Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive…

… but to be young was very heaven!

“The successful implementation of the reforms is far more important than the means employed to bring them to fruition.

If the reforms are fully implemented, these would be the greatest legacy that the 70s generation would have bequeathed to the young. Our political leaders have the responsibility to pool their efforts in this mission and preside over this period of transition until the younger generation takes over…”

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!’ It was with those words that the English poet William Wordsworth welcomed the news of the outbreak of the French Revolution although later he was to recoil at its excesses.

It would be presumptuous to present the projected electoral reforms as a revolutionary phase in our history, but the reforms, if successfully implemented, would provide a new and long-awaited political framework which would legalize, legitimize and institutionalize a new concept of self and meet the aspirations of our young generation. This has become necessary to unleash the energies of the youth with the objective of taking Mauritius onto the next phase of the country’s development for the next fifty years or so.

In the next few decades, the world – and consequently Mauritius – will undergo profound changes and it may even prove difficult to imagine the scope and depth of some of them. The revolution in Information Technology and Communication, progress in science, changes in manufacturing and services as well as in human relationships and lifestyles have already begun to transform our society, giving rise to a number of unprecedented issues which traditional societies and the older generations would find difficult to cope with.

For example, the widening generation gap affecting parents and their kids continue to undermine old family systems, just like the inability for men to cope with women empowerment has resulted in increasing violence and crimes in all societies including Mauritius.

The older generation does not have solutions to all these challenges, but they have the responsibility to empower the young to take their destiny in their own hands and shape the future society they want to live in. It is in this context that we may view the electoral and constitutional changes which will prepare the ground and the conditions that will help meet the aspirations of the young people.

As the old generation passes away, a new generation will be in the saddle and it will be up to the latter to meet the challenges of the future. This new concept of self – superimposed on existing identities – will provide the sense of togetherness and solidarity, generate an inclusive approach, in brief, a new sense of nationhood to forge the future and a better society that we have so far known.

It is worth remembering that the proposed reforms, which are long overdue, will occur in a wider context of rapid changes transforming the world. Such changes will also undoubtedly have a deep impact on politics and political behaviour. The reforms which are being presently debated reflect and respond to the aspirations of the young to get rid of ethnicity in our electoral legislation and to facilitate the emergence of an inclusive society.

Many may wonder how a sense of self will be so invaluable for Mauritius in the 21st Century. One has to turn to our history to draw the map for the future. This is what happened in the 1940s. The end of the Second World War created a new world order. The new Constitution of 1947 and the elections of 1948 introduced wider franchise which culminated in the universal suffrage of 1958.

The political framework which resulted from those changes enabled the young generation of politicians then to tackle the basic problems of education, health and population explosion and the initial phase of industrial development through import substitution industries.

In a similar manner, the Independence of Mauritius in 1968 and the new Constitution of 1968 made possible the economic, political and social development of post-colonial Mauritius.

Likewise the country needs at this juncture of its history these long overdue reforms at a time when many of the old political identities have already imploded. This is the opportunity for the progressive forces of Mauritius to take the country to a new stage of its political development just as they did in 1948 or in 1968.

As the old world order is melting away and a new social and political order is struggling to take birth, the forces of conservatism will inevitably fight their last battles as they have been doing in the past. This is why a coalition of progressive forces is necessary to bring about these historic changes. Without such a coalition of forces, we would not have been able to democratize political life in the 1940s and 1950s or won Independence in the 1960s.

One will surely understand that many individuals and organisations would have wished to have a direct participation in the elaboration of these reforms and even in the bill and naturally be taken on board. This is neither possible nor practical in a modern parliamentary state. Reforms, whether seemingly emanating from above or below, and finally the bill to be circulated among the different parties will not emerge in a vacuum. They are drawn upon from the various reports on electoral reforms, the views of the political actors as well as on the views of the articulate classes. Finally, it is true that the final bill coming out of the various texts will not satisfy every individual.

This is to be expected because, in a liberal state, whatever be the liberties we have been granted have been circumscribed so that we can only play the limited role which has been prescribed for us. In other words we can think, speak, write, mobilize and act only in a very limited manner and in parliamentary democracy vote and no more. This is not to argue that we should restrain our liberty of action and our ability to think and act autonomously but simply in a modern state such liberty is circumscribed.

To conclude, one may therefore welcome any progressive electoral and constitutional changes irrespective of the implied motivation behind such changes. One has also to make a distinction between these electoral and Constitutional changes and the internal politics of political parties or the personal agenda of those either in favour or against change.

In the present context, the successful implementation of the reforms is far more important than the means employed to bring them to fruition. If the reforms are fully implemented, these would be the greatest legacy that the 70s generation would have bequeathed to the young. Our political leaders have the responsibility to pool their efforts in this mission and preside over this period of transition until the younger generation takes over. This is our hope.

 


* Published in print edition on 6 June 2014

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