Taking back control

By  Mrinal Roy

Politics cannot be about pandering to the interests of the few at the expense of the multitude. It is also not about parochial agendas or the endless pursuit of power

There is a growing schism between governments and the people. Whether it is because of existential hardships endured by them or the contested political regime in place or the serious threats of climate change on planet Earth, people from across the world no longer want to be taken for a ride by governments, politicians and those insidiously pulling the strings of power. From Algeria to Sudan people have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of those who have misruled their countries for decades. They clamour for a new constitution and a real democracy under a civilian government. They have shrewdly foiled crafty political ploys and refused cosmetic changes aimed at maintaining a decried, corrupt and repressive government run by a self serving nexus of politicians, businessmen and the military for the benefit of a coterie.

In short, the people are basically fighting once again for their independence from contested ruling regimes. They know that there cannot be any free and democratic elections so long as the old guard has a firm grip on power. The people therefore stand their ground and remain mobilized to usher the sea change towards a democratic system of government. These developments yet again showcase that the power of the people remains absolute. They can topple contested incumbent governments through the ballot box as well as the most authoritarian regimes through potent popular protests.

Disappointing response

In France, last week’s response of President Emmanuel Macron to five months of protests by the gilets jaunes against government policies and the existential hardships endured by them has been disappointing. Despite organising a ‘Grand National Debate’ since the beginning of the year to fathom the real problems faced by people and the country, Emmanuel Macron’s range of proposals to resolve them has been a far cry from the expectations of the protestors. Tens of thousands of gilets jaunes, trade unionists and activists again took to the streets for the 24th consecutive Saturday to protest against the proposals made. The aggrieved protestors feel short-changed. Their scathing verdict was that President Macron ‘learnt nothing’ from five months of protests by the gilets jaunes.

Government policies and actions cannot sidetrack the people’s real concerns and problems. Politics cannot be about pandering to the interests of the few at the expense of the multitude. It is also not about parochial agendas or the endless pursuit of power by politicians by all means. The prime object and finality of government actions and policies must be the people and their continuous well being. However, too often governments and politicians are at cross purposes with the priorities and wishes of the people on so many fundamental issues.

Thus, despite the crying evidence and mounting clamour by people, children, students, scientists and UN institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for urgent and potent actions to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 so as to prevent an impending climate change catastrophe on our homeland, planet Earth, governments still seem to prevaricate and to be dragging their feet.

More and more people and in particular the young are waking up to the dire consequences of climate change on their future. Almost every week natural calamities and extreme weather conditions are wreaking havoc across the world and causing loss of life, severe flooding and tremendous damage to property, agriculture and the lives of people. Despite the clamour for urgent actions by governments to reverse the adverse impact of climate change on planet Earth to safeguard their future by people and more than a million protesting school and university students in some 123 countries on 15 March, there are still no signs of robust actions by the most polluting countries to drastically cut down their carbon emissions. Governments caving in to coal lobbies and others belching carbon emissions in the atmosphere seem blind to the serious threats of climate change on the planet and mankind.

Shot at survival

The upsurge in climate change activism by a growing multitude from across the world concerned about the serious risks of climate change on their future are staging more and more potent protests to pressure governments across the world to take urgent actions. Thus, on 15 April, Extinction Rebellion, a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance to protest against climate change, biodiversity loss, the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse blocked roads across central London and 80 cities in 33 countries causing severe traffic disruptions.

During an action spanning 10 days, the protestors demanded that governments across the world declare a state of emergency to combat climate change. They want governments to tell the truth about climate change, reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and create a citizens’ assembly to oversee progress. Extinction Rebellion activists have also met leading UK politicians and members of the government. They want them to declare a climate emergency.  Greed for more and more profits cannot supplant the interests of mankind and sap the future of the young.  A young protestor aptly summed up the grim situation: ‘This is our last best shot at survival.’

Emergency measures

It is therefore imperative that governments finally abide by the will of the people and take emergency measures to save the planet from an impending catastrophe. This above all means banning coal and cutting down carbon emissions to zero. It is equally time for Mauritius to take the required bold steps to do likewise. Polls published this week show that there is widespread support among the people in the world for urgent actions which would reduce the serious impacts of climate change on Earth.

The adverse fallouts of climate change are also taking a heavy toll on biodiversity. Earth Day on 22 April 2019 thus focused world attention on the dire impact of the ‘unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations caused inter alia by human activity, climate change, wanton deforestation, habitat loss, poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides on the world habitat.

Paramount will of the people

The will of the people and their core concerns must guide and drive government policies and actions at all times. Governments are not elected to act as they wish without robust checks and balances or accountability. Their brief is to selflessly and competently serve the people and the country with utmost propriety and probity. They cannot therefore drag their feet and delay urgent actions on issues of fundamental importance to the people and the world.

In the case of Mauritius these core issues that need cogent actions include climate change, recurrent flooding, economic performance, inequality, nepotism, equal opportunities, inclusiveness, government finances, water management, the protection of the environment and our biodiversity, pollution, the recycling and management of waste, poor governance and drug trafficking, etc. The list is long. It is therefore imperative that the people take back control and exercise a rigorous oversight over the government policy framework and actions as well as ensure that governments always strictly abide by an exemplary standard of governance and best practices.

The paramount will of the people must therefore prevail at all times and help shape a more prosperous and inclusive future for the benefit of all.

* Published in print edition on 3 May 2019

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