mr Lennox Boyd said: “With due sense of my own responsibility in this matter and in close consultation with the Governor, I am satisfied that what I have proposed is best for this multi-racial community.”
And so Mr Lennox-Boyd is sticking to his guns: Universal Adult Suffrage coupled with P.R. and his discredited Ministerial System. Is there any hope of Mr Lennox-Boyd changing his mind and proposals? We see only a very faint one.
But this should not deter us from telling Sir Robert Scott and the Secretary of State what is uppermost in our minds. Whether they will pay any heed to our reasoning and warning is a matter over which we have no control. Silence, however, may be wrongly interpreted for acquiescence. The press, leaders of political opinion and the people must express their views — the Secretary of State must know how feelings are running high in this colony.
Hon. Seeneevassen and the Parti Mauricien have very recently tried to tackle P.R. from a new angle by lecturing on it. Hon. Seeneevassen spoke at the Municipal Theatre on Sunday the 28th of October and Hon. Koenig spoke at Plaine Verte on Monday the 6th of November.
The Parti Mauricien held its meeting “pour exprimer la confiance des Mauriciens dans la Représentation Proportionnelle et leur désir de voir adopter un tel système pour la Législature”. And what was the aim of Hon. Seeneevassen’s conference? To give an objective picture of P.R.! Hon. Seeneevassen, the politician, had turned lecturer but we wonder if the politician in him did not get the better of the lecturer.
And nobody knows up to now who organized that conference. Hon. Seeneevassen said he was giving his personal views. What about advocating the views of the Labour Party? This is no time to ask people to draw their own conclusions after an expose of facts and figures. The time is to hammer on the Labour stand relentlessly.
We want Hon. Seeneevassen and other Labourites to speak the language he spoke at a Labour meeting at Plaine Verte not very long ago: “If P.R. has to come, it will have to pass over my dead body.”
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Mr Lennox-Boyd has used the term multi-racial community to hint at the protection of minority interests. May we say, by the way, that the British Labour Party prefers the term ‘plural societies’ to ‘multi-racial’? The reason for this preference is that “the more familiar term ‘multi-racial’ carries political implications which are not all acceptable to us or to many of those most concerned”. But it suits Mr Lennox-Boyd’s purpose to lay stress on racial differences: the ghost of Hindu hegemony can stand out clearly only when the background is racial.
Protection of minority interests! This slogan, by dint of repetition, is becoming synonymous to trampling underfoot the will of the majority. It is becoming a farce in the shadow of which all sorts of wire-pulling can thrive. This high-sounding slogan is simply changing the meaning of democracy. How long is it going to be an instrument of divide and rule?
The development of colonial constitutions shows how minority interests have been safeguarded throughout British colonial history. Is not NOMINATION the traditional way to safeguard those interests if they cannot be safeguarded by elections? Can it be said honestly that the interests of minorities are not amply represented in our Legislative Council?
As colonies progress, the trend is to decrease the number of nominees. What Mr Lennox-Boyd is trying to do is to increase the representatives of minorities.
There are already enough members getting into the Council through the window. By thrusting P.R. on us the Secretary of State wants others to enter through the roof as well. (P.R. Per Roof!). In his unbounded generosity, Mr Lennox Boyd is trying to give to the so-called minorities, the best of both worlds on a platter!
Where is the country under the sun where NOMINATION and P.R. exist side by side? Has anybody told us up to now if there is a blessed land somewhere where minorities are so doubly protected?
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We have said in short why we don’t want P.R. Let us see now what may be done if P.R. comes our way all the same. Sir Robert must be able to see how coming events are casting their shadows.
The Labourites of this country are committed to fight P.R., but how? We are of opinion that the best way of fighting the proposed constitution is by boycotting it. Leaders must refrain from standing as candidates and the rank and file from going to the polls. Abstention from voting must indicate clearly how the whole country is divided. So far we have had, so to say, a referendum in Port Louis only.
Let the Parti Mauricien and Independents, if any, go to the Council and run the country. All Socialists should hold firm to their principles. If they give way now, they will encourage the nefarious system to set in.
Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd is not going to rule over our destiny all the time. Events are moving very fast indeed all around us. Suez or no Suez, the Labour Party will have to come to power in England. It’s Bevan’s voice that will count then.
If we accept P.R. today, how can we ask the Labour government of England one day to undo the doing of Mr Lennox-Boyd? We have to be consistent with ourselves if we want others to understand us and help us.
And we know what the policy of the Labour Party as regards colonies is. We wish to quote from ‘Plural Society’, the pamphlet recently published by the Labour Party of England. “The Labour Party has come to two conclusions: (i) that, ultimately, the people of each of the colonial territories have the right to determine which particular form of constitution (perhaps some entirely new form) best suits their own requirements; and (2) that the best way of giving the people of this colony the opportunity of deciding what final form of constitution they desire is to provide for the election of representatives, by universal adult suffrage, on the principle of one person one vote.”
Boycotting the Constitution is the only effective way of combating it. The boycott, we are aware, will entail a lot of discipline and sacrifice. But it’s a thousand times better not to prostitute one’s principles than to throw them overboard in the hope of some immediate gains.
If boycott is not the answer, we should like to know what the answer is. And we want a clear answer.
* Published in print edition on 26 April 2019