Port Louis By-Election — A Lesson for the Governor

MT 60 Yrs Ago — 3rd Year – No 96 — Friday 8th June 1956

The Parti Mauricien has professed to be democratic. But, when the ordinary process of democracy went against them, the supporters of that party showed their essential undemocratic nature. Defeated at the polls, in a fair election whose issues were clearly put, the supporters of the Parti Mauricien could not accept the electors’ verdict, but had to vent their disappointed spleen on Labour supporters, casual passers-by, and people’s houses and shops. From all reports, it seems the Police made little attempt to arrest offenders. Suppose that Labour supporters had behaved in the same fashion as the hooligan supporters of the Parti Mauricien, who can doubt but that the police would have made plenty of arrests?

What does Dr Dupre’s great and splendid victory at the Port Louis by-election show? First, that the People of Mauritius want nothing to do with proportional representation (PR), and not all the articles and letters from Enid Lakeman and James Fitzgerald, professional propagandists for PR, will make them change their minds. Second, it shows that people’s continued trust and faith in the principles of Socialism, and their emphatic rejection of racism and hatred such as is regularly preached at Mallefille Street. Third, it shows clearly the falsity of the allegations made to Mr Lennox-Boyd that the Hindus are separatist and communally-minded.

The Governor’s duty is plain. He should report the result of the by-election to Mr Lennox-Boyd, saying that the result shows that Mauritius wants none of PR and that to impose it, therefore, would be contrary to the orderly development of Mauritius, and contrary to the spirit of what had been accepted by both Labour and Conservative parties as the basis of British colonial policy. Having done that, the Governor should emphasize that the Labour Party obviously enjoys the support of many communities, else how could it get so great a poll in Port Louis? Hindus, Coloureds, Chinese and even Muslims — all contributed to Labour’s total vote; if the Party can thus get support from different races, then the Government should acknowledge the folly of trying to weaken its representation in the Legislative Council.

He should therefore say that he can therefore no longer adhere to his previously expressed opinion that proportional representation should be introduced to get representation of all groups. If the Labour Party can get support of all races, then obviously the more Labour Members there are, the greater will be the representation of all races. On the other hand, the greater the representation of the Parti Mauricien, the greater the representation of one class only — the capitalists, generally speaking the white plus a few janissaries.

Having acknowledged his previous errors in his despatches, the Governor should continue on these lines: “When I came to Mauritius after only seven months’ stay I gave myself the task of getting to understand the political climate of Mauritius. In my despatches on the constitutional question, I referred to what I had discovered; I referred to Hindu separatism, to the Hindus tending to vote for Hindu candidates only regardless of the policy of the rival candidates, and to an increase of Hindu separatism and exclusiveness in the political field. The Port Louis by-election has shown me that I have failed in my task of trying to understand Mauritian politics. Particularly has the by-election shown me that my ideas about Hindu exclusiveness and separatism are ill-conceived and founded in prejudice by the opponents of Labour.”


* Published in print edition on 16 March 2018

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