‘Government Mama-Papa’



Welcome to 2010. We all subscribe to new resolutions at the beginning of the year. I propose two. The first one is addressed to our politicians. They are invited to resolve that in 2010 they shall not betray the electorate by thinking that the election results will be a foregone conclusion if they forge the “right” political alliance. The second is addressed to the electorate. It should get rid of its “government mama-papa” mentality by assuming that the politician has divine attributes, is above the law and has absolute power to resolve all its problems.



Since it is known to everyone that 2010 is the year of the general elections, a number of political pundits have come out of their rat holes to propose all manner of political alliances. The latest proposal, a Labour-MMM alliance offers, according to its proponents, a guaranteed 60-0 and a unique opportunity for the Prime Minister to undertake historical reforms which he has not been able to do so far because of the constitutional imperative of a two-thirds or three-quarters majority.

The Prime Minister is being urged not to miss this rendez-vous with history. He will after all be the Prime Minister of a newly elected government and will have a mandate to carry out the much-awaited electoral reforms and abolish the Best Loser system. The 60-0 government will also be able to appoint a percentage of non-elected persons to serve as Ministers in the name of efficiency, take bold decisions to deal with traffic congestion, abolish subsidies to religious and socio-cultural bodies, rewrite the Constitution to provide for social and economic rights and guarantee the freedom of the press.

A Labour-MMM alliance is also considered as an attractive proposition to politicians from both parties who for sure do not fancy the idea of a tough electoral battle. It is being assumed that the electorate will approve and adhere to the diktat of the political leaders, whatever it is.

That would be a terrible mistake. One should never adopt such a presumptuous and cavalier attitude, for in this year of 2010 we have a significantly young electorate which barely identifies with some of our political leaders. That electorate should not be taken for granted. The outcome of general elections cannot be decided solely on the basis of past performances. Had that been the case, Barack Obama would not have made it to the White House. A premeditated electoral alliance which will have the effect of depriving the electorate of its right to cast its precious vote usefully can be counter-productive. It may even trigger a counter reaction from the electorate who may want to punish those who would have taken it for granted by concocting alliances in its back.

The Prime Minister has in a subtle manner already demarcated himself from such a travesty which impinges on democracy. He has made it clear that he wants a clean campaign which should focus on real issues which matter to the electorate and that we should avoid at all costs easy arguments based on the flatulent rhetoric of the political class. There is nothing so far which justifies an alliance between any two of the three main political parties save for the personal advantage of the politicians themselves and for that of the vested interests which they serve.

The “gouvernment mama-papa” mentality is the worst legacy we may have inherited from our colonial masters. The ideology view is fed into the people accordingly which leads them to look up to government as omnipotent and its ministers as demigods. They are prepared to go down on their knees in front of politicians to beg for favours on this understanding. Usually the favours sought take the shape of a job in a parastatal body, with Air Mauritius and Mauritius Telecom being the hot favourites. For the captain of industry who has sponsored generously the electoral campaign, he will ask in return for a price monopoly to be accorded for his products or, alternatively, for a chunk of prime “Pas geometriques” land for his exclusive use and development. The politician is believed to be above the law in such maters and behaves accordingly.

It is no wonder that some people hang the pictures of their favourite politician next to the picture of divinity in their homes. This wrong perception is not peculiar to Mauritius. It is shared by persons in some other countries. In India the term “sarkar” is used to describe the immense power that is vested in the politician. “Sarkar” is a Persian word meaning boss but it can also mean in a given context “godfather” to connote the mafia-style operations and schemes some politicians are capable of in those places.

May 2010 bring better wisdom to both the electorate and the political parties.


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