Who cares about the country? Who cares about the electorate?
— S Modeliar
The different scenarios, comments, reactions, rallies, central committee and executive bureau meetings of parties surrounding the electoral alliances in view of the forthcoming general elections can best be summarized in these words from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, English novelist (1812 – 1870) — “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” At the approach of an election the electorate expects each party to come forward with a programme embodied in a political manifesto so that the voters may judge which party to vote for after comments are made on and criticisms are voiced against the various programmes. This will also allow new voters to have an idea of who and what they voting for. Since 2005, date of the last general elections, the MMM-MSM alliance started hitting hard against the Labour government. Nothing that was being decided by the present government was good enough.
The MSM and the MMM fell out of the love bond that steered them to power in 2000. Until recently the MSM, through its leader Pravind Jugnauth, has been bashing the economic policies of the government that he has branded as a supporter of the private sector. He should be reminded of how the private sector benefited from the MMM-MSM government on the VRS and IRS schemes. Millions in the payment of dues on land conversion were waived after legal advice was obtained from the private sector.
During a press conference before the 2005 general elections, Paul Bérenger was blowing his own trumpet and showering praise on his partner Pravind Jugnauth who was then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the criticisms against his government. This is what he said: « Le mood dans le pays c’est dire n’importe quoi. Li pas bon. Besoin arrêté. Ena certains éditorialistes et l’esprit malade qui pé encourage ène esprit de défaitiste. Nous pé casse record avec le nombre de Real ICT Enterprises. Nous en difficulté dans certains secteurs mais ce qui blesse moi plus, c’est banne qui zotte profession c’est necque propage défaitiste. Li dommage qui éna pseudo-sondages nourrit sa défaitiste. Les données du FDI, qui vérifiés et vérifiables, indiqué qui la confiance pé révini. »
In contrast, at a public rally at Glen Park on 27 October, as reported in l’express, 28 Octobre 2006, Paul Bérenger said the following on the present government: « M. de l’Estrac, Finlay Salesse ek enn ti klik dimoun dan l’express ek dan Radio One nek gonfle mem gouvernma. Gonfle mem, Ramgoolam pre pou klate. Mo espere li pou klate dan so Aston Martin. Pe rod fer ou krwar que c’est déjà la reprise, ma chère. Déjà l’économie reprend, ma chère. Bann soi dizan zournalis… Me pa tou dimoun dan l’express ki fer sa. Enn ti klik Salesse de l’Estrac ki fer sa, enn ti klik. Ban azen politik de Ramgoolam. Tou le zour ekzazere, fos bann sif, fer propagann Ramgoolam. He ou la, enn dan sa ti klik la enn ti ekrir dimans… Ou pe ramass beze, pri ogmente, pri pe klate, bidze kraz ou, ou anmerde ek Aston Martin, la petite demoiselle écrit et le sourire revient. »
This attitude is highly reminiscent of the anger of the tribunes at Caesar’s popularity when they spat out: You blocks, you stones, you worthless than senseless things!
The reasons put forward by Paul Bérenger for the suspension of the negotiations with Labour are that Labour is not keen on embarking on a programme that would rid the country of drugs, corruption, ethnic politics, injustice in the distribution of wealth, and adopt a fairer policy towards all the ethnicities. The message being conveyed by the MMM leader is that all these 42 years since independence nothing or not much has been achieved in the areas mentioned by him. All this could have been tackled between 2000 and 2005 when Paul Bérenger was in government. This is revealing of the mindset of the MMM and its supporters. Would Paul Bérenger leave the Opposition wilderness and get back in government in a Labour-MMM alliance even if that means he will have to play second fiddle to Navin Ramgoolam? Nothing is sure. But as at present advised in the light of the results of the Quartier Militaire byelection a victory of a Labour-MSM alliance cannot be brushed aside lightly. It is that fact that is causing sleepless nights to the MMM establishment and its supporters.
None of the parties of the Opposition is talking of programmes. Is it because they have nothing to offer as an alternative to the government realisations? All these parties have one clear programme and that is how best to manoeuvre in order to get on board the Labour winning bandwagon. This is sad for a country that professes to be a vibrant democracy. The attitude of the parties of the Opposition is a perversion of democracy and of their responsibility towards their electorate.
What is even more indecent is the fact that the policy of the MMM will change now and it will hit hard on the government, now that the alliance talks are on hold. A glimmer of hope for an alliance means no government bashing. The loss of that hope means government bashing. This is the new motto of the MMM. What a fall for a party that professes to have such a glorious history.
All this time the Leader of the Opposition seemed to have been sitting on the fence waiting for a positive outcome from the alliance negotiations. Even the Labour Party in its worst moments throughout the eighties never adopted that begging attitude. As for the MSM it seems inexistent and is waiting either for a signal from Labour or vying hard to contract an alliance with the PMSD if the Labour-MMM alliance becomes a reality.
All these events finally prove one certainty. Who cares about the country? Who cares about the electorate? All that politicians are interested in is power by any means. Who could have imagined that the MMM would again eye Labour as a political partner after what we have heard the MMM leader say about Navin Ramgoolam and the Labour party? All this talk about the MMM being the sole party capable of solving all the woes of Mauritius is mere rubbish.
The MMM is not indispensable. The economic recovery was achieved between 1982 and 1990 without the MMM. The management of the financial crisis was managed successfully by Labour in the last two years without the MMM. That party had nothing to offer except the purchase of gold. At such a time there was no consensus on a common policy to fight that crisis. Not one iota of contribution came from the MMM or MSM. They were applauding and were praying for economic disaster to hit so as to reap the electoral benefits of such a disaster.
Navin Ramgoolam will determine the right strategy for his party and the country. In so doing he cannot just jettison partners who stood by him when he was the devil that had to be destroyed both by the MMM and the MSM.