Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Peter Ibbotson
The great event is over; Princes Margaret’s visit to Mauritius is now but a memory. What can one say of it? Firstly, that the demonstration of loyalty to the British crown by people of all races should convince N.M.U. that his talk of Hindu hegemony and Mauritius as “India’s first overseas colony” is just so much poppycock. The ties between Mauritius and Britain is indissoluble; only a benighted and malicious propagandist would suggest otherwise.
Second, one can only criticise, and echo the criticism of others, concerning the arrangements for the royal visit. With Malcolm de Chazal’s open letter to the Governor, one cannot disagree. It really was disgusting that H.R.H. did not meet any of the island’s literary figures or any dignitaries of the churches except Catholic and Church of England. Even more serious is, of course, the arrangements which prevented H.R.H. from seeing anything of the ordinary people, and from speaking to any of the ordinary folk. Both the Daily Mail and News-Chronicle referred to the disappointment at the orthopaedic hospital because Princess Margaret did not stop and speak to any of the little patients; the fault lies, of course, with the officials who had arranged such a tight time schedule for the Princess that she just hadn’t time to stop.
The Daily Mirror was even more caustic. ‘Margaret just did not meet the People’ was the headline to the royal tour report in the issue of October 2; and in the same issue the editorial was devoted to a scathing, devastating denunciation of the official reply to questions about why she didn’t meet ordinary folk. Says the Mirror: “The Princess was in Mauritius for 56 hours. In all that time she spoke to not one single ordinary member of the public except to say thank you for bouquets. Instead she was hemmed in by the top brass. Local dignitaries were wheeled into place to meet her. Officialdom, in large lumps, was propped up in the presentation lines to greet her. But workers, housewives, ordinary folk, were kept OUT.”
The Mirror quotes the official reason why the Princess didn’t meet ordinary people in their homes: “It would be too difficult to select an ordinary family for this honour.” This paltry excuse the Mirror rightly characterises as nonsense, balderdash and drivel. (Just as if it were referring to N.M.U’s opinions).
The enthusiasm of the people for the royal visitor must not be allowed to detract from the urgent needs of the people. Massed schoolchildren effectively hid from the royal gaze such eyesores as the shanties near Grand River North West School; the tour of Port Louis, confined to the best streets, gave an utterly false impression of the island to the casual visitor. The flags and triumphal arches were very pretty; thousands of people massed to see the Queen’s sister and wore their finery for the occasion. But will Princess Margaret ever know the truth — that thousands of those cheering crowds have had, and will still have, to tighten their belts for months for the curiosity of seeing her and of being smartly dressed for the occasion?
After the tour, which was indeed a great success, back to politics, The reactionaries may well try and take advantage of the mood created by the royal visit to further their own nefarious ends. (Just as the Tory government took advantage of, in the U.K., the Silver Jubilee rejoicings in 1935, and held a general election very soon after.) The people will have to keep on the alert to avoid being split and duped. The trade union movement has won a victory in the dock strike; the tactics employed by the employers revealed well and truly the function of the Parti Mauricien and its supporters. Mr H. L.Koenig let the cat out of the bag in saying as he did to the Standard Times that the Parti Mauricien has only one role of disrupting, of splitting. And in this task the Parti is aided and abetted by Mallefille Street.
Divide and rule — that is the motto to which the reactionaries are sticking. They used Hindus living on estate camps to try and break the dockers’ strike; the dockers are mainly Coloured people. Abusing the Hindus is a speciality of the Parti Mauricien; but the Hindus are used when it suits the book of the reactionaries to do so. The trade unions must beware of further attacks on their existence. Always remember that although picketing is allowed by the Trade Union Ordinance (as amended), the authorities are often on the side of the employers and will not hesitate to protect those who are trying to prevent the workers from asserting their legitimate rights to strike and to picket.
Then there is the ministerial system, with which Mr Roy has so admirably dealt in the Mauritius Times of September 28. The Labour Members of the Legislative Council were one hundred percent right to act as they did and boycott the elections to the Executive. Expediency would have said that the Labour members should participate in the Government of the island — principle dictated that the Labour members should have nothing to do with hamstringing their independence of action by accepting membership of a council that would not represent the wishes of the electors as shown at the general election in 1953, the subsequent by-election and the municipal elections. The electors want none of the Parti Mauricien and the reactionaries; in refusing to serve on the Executive, the Labour members have truly interpreted the feeling of their supporters. To this topic and the topic of trade unionism I will be returning in later issues.
The true interests of the reactionaries is revealed in a despatch to The Times from its Port Louis correspondent. Referring to the Labour M.L.C.’s refusal to serve on the Executive, the correspondent said the Governor would find it difficult to get enough qualified persons to compose the Executive, because the other people from whom he would expect to recruit members were businessmen who couldn’t spare the time from their businesses. Thus do we see what the reactionaries are really interested in — not the welfare of Mauritius, but their own private purses. The community at large come second to private interests; yet N.M.U. wants our sympathy for those very people!
* Published in print edition on 1 February 2019