Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Peter Ibbotson
The Parti Mauricien (PM) is in a bad way. It will soon have more ex-members than present members, and we may well see the formation of an association d’anciens membres du Parti Mauricien! Originally founded to include members of all races and colour and creeds, the Parti is gradually losing its Moslem members, its coloured members, and its Chinese.
The Parti never had a positive policy. It was founded for the negative purpose of combating an imaginary evil, the so-called evil of Hindu hegemony. To this end, the PM recruited disaffected elements from all communities, trying to play off one against the other. But gradually the coloured and Hindu and Moslem members of the PM have come and begun to realise the real game that the Parti is trying to play. The real aim of the PM is to keep the control – economic and political – of Mauritius in the hands of a closed clique.
Former allies of the Parti have been sacrificed when their usefulness has been outworn. The former secretary-general, a coloured man, departed very brusquely. Now Hon. Mohamed has been deserted by his one-time allies and has, it is reported, quit the PM. He, as leader of the Moslem community, has been betrayed by the PM; originally, the Moslems were pictured, by the PM, as the allies of the PM against the so-called Hindu hegemony. All the PM wanted, of course, was the Moslem vote in the Port Louis and other municipal and Legislative Council elections. In the Port Louis election, the Moslem vote certainly helped the Franco-Mauritians: they had only 160 members on the electoral register, but managed to have 4 members elected to the Municipal Council. Large-scale eye washing was resorted to in order to try and make it appear that the PM really was the party for all races and communities. In reality, only the ragtag and bobtail of the coloured and Hindu communities adhered to the reactionaries’ cause, and the Moslems were duped into giving the PM their support.
Divide and rule was the policy traditionally associated with ancient Rome. It is the policy attempted to be followed by the Parti Mauricien and its agents, just as it was the policy of the ill-fated Ralliement. The small-scale riot at Chemin Grenier, like the very recent disturbance at Savanne, was the result of inter-racial hatred deliberately fostered by agents provocateurs. On May 1, someone placarded Port Louis with a notice suggesting to Indo-Mauritians that their misfortunes were due in part to the better fortunes of the coloured people. Letters to the press from a gentleman who has certainly gone out into the political wilderness since he stopped teaching are full of innuendoes designed to set Moslem against both Coloured and Hindu. Few people can take another paper seriously but its existence is symptomatic of the racial cancer which afflicts Mauritians society. Ralliement leaders are regularly writing in it, peddling the line of “divide and rule”. The value set upon it by the Ralliement, dreadful though the paper may be, is shown by the monthly subsidy which it receives Rs 350, I am reliably informed.
As a policy, the slogan “divide and rule” has been successfully employed by various colonial powers for centuries. In South Africa, until very recently the reactionaries, whether Nationalist or United Party, were able to play off the Africans against the Indians, and the Coloured against both. Recent Nationalist ventures further into the realms of the inhuman policy of apartheid, a policy which has inspired much of the propaganda of the Parti Mauricien and its allies, have at last begun to drive the Africans, the Indians and the Coloured together to make common cause against the oppressors. A South African Liberal Party has at last been formed, the first political organisation in the history of South Africa based on the ideal of racial partnership. It seeks to create a common society for black and white.
In Mauritius, the Labour Party seeks to create a common society for all races: coloured, Chinese, British, Franco-Mauritians, and Indo-Mauritians whether Moslem, Hindu or what-have-you. The Labour Party seeks to create a Mauritian citizenship, untrammelled by racial, religious or communal prefix. The Labour Party wants people to say “I am a Mauritian”; not “I am an Indo-Mauritian” or “I am a Franco-Mauritian” or “I am a Sino-Mauritian” or “I am a Creole”. But the Ralliement wants to perpetuate the division of the population into racial groups. It wants to perpetuate the division of the population into religious groups. The more divisions it can foster, and the more inter-racial tension that its agents can foster, the easier it will be for the closed clique to retain its stranglehold on the life, social and political and economic, of Mauritius.
But the Parti is slowly disintegrating. Lacking any coherent and positive policy, this was inevitable. And gradually the people are learning the truth about the opportunism of the PM and its leaders. Hon. Mohamed’s eyes have been opened; La Voix d’Islam did well the other day to appeal for a leader of the Moslems in Mauritius who would lead the Moslems with no thought in mind other than the well-being of his co-religionists. As the PM disintegrates, the position of the Labour Party – the only real multi-racial political organisation in Mauritius – becomes stronger.
And the people of Mauritius can help to make it stronger still; by rallying to its support, by becoming members, by joining their trade unions, and by never losing an opportunity to demonstrate the emptiness and hollowness of the Parti Mauricien’s so-called policies and propaganda.
* Published in print edition on 1 December 2020