Public Safety and Discipline

Carnet Hebdo

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Do we truly comprehend the technical intricacies of the world around us and adjust accordingly for our own safety? To varying degrees, one might honestly concede. Decades ago, we were appalled by individuals falling off boats and drowning in scarcely three metres of water in our picturesque lagoons, particularly during Ganga Asnaan. Escaping danger on solid ground is less arduous than succumbing to panic in a boat teetering on the verge of capsizing with passengers mindlessly flocking to one side.

Boat rides gained popularity before common folk received any swimming lessons, enabling them to partake in the joys of swimming and conquer the fear of the natural elements surrounding the island. In those days, priority lay in putting food on the table, not in physical fitness, leisure, or water sports. People were aware of the risk of being non-swimmers but behaved as if tragedy would never befall them. The tragic death of some policemen, along with their wives and children, when their boat capsized at Grand River South East, while the skipper managed to save himself, remains etched in our memories. The entire incident sounded suspicious and dubious a few years ago.

Fortunately, electrocution from electric showers is now a thing of the past. Today, victims include painters, masons, and homeowners taking fatal steps backward onto electric cables on the rooftops of houses. Such incidents are seldom heard of in comparable countries. Barely two weeks after the tragic death of two young men on the road to Grand Bassin last year, it was appalling to witness two young men attempting to lift a dangling electric cable with wooden poles to retrieve a kanwar from a private yard at Trou-aux-Biches. Road accidents are on the decline these days, mostly caused by irresponsible, reckless males driving furiously on narrow roads. Heart-wrenching cases emerge of unsuspecting individuals standing in front of their gates and getting run over by motorcycles and cars. Recently, a well-known politician succumbed to injuries following a motorcycle accident. Every such unnecessary death weighs heavily on our hearts.

By the way, how many health awareness campaigns have successive governments conducted on national television and radios to advise the public on healthy eating habits? The country has topped the list of diabetes-prone populations worldwide. You encounter workers who admit to having tea in the early morning, an American soft drink at lunch, and a couple of beers in the evening, with water being alien to them. The next thing you hear is that they are rushed to the hospital for an operation. ICUs are inundated with patients who couldn’t care less about their dietary habits. Besides being a stubborn crowd, there is a serious lack of discipline resulting in avoidable loss of lives. Are we aware that smartphones contain highly polluting elements and are extremely harmful to the brain if held close to the ears?

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Independence and the Road Ahead

Let us confront reality. The apocalyptic scenario predicted for a small island devoid of natural resources failed to materialize. Not even the locals could envision such a drastic change in their living conditions in the future. Reportedly, when the late Sir Gaëtan Duval proclaimed in a public meeting that one day the country would have to import workers from abroad, the public scoffed at the notion. Fortunately, at the time of independence, Mauritius boasted the highest level of education compared to all of Africa, including Réunion.

The political leadership believed in empowerment through education and heavily invested in democratizing education for the general public. The belief in education and the commitment to improve living conditions and share the benefits of economic progress through a generous Welfare State set Mauritius apart from comparable post-colonial islands and the African continent. This is what propels Mauritius to the forefront of an African continent blessed with natural resources. Mauritius should adhere to lofty principles and strive to compare with more advanced countries.

Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean diplomat, geopolitical consultant and political analyst, proudly extols the city-state’s commitment to MPH: Meritocracy, Pragmatism, and Hard Work. The lack of meritocracy is a major hindrance in Mauritius; it entails appointing the right person for the right job, not your brother-in-law, relatives, or cronies. Singapore deserves commendation for not pandering to vote banks but compelling all groups to adhere to national principles.

As a democracy, a Western-style accountability must be demanded from politicians of all stripes in Mauritius to promote sound governance. The investigative agencies cannot be manipulated by powerful businessmen to dispatch greedy political agents to their loss… in sugarcane fields and elsewhere. The independence of the judiciary must be respected, but judges cannot appoint judges as in India, nor is a biased body of left-wing magistrates perverting justice as in France desirable in Mauritius.

Promoting Nationhood

Nation-building in a democratic, multi-ethnic, and free country is progressing. It hasn’t been a smooth journey in the West, despite their homogeneity in terms of race, culture, language, and religion. Therefore, it must be on our terms here.

Prejudices still run deep, despite occasional displays of solidarity and outpourings of grief in times of tragedy, which often serve as an opportunity to criticize specific socio-cultural organizations and their followers rather than express genuine sorrow. Divisive forces work clandestinely to advance their own agenda while lecturing on coexistence and nation-building.

Demographic dynamics are deliberately manipulated with the complicity of external forces to shift the balance of power. Despite all challenges, responsible patriots must act astutely and promote shared values.

National sovereignty is wielded haphazardly to cry foul whenever the country seeks to strengthen partnerships and alliances, particularly with India. It is conveniently overlooked that France collaborates with India to counter potential aggressive forces in the Indian Ocean.

Nerves fray only when India is involved. Do you believe that European nations are sovereign in matters of agricultural policy and military defence? Do you think the U.S informs the press before sending CIA operatives to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign nations? Or when its religious lobbies are given free rein to destabilize other societies? Do you remember how the Kurds were abandoned after supporting Western nations in Syria?

As a small nation, we must discern who our reliable partners are in an increasingly tense geopolitical landscape.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 15 March 2024

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