The Opposition’s Protest March


Things appear to be moving very fast these days with one crisis or scandal chasing away the previous one, and today’s controversy casting a shroud over yesterday’s. What initially started as the SAFE “survey/sniffing” controversy involving the Baie de Jacotet Landing Station quickly shifted to alleged espionage and counterespionage activities involving major players in the Indian Ocean, namely India and China and the latter’s major technology giant Huawei which was dragged into it, much to the public displeasure of the Chinese embassy. Media’s attention thereafter focussed to the constructions underway in Agalega and to suspicions about the setting up of an Indian military base on the island, which has been denied by the Mauritian Prime Minister. The words are important for an installation that can berth or accommodate naval and/or aerial surveillance vessels need not be a permanent military base as Diego Garcia or Djibouti.

Attention today has shifted to the opposition parties and their inability to come together for a protest march against the government doings and misdoings. Initially proposed by the leader of the Labour Party for 12th August, it would seem that the unsolicited but “patriotic” initiative of the former CEO of Mauritius Telecom to rally all the mainstream opposition parties together with the other extra-parliamentary¬†political groupings for the protest march has been to no avail: the controversial Bruneau Laurette and his citizen movement, the backings of which remain unknown to the public, has chosen to move out and will hold his own protest march separately at some future date. A repeat of 29 August 2020, which has to date not delivered on its promise to overthrow the government, is what Mr Laurette may have in mind, but that remains to be seen, the more so since his Linion Pep Morisien appears to be already in tatters. The base that was being laid for an extra-parliamentary¬†movement which would surf on the wave of indignation that has been building up since the last three years seems to be falling apart. In any case, street protests don’t work in the Mauritian context. Massive marches elsewhere have produced scant results and fail to create significant changes in politics or public policies, except for a few countries like in Sri Lanka recently and earlier in Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

The focus of the 2020 Laurette movement had initially been on the Wakashio shipwreck and the oil spill and a number of other issueswhich appeal to popular sentiments. It has to date not taken up issues which have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people across all social and ethnic groups to be taken to be a serious party. Whether such types of movements are in keeping with our political evolution as a parliamentary democracy remains to be seen. Despite the skepticism anddwindling support affecting all so-called traditional parties, they have served this country within the democratic paradigm well. But enormous damage has been done to their national standing down the years. The leadership which was once respected for sticking to the highest principles is totally unrecognizable by those standards today. Looking at the kaleidoscope of political parties occupying the front stage of Mauritian politics currently, it should be clear that most of their leaders have devalued their parties, thinking that voters have no choice but to stick to them no matter how much the damage they have wrought. There is some serious thinking which needs to be done at their end.

If a united Opposition front of traditional and extra-parliamentary forces for a march looks a remote possibility, government may feel free to pursue its pot-hole ridden road hoping that its standard formula will serve it in good stead for the 2024 hustings. Namely freebies for the elderlies and low-income earners and the Metro express train with its promises of future deliverables, not to mention the clever if cynical use of the communo-casteist card. However, both the Opposition and the governing MSM alliance have two years to shore up their strategies and alliances. Everything therefore remains open on the political front, and what may appear improbable today may take shape in the months ahead.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 5 August 2022

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