National Unity and the Communal Representation Game

Party leaders should stop playing such communal games and concentrate instead on the real issues facing the country, for which they have been voted.

The theme of national unity is a recurring one among all politicians and political parties, with the leaders of the parties in particular not missing any opportunity to hammer this home. This is especially so when they are present at large gatherings on social, cultural and even religious occasions.

Even as they devise ways and means to balkanise the population, for example by the setting up of separate cultural centres, they attend functions at these places where they give speeches reeking of political correctness as a strategy for garnering votes on the basis of community or religion. It will be remembered that it is an MMM-MSM government that took the decision to set up separate cultural centres.

Similarly, when it comes to representation in the National Assembly, there is contradiction which was exemplified by none other than the leader of the MMM. Under ‘Frank talk ‘in MT of September 28, 2012, his ‘flawed reasoning about quotas and entitlements’ was exposed in his new proposals on the Best Loser system to ensure adequate numerical representation of a given community. The remedy he proposed was to inscribe communal representation in our Constitution.

The author argued that ‘the fundamental question raised by the two opposing views on BLS is whether our country needs constitutional provisions to ensure that no group feels left out or can the country expect that political parties will themselves ensure this’ and concluded that ‘we do not need to inscribe communal representation in our Constitution. The political parties will take care of that.’

Further, the author went on to underline how ‘Berenger’s latest proposals on the mode of appointment of Best Losers are preposterous. Forty-four years after independence, he wants to substitute party leaders for the Electoral Commission. Instead of having a constitutional body appointing Best Losers in accordance with clear rules prescribed by the Constitution he wants the appointment to be made by party leaders. He wants to replace the rules known to the voters before they cast their vote by unfettered discretionary powers to party leaders. He wants to replace Rule of Law by Arbitrariness and Dictatorship…The MMM now wants to scrap the powers of a constitutional body and give these powers to party leaders not constrained by any pre-determined legal rules.’

Are we not right to be worried about the proposed changes on electoral reform?

Another contradiction relates to the haggling about the composition of the front bench in the National Assembly. If the members are elected by a mix of voters and not only by those of their own community, as has always been the case, then why is communal showcasing needed on the front bench?

Should not the candidates ‘chosen’ – sole prerogative of the party leaders – themselves take first step and show the example of national unity by refusing to play the communal representation game? Does this game not send a wrong signal to the population at large, and give a particular community a claim to political leverage that is based on the symbolism of the representation, and which may well put other communities at a disadvantage?

It is therefore the responsibility of the leaders to stop playing such communal games and concentrate instead on the real issues facing the country, for which they have been voted.

* Published in print edition on 3 Ocotober 2014

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