What is lacking as we prepare for the next 50 years is a movement that cuts across social classes that ensures that it talks left and walks left, which pledges to limit the political lifetime of elected members, which rejects corporate finance to run its activities
Democracy comes with its fair share of bitter surprises. Many now feel that the Lepep Alliance’s victory in 2014 will rank among the most unpalatable ones. Having reversed whatever was achieved in terms of ‘democratisation’, it has manoeuvred towards the consolidation of the historic bourgeoisie and the offering of freebies to its hangers-on and members of its close-knit circuit. We are in regression mode. If anything, this highlights the glaring loopholes of a system that demand to be plugged. Shifting the levers of real power to citizens would significantly embolden and truly liberate Mauritius.
“A month celebrating Creole and Bhojpuri in their various forms would be helpful. Perhaps, the only way the Mauritian identity will flourish is by letting our specificities co-exist. By being respectful towards each other and seeing the beauty of living side by side in harmony. A culture pass for students would be beneficial in this sense; allowing young Mauritians to discover the beautiful tapestry that is our culture…”
Image can be nothing
While the ripples from the havoc initiated during the first months of this government in power are still felt, this prime minister has manifested a deep concern for his image. His elusive quest for a bard to hype him so that he gains a prime ministerial cachet continues. Good luck with that.
Still, this has worked in the past when his father took to aping Lee Kuan Yew and tried to adapt very selective chapters of the Singaporean model to our local context; public housing for lower to middle classes was never very high on his agenda and the government was relegated to a mere doormat with selected members of the private sector acting as puppeteers. Whilst Lee Kuan Yew’s vision empowered Singapore enough to break through the middle income trap, our system seems to favour the election of those concerned only about securing positions and contracts for their near and dear.
The State of the Left
In a country where parties talk left and walk right, gleefully submitting themselves to the oligarchs, bold progressive ideas have suffered. The Labour Party betrayed its ideals and followers when it chose to go along with corporate tax cuts prescribed by Sithanen. These have proved ruinous for our country which now finds itself reduced to asking for money from foreign powers to sustain infrastructural development. Having wilfully crippled our motherland in the name of growth, Labour lost itself while dancing to the neoliberal tune. This is unbefitting of a party with such a glorious past. The GDP growth, very much like the heir’s desire to appear prime ministerial, has yet to materialise.
The MMM, in ideological wilderness for decades now, seeks to be in power merely for the sake of power. There is not much it wishes to change that will benefit the masses. Like the MSM, it wishes to be a welcoming doormat for oligarchs. It is not the kind of faction that would be positive for our motherland and light is unlikely to come from them. Other leftist blocs are still at a precocious stage but they will grow and in time hopefully become wielders of change and progress.
“If there is hope… it lies in the proles”
Direct democracy would help curb the disgust of citizens with politics. No longer would they be limited to one voting expedition every five years but would have a say on the things that matter and be in a position to correct the imbalances of the system. Excessive expenses would be monitored, the behaviour of MPs would have to be at their best since there could be the possibility of being removed from office, new laws that would really change the lives of citizens be initiated and people would connect with our Motherland’s present and future.
“A democratic state requires independent regulators to ensure fairness. This is not the case at the moment where many nominees act as rubber stamps, refusing to see what seems to be hidden in plain sight. Selection of heads of regulatory bodies should be made independently and chosen candidates should be free from any political shackles…”
What is lacking as we prepare for the next 50 years is a movement that cuts across social classes which pledges to limit the political lifetime of elected members, which rejects corporate finance to run its activities, that allows open primaries for local and national elections, that ensures that it talks left and walks left and that is not afraid to tackle the mighty conglomerates when the better interests of the country are being jeopardised.
Where Economic Power ≠ Political Power…
Mauritius and the vast majority of Mauritians suffer from the encroachment of economic power upon the political sphere. Financiers are handsomely rewarded with fiscal exemptions of billions when embarking upon real estate projects again killing the possibility of any democratisation of land. Ganesh Sitaraman, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, outlines the importance of ensuring that “Economic power doesn’t turn into political power. When the wealthiest people and corporations are deciding policy, that’s not an actual republic – a representative democracy – there must be campaign finance regulation and a more representative political system.” A democratic state requires independent regulators to ensure fairness. This is not the case at the moment where many nominees act as rubber stamps, refusing to see what seems to be hidden in plain sight. Selection of heads of regulatory bodies should be made independently and chosen candidates should be free from any political shackles.
Real democratisation and what it entails?
The historic bourgeoisie and the state supported one both gun for profits. In this regard, pandering to either of them can hardly be conducive to the progress of this country. We need a strong state; one that can democratise access to land and that will ensure the supply of energy without having recourse to any private intermediary. We need ‘un Etat stratège’ that ventures into new sectors and creates new avenues for its citizens. Our economy will remain amorphous if driven by the interests of rent seekers. The country’s progress will depend on how buoyant our economy will be in the next half a century.
The empowerment of citizens is an absolute requisite for real democratisation. We have too many echoes and not enough voices. This starts with the constant upgrade of our education system and as crucial is the offering of real incentives to enable citizens to break free from the shackles of a salaried life.
The Road Travelled
There has been substantial betterment in the lives of Mauritians since independence. With proper vision and planning as well as a strong welfare state as keystones, the country has progressed. Faced with the inequalities inherited from the colonial era, only a safety net for citizens has ensured the social and political stability of our country. But the inequalities continue to exist and the oligarchy still pulls the strings. Through free education, the possibility of beating fate and improving one’s destiny became an achievable milestone.
Despite the obvious progress, this is a country that has yet to reconcile its citizens around core themes. There is a schism along communal lines to this day. There are newspapers that host articles reminiscent of Le Cernéen. There are talks of Hindu hegemony by some brainwashed minds being spewed. To this day, there is a clear attempt at whitewashing the history of our island telling us so little about slavery and the plight of the coolies. This is a wonderful country but a fragile one.
There have been talks for decades about the creation of a national identity. It takes the form of due recognition of our mother tongues. A month celebrating Creole and Bhojpuri in their various forms would be helpful. Perhaps, the only way the Mauritian identity will flourish is by letting our specificities co-exist. By being respectful towards each other and seeing the beauty of living side by side in harmony. A culture pass for students would be beneficial in this sense; allowing young Mauritians to discover the beautiful tapestry that is our culture.
We are born free. That is the greatest gift imparted to every citizen. The freedom to think and act. We should never forget that.
* Published in print edition on 9 March 2018