S.Modeliar

Who is campaigning on ethnic lines?
Is our mainstream press afflicted with blindness or just distorted vision?

 

In 1983 Paul Bé Paul Bérenger is again leading the MMM and its satellites in the 5 May general elections. In all his speeches and other public statements he is hammering on the colour of his skin and his ethnicity to attract voters to his cause. He is comparing his situation to that of Barack Obama. He is using the famous Yes We Can of Barack Obama to drive home to the electorate that notwithstanding the fact that he is not a Hindu and above all a Vaish he deserves to be Prime Minister. He is saying that the Labour Party and its ally the MSM are attacking his ethnicity. So far there is not much evidence of this in public utterances. What is said in private may prove this assertion of Paul Bérenger but there is no official line of attack of an ethnic nature against the person of Paul Bérenger.

renger led his party to the general elections after the break-up of the MMM-PSM coalition. He lost his seat in Quatre Bornes and was allocated a best loser seat. He became Prime Minister in 2003 following the 2000 general elections that saw the victory of the MSM-MMM alliance.

 

Why does Paul Bérenger feel he should be hammering the point about his ethnicity so much on a daily basis? Who is whipping up ethnic considerations in this campaign? Making exception for an irrational statement by Perm Koonjoo who said that a Hindu must be Prime Minister, no one has suggested that Paul Bérenger cannot be Prime Minister. But let us not forget that some time ago Ashock Jugnauth came up with the statement that only a Jugnauth can govern Mauritius.

The majority of the media though professing independence of mind and approach are subtly backing the MMM. If we take a look at l’express we see reports of minor incidents involving Labour Party and MSM supporters. We see reports of how the Labour candidates are encountering difficulties when they are meeting the voters. The candidates of the MMM are having it plain sailing and are not encountering any difficulties. This is the message that the media are sending under the guise of their so-called independence. Le Mauricien has so far been objective in its account of the campaign. This is being said to emphasise that the media were totally silent on two public utterances of a purely ethnic nature by two MMM candidates, both of them intellectuals and therefore well learned.

Last week, Reza Uteem the MMM candidate in constituency number 2 stated at a rally, and his statement broadcast verbatim on Radio One, a satellite of l’express, that Rashid Beebeejaun had not raised the slightest finger in the matter of the use of loudspeakers in calling the Muslims to prayers and had not defended the street hawkers. Mr Uteem was appealing to the emotions of the Muslims only and was telling the Muslim electorate in constituency number 2 that Rashid Beebeejaun was not worthy of their votes as a Muslim.

On the same day Radio One broadcast a statement by Mr Lesjongard, an MMM candidate in constituency number 4, that the Prime Minister had shown no respect for the Christians because he dissolved Parliament during a time that was considered holy for the Christians. He accused Xavier Duval of having failed to defend the Christians and their faith.

These two examples show clearly how some MMM candidates are appealing to the cruder aspects of ethnic considerations to win votes. No one in the media has had the guts to call these two people to order. Had it been a Labour candidate who had resorted to such tactics hell would have broken loose. By their utterances both Mr Uteem and Mr Lesjongard may be making the Hindus uncomfortable because according to them religion and the defence of ethnic minorities should be at the forefront of governance.

Father Grégoire is playing politics and is indirectly hinting to the Creoles who to vote for. Nobody is stupid. The writing is on the wall. He has shown his wrath at the choice of two candidates who were members of the Féderation des Créoles Mauriciens (FCM) by Navin Ramgoolam, namely Edley Chimon and Danielle Turner. Why is that? Why is he meeting Bérenger more often than the other party leaders? Why all of a sudden Bérenger decides that the Creole language will be constitutionally protected? What about Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Mandarin, etc?

Bérenger is using this as an electoral ploy to win the votes of the Creoles but the management of the whole issue will become a headache and may lead to the balkanisation of the population. This nearly happened in 1995 when Sir Anerood Jugnauth wanted to impose oriental languages as a subject for the CPE months before the examinations. Bérenger is using that Creole ethnicity to the full. Does that appear legitimate to so many so-called independent press people?

The Rama Sithanen case has also been used to whip up ethnic feelings. Whether the Prime Minister was right to get rid of Rama Sithanen is a matter worthy of discussion. But that sad episode has now taken gigantic ethnic proportions. During the celebrations of the Tamil New year a holy and solemn occasion, the head of the Tamil Federation played ethnic politics and was followed by Jayen Cuttaree. To make matters worse in an interview to l’express (17 April 10) Jayen Cuttaree stated that following the sacking of Rama Sithanen from the list of candidates “la communauté tamoule dans son ensemble se sent délaissée”. Then the interview by Deepa Bhookun continues as follows:

 

« Et ce sentiment a été exacerbé par l’affaire Sithanen et le fait qu’il n’y aura probablement pas de candidat tamoul au ° 8 ?

« Bien sûr, car il y avait tout de même Rama Sithanen comme ministre des Finances et vice-Premier ministre et sans entrer dans la cuisine interne du Parti travailliste, la maniére cavalière dont Sithanen a été traité n’est pas bien vue par la communauté tamoule. C’est en tout cas comme cela que l’affaire est ressentie – un affront pour la communauté.

« C’est étonnant, étant donné que Sithanen n’est pas particulièrement proche de ces organisations !

« Oui mais il reste un tamoul. Dans la vitrine, c’est important ! Et ne vous arrêtez pas au numéro 8 ! Laissez-moi vous poser une question – dans quelle circonscription croyez-vous qu’un Tamoul de l’alliance gouvernementale va se faire élire ? Il n’y aura personne parce que l’Alliance sociale s’est aliénée complètement la communauté tamoule et je crois que Ramgoolam l’a senti hier. »

 

By this interview and his speech on the occasion of the Tamil New Year Jayen Cuttaree who is aspiring to be the next President of this country is appealing to the baser ethnic feelings to garner votes for the MMM. Even Paul Bérenger is using that argument.

Who then is using ethnicity in those elections?  

S. MODELIAR

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