The Choice Before Labour

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

The agreement between the Labour Party and the Comité d’Action Musulmane is the most welcome piece of news this week. It goes to the credit of both, the Labour Party and the Comité d’Action. It is in the interest of the Muslim community and the Labour Party. It is, above all, in the interest of the country. So far, the grudge of the Muslim community was that it was under-represented in the Legislature. This complaint loomed large in the London constitutional talks, and it was obviously one of the worries of the Trustram Eve Commission.

Having been provided with a system that would ensure its adequate representation, the Muslim community was faced with the thorny question: what to do next? Should it stand alone? It has agreed to co-operate with one of the political parties and its choice has fallen on the Labour Party. This is as it should be because it could neither choose the Independent Forward Block nor the Parti Mauricien which hitherto had been using it for the aggrandizement of the reactionaries.

We welcome this agreement because it will bring together larger sections of the different communities of the Island, something badly needed at this crucial juncture of history. We like to think that this agreement is not merely a mariage de convenance prompted by electoral expediency, but a genuine desire of the parties concerned to join in the stupendous task of nation-building now confronting the country. We need hardly add that no national enterprise can be undertaken or successfully executed without the co-operation and participation of any community.

Now that the Labour Party has concluded that important agreement, it is faced with two immediate tasks: (a) elaborating its manifesto, and (b) selecting its candidates.

The elaboration of a party’s manifesto is no easy thing. It becomes more difficult when the party is more likely to be in office. Before adumbrating its programme, the Labour Party will have to ascertain what are the needs of the people as well as its problems. It will have to keep an eye on the immediate needs and problems, but it will fail in its duty towards the people if it does not think of the future. It may well bear in mind that “a problem” is nothing but an unsatisfied “need’. It follows, therefore, that as far as possible it will have to satisfy the basic needs of the people.

What then, are the basic needs of the people? The two primary needs of the people, especially the working class, are regular employment coupled with decent wages and better housing. We admit that the second working party has brought some more happiness to a large number of homes, but no one can ignore that government employees of the lowest income group need a lot more to allow them a decent standard of living. With the new wages their situation has been eased just a bit. There is still much to be done.

The labourers and artisans of the sugar industry are in a worse plight. Theirs is still a struggle to keep body and soul together. The demand for a Minimum Wages Board seems to have been a cry in the wildness. Is it not time for the Labour Party to take over this question? We hear that a White Paper on Social Insurance is in the offing; why not one on the wages problem?

As far as housing is concerned, there is no doubt that so far, no political party, apart from the lip-service by the Parti Mauricien, has ever given enough thought to that vexed problem. The time has certainly come to tackle it and the Labour Party cannot afford to ignore it. Co-op, better housing societies might be the solution.

The two basic needs we are discussing concern mainly the labouring class. But there are other needs which affect other sections of the community or which by their very scope are bound to affect the overall progress of the country. They are enumerated below, and the Labour Party will have to pay attention to them. They are:

(a) Increase of the production of locally grown foodstuffs and dairy produce.

(b) A better and more productive use of Crown and Pas Géométriques Lands.

(c) Land tenancy legislation.

(d) The CEB should be brought back under direct state control.

(e) The Sugar Industry Research Institute should be taken over by the government.

(f) Better use should be made of the fabulous sums accruing to the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Committee (e.g., holiday camps for sugar workers and land settlement schemes).

The problems confronting the country today are many and varied. For example, shortage of beds in hospitals, overcrowded schools, unemployment and under-employment, inadequacy of our road system and dearth of water and lack of electricity especially in the rural areas. These problems are fairly acute today, but they are bound to become acuter if the central problem of which all that we have enumerated are mere facets is not tackled. It is a demographic problem.

As a national party rallying all sections of the community, the Labour Party seems to be reluctant to sponsor family planning. Its position is not difficult to understand. But what is the alternative? What has it to say on this terrific problem which bids fair to nullify the progress of the whole country? Ways and means satisfying all sections of the population will have to be devised to meet the challenge of overpopulation if we are really out to ensure the prosperity of the people.

The needs and problems of Mauritius boil down to one ultimate necessity for which Man has been struggling since the dawn of history: SECURITY. We need security against semi-starvation, pestilence, and bad housing. And if the Labour Party wants to bring greater security to a greater number of people, it will have to have complete responsibility. Its battle cry should henceforth be: Enough of coalition government! Let’s have full responsibility!

Apart from elaborating its manifesto, the Labour Party has to select its candidates. This is a tricky and delicate problem. It is as important as the manifesto itself. There are all sorts of rumours circulating regarding the relations between the Party and the TUC. There is even talk of split. But we hasten to add that a split at this moment will do good neither to the Party nor to the TUC. The one will not be able to do without the other. Messrs Moignac and Lacaze, the two men the Party needs, and the Labour Party will have to put heads together so that they may present a united front to the apostles of reaction and obscurantism who are spending millions to buy the people’s conscience.

6th Year – No 231
Friday 16th January 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 June 2023

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