2010 Elections: Fundamental Issue
Control and distribution of economic and financial resources
Using the powerful means at their disposal, some interest groups have drummed in the false argument that the present elections are about the religion, skin colour, community or ethnicity of the future Prime Minister. A lot of media time is being wasted on this propaganda, which seeks to polarize the debate into binary categories: White v/s non-White, Creole versus Non-Creole, Hindu this-caste versus that-caste, minority versus majority.
All these categories are belied by the mixed composition of the two major contenders in these elections, namely the Alliance du Coeur (AC) led by Paul Bérenger and the Alliance de l’Avenir (AA ) led by Navin Ramgoolam. For the propagandists, it was perfectly all right as long as Paul Bérenger had sought to negotiate a Labour Party-MMM alliance, in which LP was going to be the engine and the majority partner. Then, as the MMM had let it be known, it was a matter of seeking the best arrangement that would allow it to gain and share power. There was, and is, nothing wrong in that: after all, the whole point about being in politics is to be in power.
However, when the MMM failed to conclude an alliance with LP, and the MSM of Pravind Jugnauth beat it in the race to win the favours of LP in the same bid to gain and share political power – which was also the objective of the MMM – the latter’s machinery turned the tables around and started projecting the arrangement as a communal one. And yet, in 1995, the same MMM had partnered with the MSM and won the elections. Neither the MMM nor the MSM was then communal: all the MSM did was, like MMM’s failed attempt, to try and put the best chances of winning on its side. Overnight MSM and its new partner LP were branded communal!
The MMM has never ceased to contradict itself by getting entangled in the communal argument, and for the second time only ever since it is taking part in the elections it is proposing Bérenger as the future PM for a whole mandate. And the alignment of its front bench clearly projects its designs to woo voters along communal lines.
But people will not be fooled, for the fundamental issue in the present as in all previous elections remains the same: the control and distribution of the economic and financial resources of the country.
In all countries there is a power elite which tries to keep everything to itself and rule over the larger masses, which it exploits to gain its wealth. This wealth is jealously guarded, and the masses are kept at arm’s length because the elite feels that they should forever remain underdogs. Taken to the extreme this takes the form of apartheid, and we know what happened to the hero who fought this system – and won: Nelson Mandela. He was thrown in prison for 27 years. But the march of history and justice could not be stopped: eventually the power elite had to give in and realized that the best arrangement is to live in peace with everybody around rather than to isolate itself in ivory towers. And to start both sharing power and use the wealth generated in the country to uplift the masses.
Pretty much the same situation prevailed in Mauritius. An oligarchy based on sugar and big business opposed the emancipation of the workers whose toil and sweat were the very ingredients which contributed massively to the wealth being created. The workers had to wait for the Labour Party founded by Dr Cure, and subsequently led by Guy Rozemont followed by Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, to fight for their civil rights and ensure their social progress. This could only happen by gaining political power, because that was the only means whereby at least part of the wealth of the country could be used for the betterment of the lot of the masses. And, as Sydney Selvon has shown in his researches in the history of Mauritius, the sugar oligarchy was also a mixed one, although one community predominated. But the attitude of all the components of that sugar oligarchy – which was also the social power elite – was one and the same, as the tragic episode of Anjalay reveals.
And it is quite to be expected that when one’s unfair privileges start to get eroded, one gets rattled. The political struggle to wrench power so as to make available the country’s resources, both economic and financial, to all Mauritians at large in a more equitable way is what all elections have been about. Through the instrument of the political power gained legitimately by the ballot box, the role of the government, as representing the State, is to create that necessary ethical space of norms, regulations, law, institutions and so on in which it will negotiate to effect the transfer of wealth from those who have to those who have not and are in need. And also provide the enabling conditions that will allow the latter, in due course, to also participate in the creation of wealth by suitably empowering them. Whichever party or combination of parties can do that, and has a proven track record in the matter, will be the one that the people will vote for.
To come back to our initial point therefore, the fundamental issue in the 2010 elections is: which alliance will guarantee that when it comes to power, it will use that power to further the cause of the population at large? This means pulling up the working class into an expanding middle class that is known to form the bulk of a country and to promote the best interests of all citizens as part of an interactive, wholesome society. The alliance that seeks to concentrate resources in an oligarchy allied to the power/business elite is the least suited to rule the country.
The choice to be made on 5th May 2010 is quite clear.
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Bérenger: ‘Chef de tribu’ or national leader?
Bérenger has so consistently been proclaimed as the leader of the minorities that he has weakened his claim to be a national leader. In fact, by associating himself with minor leaders, he has himself become a minor leader, having lost his shine and his verve along the way. Many people have observed that he looks so old now, and he seems to genuinely have to struggle to call up enough energy reserve so as to be able to articulate what he has to say. He is definitely not the Bérenger that we have known, full of fire and brimstone. On the contrary, the latest is that he has made use of vulgar language with regard to his opponent, showing that he is on slippery ground.
What a pity. Vintage Bérenger he may be, but alas a spent force, and thus more of a chef de tribu than the true national leader that the country needs.