In an interview in l‘express dimanche of 28 July 2013 a certain Roshni Mooneeram makes certain categorical statements which are not backed by facts or validated by the historical experience of the country after it obtained its Independence in 1968. Given her relative youth, it is clear that she does not have any historical memory of events preceding Independence, let alone any personal experience of those traumatic years when malbar nou pas oule and stripping of Hindu ladies in public, in Port Louis, took place.
She speaks from the comfortable position of somebody who has arrived, admittedly on her own merit. It is the same quality that allowed her to be recruited by the Ministry of External Affairs, after she had sent her CV and was duly interviewed as she averred. In line with existing rules and regulations in the Civil Service, she was able to give up the job after six months. And in this malbar country, she had the democratic freedom to seek a post in the private sector. And of course, the private sector did not do her any favour: she was given employment strictly on merit.
Now, knowing the hierarchical profile and structure of the hotel sector where she is employed, it would be interesting to learn from her what specific epithet she would use to qualify, or perhaps even characterize, the predominantly White-owned and White-controlled hotel sector? And if she were to do so, would her employers appreciate it and give her a pat on the back? Or is it more than likely that she would be shown the door, even if done politely?
Clearly, the Civil Service has bon dos.
Even for the short period she spent in the Civil Service, she had enough intelligence to know for a fact that the Public Service Commission, which has the responsibility to recruit employees for the Civil Service, is appointed according to the provisions of the Constitution, and that all candidates for advertised posts must possess specified and specific qualifications. And further, that there is an established administrative procedure of selection.
Surely, with such illustrious politician uncles that she mentioned, and what with her high educational background, she would have been well informed of such standard mechanisms in the Civil Service? And also that all posts are openly advertised either in the media, or internally across the Civil Service where this is deemed appropriate? Which means that all Mauritians are free to apply, provided they possess the minimum qualifications asked for?
At this stage it is necessary to lay bare some facts which, however unpleasant they are – and most Mauritians have moved on – the country and the lady in question must be reminded of for the sake of historical correctness.
The spectre of hégémonie hindoue was raised in the 1950s in the columns of the now defunct newspaper Le Cernéen by its editor NMU, when after the 1948 general elections the movement for autonomy of the country led by the Labour Party was building up. One must go further back to recall that the Labour Party was founded by a non-Hindu, Dr Maurice Cure, who along with others from his community too had started the movement to claim better working conditions for the workers. Hence Labour.
This movement on behalf of workers, most of whom were then employed in the sugar industry, was resented by the sugar oligarchy. It was the Ralliement Mauricien led by Jules Koenig which articulated this resistance, subsequently becoming the Parti Mauricien led by Gaëtan Duval. He was the front man of the sugar oligarchy, and Le Cernéen gave vent to the venom that was poured on the Mauritian psyche day in day out.
Everything Hindu was calumnied, and the bogey of bateaux langoutis coming from India after Independence, with everybody being forced to wear a langouti was dangled in front of the population. There were people not as intelligent, but unfortunately as credulous, as Roshni Mooneeram who swallowed this whole.
To add insult to injury, a devilish scare was implanted into the minds of the General Population by the Parti Mauricien. The result was that a majority of their elite, consisting mainly of mulates and Creoles clairs emigrated en masse to Australia in the main. The population of Indian origin – and not only Hindus – who by then were being pushed towards getting educated, whereas they had formerly been mainly in agriculture, were the only ones left to fill the gap left by the departing members of the General Population.
Is Roshni Mooneeram the latter-day reincarnation of Gaëtan Duval for the oligarchy whose agenda, sadly, seems to remain unchanged? If so, she should begin by doing a head count of Civil Servants sector-wise. Not only that, she must undertake a detailed study of the power relations in the Civil Service and the influences of the vested interests and other lobbies in the decision-making process of the Executive before she talks of malbarisation or hégémonie hindoue. Hegemony, after all, is about predominance – and predominance is often more functional than structural.
As regards her remark on casteism being the worse enemy of development, well it obviously has not prevented Mauritius from rising to middle-income country level while its neighbours in Sub-Saharan Africa are still struggling. And they don’t even have casteism, one presumes.
Finally, if Roshni Mooneeram has found casteism to be so rampant – nobody is denying its existence – then, having had the privilege of being so highly educated and widely travelled, what has she done to try and reverse tant soit peu the trend, if only for the future good of her own children? Perhaps it is still not too late for her to do something about it?
* Published in print edition on 8 August 2013