Why it did not work


— R Ratnam


We mean why the Labour/MMM alliance did not work out in spite of negotiations that started six months ago. Parliament has been dissolved and the date of the general elections has been set. In spite of all the attacks against Navin Ramgoolam about his lethargy, his indecisiveness, his slow approach in sealing a deal with a political partner he has taken everybody by sheer surprise and forged his alliance with the PMSD and the MSM. That was done with lightning speed and has left the MMM in the wilderness as far as an alliance is concerned.



Paul Bérenger, the leader of the MMM, is a very strange person. He won elections in an alliance with the PSM of Harish Bhoodoo in 1982. The coalition came to an end nine months later because he wanted Kader Bhayat, a minister in that coalition, to be axed from the Cabinet. Though Sir Anerood Jugnauth was the Prime Minister Bérenger wanted to act as de facto one. He wanted to impose the Creole language at the Mauritius Broadcasting Station with the assistance of Mr Essoo then the director general of the station – after the brutal sacking of Mr Delaître.



In 1991 Paul Bérenger contracted an alliance with the MSM of Sir Anerood Jugnauth but was sacked from the coalition in 1993 because he dared have dinner with Navin Ramgoolam, then Leader of the Opposition. Paul Bérenger again won the elections in an alliance with the Labour Party led by Navin Ramgoolam in 1995. The coalition exploded two years later in 1997 and Paul Bérenger was sacked as minister. Why did that happen? Both in 1993 and in 1995 through a lack of vision and psychology he defied the two Prime Ministers. In 1993 he just was not showing loyalty to the coalition with the MSM. He should have been aware of the sensitivity and insecurity of the leader of the MSM who was at the command of a party that has never commanded more than a maximum of 15% of the votes. He simply was reckless and he dared meet Navin Ramgoolam, then the arch enemy of Sir Anerood Jugnauth and a potential strong alternative to Sir Anerood Jugnauth as events have proved. In 1997 he tried to show to the press, the majority of which has always been at his beck and call that he could deal with files speedily unlike Navin Ramgoolam who was very slow in taking decisions.


From the information in a cross section of the press we gather that the talks between Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Bérenger started about six months ago. We have not been informed when talks, if any, between the MSM and Navin Ramgoolam started. Could it be that the deal was clinched at the lunch at which the former President of Mozambique was invited? It took everybody by surprise that Navin Ramgoolam stated to the press two weeks ago that he was talking to the MSM. A few days later the deal with the MSM was sealed and the fate of the MMM as an opposition party may well have been sealed too. After the Quartier Militaire by-election it appeared that the preferred ally of the MSM would be Labour. The defeat of the MMM at that election no doubt constituted a warning sign for the MMM and that may have prompted its leader to start negotiations with Navin Ramgoolam. It would appear from press reports that the alliance was almost a done deal. Why then did it not materialise?


There is no need to go into futile debates on who, between Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Bérenger, wanted or was begging for an alliance, a futile debate started by Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo. If we go by the opinion polls Labour is in a stronger position and could therefore dictate its own conditions for an alliance. The MMM has always considered these opinion polls as inaccurate. Notwithstanding this fact in any negotiation compromise is a key component. No partner in any such negotiation should impose terms and conditions and thus drive the other partner against the wall. This is what Paul Bérenger fell foul of.

He started on the premise that some people who have been supporting Navin Ramgoolam since 2005 or before and who helped in a significant way in the Labour victory of 2005 should be left out of a Labour-MMM alliance. Paul Bérenger has been very virulent against some allies of Navin Ramgoolam who he has attempted to link to the Subutex traffic. He has blamed the Attorney General Rama Valayden and was furious against Maurice Allet and did not want these two and the PMSD as part of the Labour-MMM alliance. If that was the premise for an alliance then Paul Bérenger started off on the wrong foot.

We never heard that kind of talk in the negotiations with the MSM of Sir Anerood Jugnauth when the Medpoint deal was clinched on the eve of the 2000 general elections. Paul Bérenger felt comfortable working with Sir Anerood Jugnauth whom he had previously dubbed a bombe communale and with Harish Boodhoo in spite of the latter’s policy of protège nou montagne.


Paul Bérenger was not prepared to work alongside Rama Valyden whom he had linked with drug dealers and yet he is welcoming Dinesh Ramjuttun against whom serious allegations were made years back as a candidate. Paul Bérenger is not prepared to work with Maurice Allet whom he dubs a traitor and yet is prepared to work with Madun Dulloo whom he dubbed a mad man (pagla mamou). Paul Bérenger is not prepared to work with Asraf Dulull against whom he has made a number of corruption allegations and yet he is willing to work with Vishnu Lutcmeenaraidoo against whom he himself and his party levelled allegations of corruption in 1984 leading to the Goburdhun Commission of Inquiry. We quote these examples not because any of the persons named has been guilty of any wrongdoing as Paul Bérenger has always claimed but to prove to the electorate and to Paul Bérenger himself how inconsistent he can be with himself. It is also a way to prove to him that in the light of these few examples he should have mellowed down in his negotiations with Navin Ramgoolam.


The other factor that may have led to the failure of the Labour-MMM alliance is that the Paul Bérenger still harbours mistrust towards Navin Ramgoolam following his sacking in 1993. In addition many of the supporters of Paul Bérenger, like Eric Guimbeau, Cassam Uteem and others, have been claiming that with the MMM in government the country will enjoy stability and progress. The message that such statements seek to convey is that without the MMM the country is doomed. Yet if we look back on the number of years the MMM has been in government and what has been achieved without the MMM being part of government, we can firmly conclude that the MMM is not that indispensable for the good governance and prosperity of Mauritius.


R. Ratnam

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