Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
Sir Hilary Blood has again postulated in The Times British Colonies Review (June 1956) a solution of the future of small territories which — like Mauritius, Zanzibar and the Seychelles — are non-viable, i.e. are unable to exist as separate sovereign states. He suggests that small territories be grouped under the title ‘Royal and Associated States of the Commonwealth’. Colonies which had reached a certain stage of constitutional development would be admitted to the association which should have an annual consultative assembly in London, with ready access to the Queen’s Ministers. Some services could be provided in common for the Associated States; Sir Hilary suggests a common flag and a common police force for a start.
He puts forward this suggestion in the absence of any positive statement of Government policy as to the future development of the smaller territories. He welcomes the present constitutional proposals for Mauritius as being indicative of a more flexible approach on the part of the Government to colonial constitutional development than hitherto.
Sir Hilary was the guest speaker at the recent annual meeting of the Proportional Representation Society where, in answer to a question, he expressed support for PR in Mauritius, repeating the old gibe about Hindu domination of the Labour Party. He referred, in a talk on constitutional development in the Commonwealth, to various suggestions for “integration” that had been put forward. Bermuda had been suggested as a possibility for integration with Canada; Fiji with Australia. He thought however that talk of integration in Mauritius was a case of someone jumping on the bandwagon of integration. He doubted if there was much real support for it in Mauritius. (He appeared unaware that integration would be popular with the Franco Mauritians — if the integration should be with France — la Belle France, homeland of Pierre Poujade, Laval, Philippe Pétain and NMU)
The furore in Mauritius against proportional representation, expressed in mild terms in the House of Commons by James Johnson, is making people get down to serious thinking about the future of small colonies. Although Sir Hilary Blood’s suggestion smacks of the old-style imperialist, it is none the less a step in the direction of getting a policy worked out. Myself, I have favoured integration for years; I remember discussing the prospect of integration for Mauritius with Mr Ward at the Colonial Office over six years ago. (The Falkland Islands were another territory which cropped up in our discussion, I recall).
With Mauritian constitutional development in the air, the Central Office of Information has issued a document on constitutional progress in Mauritius which surveys the administration of Mauritius since the first organised system was introduced by the French East India Company: 1722-67, under the company; 1767-1810 under France; since 1810, under Britain. Adrien d’Epinay and his mission to England in 1830 get a twelve-line paragraph; Pope Hennessy and the reforms of 1885 get seventeen lines.
Much is made of Mackenzie-Kennedy’s remarks which tend to show the unfitness of Mauritians for self-government; we have his famous aphorism about vertical and horizontal divisions, his reason for retaining nomination and keeping short of universal adult suffrage, and his allegation that (in 1947) most people did not understand democratic institutions (NMU and his toadies still don’t) and are not ready for them.
We have an account of the steps leading to the 1946 proposals. It is said “at the end of 1953 a motion was carried by a small” majority in the Legislative Council asking Lyttelton to receive a deputation to discuss constitutional reform including universal adult suffrage and a ministerial system. Note this admission — that two specific suggestions were contained in the motion that was passed. Yet Lyttelton gave as a reason for not receiving the deputation that no specific proposals had been put forward.
The 1956 proposals are detailed and “justified”. Then the document refers to political parties. In 1948, we are told, “the only organised political party was the Mauritius Labour Party, composed mainly of Indo-Mauritians”. The formation of the Ralliement Mauricien is referred to; it is described as “a liberal progressive party”, with as its principal concern “to look after the interests of the racial minorities.” It is said that in 1953, in the municipal and town council elections the Ralliement won a victory over the Labour Party. (No mention of the fraudulent means employed to win the victory at Port Louis!)
Then we read that early in 1955 another new party was formed — the Parti Mauricien, which was to replace the ralliement. The programme of this party is given “to create a Mauritian entity irrespective of race, religion or caste, and to prepare the way for responsible government in an atmosphere of goodwill and loyalty to the Crown”. The subtle implication here is that the Parti‘s, opponents, the Labour Party (the only other party), are not keen on loyalty to the Crown — yet it is only the Franco-Mauritian community which has ever sought or suggested retrocession — a return of Mauritius to France. These same people now profess from the housetops their loyalty to the Crown — and get the ear of a should-be impartial Government department in order to peddle their doctrines. The prating about all races in the Parti would carry more weight if we read names which didn’t all sound French in the list of the Parti‘s regional organisers and secretaries: Henri Ithier, J.R. Constantin, Georges Bechard, Guy Rochecoute, Clement Dalais, E.M. de Speville, M. Gerard, T. Marshal, F. Hardy and Yves E. Noel. Not much appearance of a multi-racial PARTI there!
And when the Parti does get any Hindu members, it’ll make the most of them — just as the Tories in Britain make the most of the working men who join them.
But the tragedy of the Central Office of Information document is, of course, the fact that it shows how the reactionaries can pervade a Government department with their doctrines and have their own beliefs and allegations passed off as fact.
* Published in print edition on 4 May 2018
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