Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Somduth Bhuckory
We have reached a point in our evolution when it would not be unwise to take stock of our political situation dispassionately. We seem to be going forward but where is our onward march leading us? Are we heading for a good headache or are we on our way to some political garden of Eden?
The trend of events in our little island home is such that those who have the welfare of this place at heart cannot sit still and look on indifferently. Things have come to such a pass that serious-minded people must think and think aloud.
At the end of July 1954 Lennox-Boyd succeeded to the post of Colonial Secretary. Photo – britishempire.co.uk
The members of the Boundary Commission are among us with the exception of its Chairman. They are getting ready to report to Mr Lennox-Boyd.
On the other hand, it is reported that the Muslim community has reached quite an unexpected decision. It wants to press for communal representation.
Recently The Times of London described our political situation as ‘The Mauritian Tangle’. It would appear now that the tangle is getting more and more confused and complicated.
As long as there was the London Agreement only to consider, some sort of solution, however unsatisfactory, was in sight. That Agreement which has gone out of its way to please the minorities is now being repudiated by the biggest minority it set out to pacify.
We know that nothing will stop the Boundary Commission from going on with its work. Time, money and energy will be spent. There will be a tug-of-war between single-member constituencies and the list-system. What will happen next? In any event, discontent, which is just simmering today, will boil over.
The Muslim community has voiced its unequivocal opinion. Mr Mohamed who subscribed to the London Agreement is very far from supporting the Agreement. It remains to be seen how the Labour Party is going to make out its case for single-member constituencies and save its face. And in case it does not succeed, will there not be pandemonium even in its own rank?
Now there is silence all around us. Is it the calm preceding the storm? And our destiny seems to be drifting calmly towards some unknown distant shore.
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Mr Mohamed was to take a decision by July 31st. He appears to have thrown in his lot with that of his community. Mr Mohamed must have realized that if he resigned from the Parti Mauricien to join the Labour Party, the latter would not receive him with open arms. If Mr Mohamed supports communal representation, will he continue to be a member of the Parti Mauricien?
There is no doubt that the Muslim community weights heavily in establishing the balance of power. If it stays with the Parti Mauricien, it stays there as an asset. If it leaves the Parti Mauricien and joins the Labour Party, it will add considerable strength to the Labour Party. Even if it does not join the Labour Party but leaves the Parti Mauricien and joins the Labour Party, it will add considerable strength to the Labour Party. Even if it does not join the Labour Party but leaves the Parti Mauricien and becomes totally neutral, the Muslim community will weaken the Parti Mauricien in no small measure and consequently strengthen the Labour Party in the same proportion.
So one can see easily that the stand taken by the Muslim community is going to weaken the Parti Mauricien and strengthen the Labour Party. In spite of this, we are not prepared to support the decision of the Muslim community. Political expediency may give us momentary power and glory but it’s only political principles that will stabilize our future.
Sometimes we are driven to reflect on the solicitude shown to minorities today. Any constitution, it is contended, should ensure the representation of the minority communities. The new credo is the more baffling because until recently nobody bothered about the representation of the majority. The rule by the smallest minority has been endured without that minority finding that it was not fair for it to govern. Now that the majority is threatening to assume power and govern, the very thought of its getting on top is creating havoc.
If we stand for parliamentary democracy, we cannot be lulled into believing that our salvation lies in any other way than in party politics. Communities should be encouraged to make common cause with political parties and not to pitch their tent apart. Separatism is political suicide. Let those who care for the future of our island remember this.
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Party politics had started to take a fine shape when came the London Agreement sowing confusion in its train. And today we are faced with the implementation of the unhappy Agreement.
Before the general elections take place, the London Agreement laid down that the ministerial system should be instituted and the Boundary Commission should report. As everybody knows, the ministerial system has been introduced in a lukewarm atmosphere. And we can see that the Boundary Commission is sitting while the political climate is full of doubts and uncertainties.
The Boundary Commission will surely sense that there is no enthusiasm for it. It will also sense, we fancy, that there is a lack of enthusiasm because the people do not want either the kind of single-member constituencies outlined in the London Agreement or the List System.
When Mr Lennox-Boyd learns of the apathy of the people, will he persist in implementing the findings of the Boundary Commission? If he does, it will amount to thrusting an unpopular constitution upon us. How will Mr Lennox Boyd do this, he who has promised not to ram anything down our throats? It’s time Mr Lennox-Boyd was told again what we want.
We want a constitution that will give a fillip to party politics. By introducing a tinge of communalism in the London Agreement only disservice has been done to the constitutional progress of our island.
We do want single-member constituencies but not forty of them. And we want them without the conditions imposed by the London Agreement. We think that a maximum of twenty-five would do.
We do also want universal adult suffrage but an unfettered adult suffrage. The List System is simply abhorrent.
Our readers as well as Mr Lennox-Boyd will see that we are not crying for the moon.
* Published in print edition on 9 February 2021