Notes and Comments

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Peter Ibbotson

Tories never change. Some weeks ago I told in the Mauritius Times how, 60 years ago, the Tory Party in England had financed three Social Democratic Federation candidates at a general election; so that the popular vote would be split between S.D.F. and Liberals, and the Tory candidates would have better chances of being elected. Now it seems that the Parti Mauricien (PM) is providing funds for the Liberal Party in Moka-Flacq so that that Party can also work against the Labour candidate, Mr Balgobin. The electors of Moka-Flacq will not be deceived, however, by the honeyed tones of the PM candidate Mr Rey. He is wooing the Indo-Mauritians in Moka-Flacq, but not so long ago his party was singing a different song about them – that was when he was a candidate in Port Louis. The majority of the electors in Moka-Flacq are sugar workers or the dependants of sugar workers; they know only too well what the Parti Mauricien stands for: low wages for the workers, fat profits for the employers.

May the electors of Moka-Flacq show as much political awareness as did their fellow-voters of Port Louis. May once again a resounding Labour victory at the polls show only too clearly what the People of Mauritius think of (a) the Parti Mauricien, and (b) the abhorrent proposals of the Colonial Office for proportional representation.
Voters of Moka-Flacq – you have your part to play in deciding the future of Mauritius. Vote Labour, and a bright future will be brought nearer.

* * *

Central Electricity Board

The list of employees of the C.E.B., with their annual salaries, made interesting and significant reading. The significance lay in the surnames of the holders of the well-paid posts; we read such names as Rey, Koenig, d’Arifat, d’Unienville, Lefevre, Renaud… hardly the names of Indo-Mauritians.

Indeed, when I read the list of names of the administrators and the senior officers, I was reminded of the rhyme:

“God made the bees,
The bees make honey;
The coloured does the work;
But the white man gets the money.”

When people with education can achieve the worthwhile jobs in the C.E.B. and elsewhere, is there any wonder that education is sought after and, in many cases, dearly bought? Is there any wonder that when a man’s future depends on his educational standard, when the chances of his rising above the station into which he has been born depend on his getting a good secondary education, people are aggrieved that there is in Mauritius no compulsory primary education, and little opportunity for secondary education except by paying for it? Many persons are denied the opportunity of getting on in the world simply because they cannot get to a secondary school; so that the top jobs are forever the preserve of those who can afford to buy secondary education.

It is this type of inequality – the denial of the full exercise of man’s talents because of his poverty – that the British Labour Party is determined to stamp out. Everyone should have the same opportunity of using to the full his God-given talents; but as long as the education system of Mauritius remains as it is today, this laudable ambition will remain unfulfilled. Also as long as the education system of Mauritius remains as it is today, so long will the well-paid and high-up jobs remain the monopoly of the Franco-Mauritians and their hangers-on. The Director of Education has an important task ahead of him; not merely an educational task but a social one. It is high time he got on with it.

* * *

Proportional Representation Again

Depending on your point of view, Mr Andre Bazerque of Rose Hill has much to answer for, or much to be commended for. Why? Because it was Mr Bazerque who first introduced me to, and interested me in, the complexities of Mauritian politics and social affairs. And so, because I have many kind thoughts of Mr Bazerque, I was all the more sorry to see him in a recent issue of Le Mauricien supporting that deplorable system of voting known as proportional representation (PR). From the Sessional Paper on Constitutional Changes, we know why P.R. is recommended for Mauritius: so as to weaken the Labour Party’s representation in the enlarged Legislative Council. And thanks to his answers to questions in Parliament a few days ago, we know that Lennox-Boyd is personally convinced that P.R. is necessary for Mauritius. Lennox-Boyd, of course, regards the colonies in the same light as a medieval feudal lord of the manor regarded his domain and the vassals thereon dwelling.

Very briefly, the case for P.R. is that it affords representation in Council to all political or racial or communal groups which at an election can command a substantial measure of support from the voters. This is all to the good, say the supporters of P.R., for it means that all shades of opinion can play a part in framing legislation. It ensures that any legislation that is enacted is acceptable to all parties, for all parties have helped to enact it.

Against P.R. the case is overwhelming. P.R. results in the development of communal, or racial, voting. It is antagonistic to the development of stable political parties; yet the Sessional Paper wants to see more political parties in Mauritius! It makes good and stable goverment difficult; for it gives a multiplicity of groupings in Council or Parliament and results in a series of coalition governments (as in Ireland) whose legislation, which tries to please everyone, ends up by pleasing no-one. P.R. puts the party label at a discount: and sets Party member against Party member in a jockeying for first preferences. If we had P.R. in the UK, I would be in a quandary: when I vote at parliamentary or municipal elections, I want to see Labour members elected. I don’t want to show any preference for this Labour candidate as against that one. But under P.R., I would have to do so.

Proportional representation is bad. It is used in Malta, and leading members of the Malta Labour Party are against it, even though they managed to win a majority despite P.R. at the last Council elections. It must be opposed in Mauritius: the electors of Moka-Flacq can show their dislike of it by voting firmly for Mr Balgobin when the all-important day comes.

* Published in print edition on 12 April 2019

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