Voters have the opportunity to create through their collective vote a salubrious sea change in the political landscape and kickstart the process of a new dawn for the country — By Mrinal Roy
The nation’s eyes are on the 42,052 electors of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes as they prepare themselves to cast their vote at the 17 December 2017 by-election in the constituency. This is not a run-of-the mill by-election. The voters of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes have the opportunity through their single-minded and collective vote to cut loose from a widely decried political system, its discredited leaders and subservient political parties which have crippled the prospects of the country for decades, to herald a new socio-economic and political order.
A new order driven by the talent and vision of a new generation of altruistic politicians committed to serve the people. The voters have the opportunity to create through their collective vote a salubrious sea change in the political landscape and kickstart the process of a new dawn for the country based on meritocracy, inclusiveness, equality of opportunities and shared prosperity. The people hold their breath in the hope that the voters of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes make this necessary and game changing choice for a radical change in political ethics and a new pathway towards a far better and inclusive future for all, severed from the ineptitude, scandals and the cronyism of successive governments which have undermined the country for too long.
The choice is quite simple. Are we as a nation ready to continue to endorse a failed political system monopolized by the same repeatedly defeated leaders and their parties bent on perpetuating their hold on power by all means rather than serve the people? Are we prepared to vote for the same failed politicians and parties when alternation of governments over the past decades has basically meant replacing a bad government by a worse one and so on and on ad nauseam?
Cutting the dead wood
Is it not high time to say loud and clear through our vote that we want to rid the country of the succession of governments which once in power have thrived on cronyism and nepotism and been plagued by incompetence and scandals of every kind? Is it not time to rid the country of disavowed political leaders and politicians who in the teeth of elementary rules of political ethics would simply not step down when roundly defeated at the polls? Is it not time to oust them and their parties through the ballot box? Is it not time for voters of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes to trigger a process of fundamental democratic change in the country by collectively voting for the young candidate, who through his/her programme, connect and interface with the voters of the constituency, ideas and ideals, has emerged as the most talented and inspiring to serve the people and the country as an MP?
The traditional parties have repeatedly failed the people during past decades. The present Labour Party is aeons distanced from the ideals, ethos, values and commitment of service to the people for a better socio-economic order of Emmanuel Anquetil. The people must make it clear that under its present disavowed leadership and its overbearing control over the party through cohorts of subservient apparatchiks, the party has no credibility to seek popular support. The people are still deeply riled by the decried compromises made on fundamental principles anchored on the ethos of the party and the core principles of the people’s fight for independence when contracting the ill-fated alliance with the MMM before the December 2014 general elections.
Let it be very clear: The dead wood has to be cut. The prospects of the Labour Party will only improve when it is fundamentally reformed and democratized under a new young leadership and opens up to new young talent driven by the ethos and ideals of the stalwarts of the Party which as from 1937 played a determinant role in inspiring and mobilizing the people to fight for their rights, for freedom and a better socio-economic order. Only such a radically reformed Labour Party led by a rejuvenated, talented and inspiring leadership capable of rallying the nation can aspire to a great future.
Similarly, under its present leadership, the MMM has never been able to elect its leader as Prime Minister through general elections. The MMM is out of power since 2005 and has suffered a scathing defeat in alliance with the Labour Party at the December 2014 general elections. It is weakened by dissent and exits from the party. Its leader has had to cede his post as Leader of the Opposition and seems to have since taken a back seat in the National Assembly. Despite such a paltry record, there is, as in the case of the Labour Party, still no change of leadership nor a fundamental reform to truly democratize and open the party to the talented young of the country. The party is still bent on contesting the next general elections with an unchanged leadership.
Political parties belong to the party faithful. They are not personal heirlooms or possessions of their leaders. The culture of hegemonic control which leaders exercise over their respective parties seems to have infected all the main political parties. It is anything but democratic.
The nation is not a collage of its diverse components. It is cemented on the anvil of unity. It is only parties that unwaveringly champion and strengthen the unity of the nation which can claim the support of the multitude. Every political party must promote unity and the lay principles of our democracy. Those that thrive on division have repeatedly been debunked, thrashed and thwarted by the people.
The current government has plummeted governance to abysmal depths. The country is facing an unprecedented situation of having an appointed Prime Minister who has not obtained the legitimacy of a formal mandate, conferred solely by the people through general elections. The government has also shied away from participating and facing the polls in the by-election. Desperate to show results, it has compromised on fundamental principles contrary to the interests of the multitude. No wonder, government decisions are raising a host of legitimate questions.
In a country of low tax rates, corporate tax represent some 14% of tax revenue whereas VAT and excise paid by the multitude collect more than 63% of tax revenue from latest available data. In such a context, why is there so much largesse towards the corporate sector in the name of business facilitation representing billions of Rupees of state revenue forfeited through very generous exemptions from land conversion, land transfer taxes and other taxes and duties granted to 6 smart city promoters richly endowed with land assets? The outcome of this high policy thrust in favour of real estate development and smart cities in the country driven by the lucrative sale of residential units and apartments to foreign citizens and non-residents is that residential land across the country is being priced out of reach of mainstream Mauritius. Inequalities are being further widened instead of being narrowed.
State revenue is now also being used to pay the Negative Income Tax to principally underpaid employees of the private sector which amounts to subsidizing the private sector from public funds. The SMEs are the principal source of employment creation in the country. In contrast, what steps are being taken to prevent the vulnerable SMEs from going under and enable this key sector maintain and create employment in the wake of the recent decisions regarding the payment of a minimum salary?
Government also owes the people a credible explanation as to why the Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), an outlandish betting platform on horse racing in France carrying the lure of jackpots of tens of millions of Rupees, was given a licence to operate in the country when people are already dead against the public nuisance caused by promoting gambling on horse racing through multiple outlets across the country.
After the shambolic management of the BAI alleged scam at a substantial cost to the country, the STC-Betamax mano-a-mano obviously seems more than meets the eye. Is it not time for the government to come clean, in particular in respect of the terms and arbitration clause of the original contract as well as the cost benefit of what looks like a protracted and costly litigation? Why has the ‘damning’ report of enquiry on horse racing and the MTC been surreptitiously buried? The list of questions and interrogations from the people is long.
This can’t go on. Mauritius is at a crossroads. The pervasive feeling in the country is that the people can no longer compose with the same political leaders and parties which have repeatedly and continue to fail them. The by-election in Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes provides the welcome opportunity to kickstart a process of fundamental democratic change which enables the talented young driven by a high sense of ethics and service to the nation to team up to propose an innovative and ambitious projet de société based on core values of equality, solidarity, shared prosperity, unity and inclusiveness which rally the people.
If we want, as a nation, to finally cut loose from the current political class and its inept governance which have plumbed the prospects of the country for too long, the time is now. This is the time to herald a new dawn.
The right to vote is a hard won right which must be valued and diligently exercised. Will the voters of Belle Rose-Quatre Bornes live up to their unique tryst with history and break the shackles of party and leader loyalty by massively voting to usher a sea change in the state of our democracy and the political landscape of the country for the benefit of all?
Will they collectively make the right call on behalf of all of us who are clamouring for such a radical change in the country for so long?
* Published in print edition on 15 December 2017