The List System and Its Dangers

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Somduth Bhuckory

We read at page 71 of ‘Problems of Parliamentary Government in Colonies’, a publication of the Hansard Society: “Two kinds of P.R. (proportional representation) are described in Appendix H (paragraph 4) pages 145-6. The “list” system, though often favoured on the Continent of Europe, finds little support in Britain. If introduced in plural societies, it would almost certainly encourage the tendency to create parties on strictly communal lines and the parties would probably submit strictly communal lists of candidates.

The other system is known as the “Single Transferable Vote (S.T.V.)…”

Yes, the unpopular S.T.V. and the equally unpopular list system are two cousins. It matters not very much if one of them is lost provided the other one is saved. Poor Clementine is gone for ever, but her little sister is there to be kissed.

Let us now refer to Appendix H to see how the list system works. “Candidates group themselves in lists, and the seats available are divided among these lists in proportion to the total numbers of votes obtained by their candidates. In the simplest form of this method, votes are cast for a list — and for individual candidates on it — and the seats won by that list are filled by its candidates in the order in which they appear on the ballot paper. Sometimes the method is modified to a greater or less extent to enable supporters of a list to indicate which of its candidates they prefer to see elected.”

We don’t know what sub-specie of the list system is coming our way. Throughout the length and breadth of the British colonial empire, we find S.T.V. in Malta only. Now, for the first time a British colony is going to be used as a guinea-pig on which the list system will be tried. So many colonies with plural societies can do without P.R. and march towards self-government but not Mauritius. And, as far as we know, P.R. is not coming over any dead body.

There was a case for the revision of our constitution because the elected labour majority of the Council was systematically being turned into a minority. It is on considering the list system in terms of majority and minority that we can see whether any change for the better is taking place.

There will be 11 three-member constituencies, i.e. a total of 33 members. If we allow a liberal concession, we may hope to have 2 Labour members elected in every constituency, i.e. a total of 22 Labour members. The other party will have 11. There will be 12 nominees and 3 Officials. And so the total of non-Labour members will be 26. Don’t tell us that decent Labourites will accept to sit as nominees. Labour will need, therefore, at least eleven sacrificial lambs in the form of eleven, perhaps, young, but certainly, mild and meek candidates. Old groups will surely split: X, Y and Z cannot stick together knowing full well that one of them has to fall a prey to P.R.

And the Executive has to reflect the Legislative Council. If Labour is in minority in the Legislative Council, it will be in a minority in the Executive Council as well.

But who cares? Majority or no majority, the ministry will be there. Does it matter very much if Liaison Officers are re-styled Ministers? What’s in a name? Won’t the fragrance be the same?

* * *

Dr Lavoipierre & his Press Conference

Dr Lavoipierre, Director of the Medical Services, is holding a press conference today in connection with the outpatient service.

Lately there has been some criticism in the press of the outpatient service at Candos hospital. Dr Lavoipierre wants perhaps to dispel some misunderstanding by telling the public through the press how that service functions exactly.

It is to be regretted that the press conference is going to be limited to the treatment of outpatients. Had it been general we would have put the following four questions to Dr Lavoipierre:

  1. Is it a fact that some specialists who have been allowed to engage in private practice are doing so during their working hours in hospitals?
  2. Is it true that during the night, medical officers are not often at their posts or show great reluctance to attend to their duties?
  3. Is it a fact that essential medicines are not to be found in hospitals and their absence is a cause of discouragement among doctors who want to do their work conscientiously?
  4. Is there any effective control over the stocks of foodstuffs and medicines in general and over the foods and medicines prescribed for patients in particular?

But Dr Lavoipierre will have to answer this question as it is within the scope of his press conference. Is it true that at Souillac Hospital a card system has been instituted according to which 50 cards are distributed daily among outdoor patients and if the number of patients requiring medical help exceeds 50, the excess has to go back unattended?

* * *

The M.B.S and Football Commentaries

Mr Cyril de Chazal, the Manager of the Mauritius Broadcasting Service (M.B.S.), has done it again. Last Saturday there were once more football commentaries on the air. That is to say there was once more encroachment on the Indo-Mauritian programme.

Usually Saturday is a day for ‘Hamari Aap Ki Pasand’. But last Saturday it was Holi and there was a special programme to be broadcast. Did that stop Mr de Chazal? Not in the least.

People are afraid that Shakespeare and Claudel will have to make room for ‘Hamari Aap Ki Pasand’. But that is only a flight of fancy. The hard and cold fact is that ‘Hamari Aap Ki Pasand’ has to make room for football commentaries. If you protest, there are wild cries of nationalism, peril and what not.

Mr De Chazal is going his way. The M.B.S. Advisory Board is not showing any sign of being interested in our repeated protests. But the P.R.O. to whom we appealed not very long ago has not remained idle. We are in position to say that an inquiry is on foot. We hope that once it’s over, the P.R.O. will satisfy our curiosity by publishing a statement of policy on the broadcasting of football commentaries in the Indo-Mauritian programme.

With the coming of the Desportivo football team a series of matches has been arranged: three on Sundays and three on Thursdays. The first match will be played next week. It has not been announced up to now whether the matches will be broadcast or not. But we have an uncanny feeling that they will be. Why? Because we have had plenty of opportunities to see that the M.B.S. is without a conscience.


* Published in print edition on 31 January 2020

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