Ah, the illusion of power! There are people who will never learn  

By TP Saran

It was quite a sight to see pictures of the outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, who had been fighting back from his retrenched position in his palace, being handed out a towel to wipe his face and then helped to put on a shirt. This happened after he capitulated when attacks by the French forces, in alliance with NATO ones, shelled the building, and put a stop to the resistance put up by Gbagbo’s soldiers.

Since the declaration of the results of the elections a few months ago, and the refusal of Gbagbo to accept that he had lost leading to a civil war in the country, hundreds of innocent civilians have died, atrocities committed, and nearly 400 000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia, carrying with them their bare belongings. All this because one man’s ego was so huge that he wanted to cling to power at all costs, and at the expense of his people’s welfare and security.

In recent months we have had similar incidents enacted in the Middle East, with the escape of the Tunisian President and his ex-hairdresser wife carrying with them their millions in gold bars. To do what? Because, shortly afterwards, the President has suffered a stroke. Now it is the turn of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who has been stricken by a heart attack, and his two sons are under house arrest. After nearly tree decades of rule, during which he must have done some good to his country, was it worth being booted out as he was, instead of exiting in honour and dignity – which he probably deserved?

The same story is repeated in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya. It seem that leaders think they have a right to rule forever, that they are eternal. They never accept that it is time to go, let alone arrange for succession. Are they sado-masochists that they choose to inflict and be inflicted upon? The example of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Marcos of Philippines, Ceausescu of Romania, Pol Pot of Cambodia: are these not sufficient to remind them of the ignominy that awaits them? It seems not!

People take only so much of a public face thrust at them in their living rooms on a daily basis, especially when there are scandals and irregularities being investigated. It would be a waste of good time and energy to list some of the epithets that one hears about the ‘beloved’ leaders, so we will spare readers of the same.

Ah, the illusion of power! There are people who will never learn.

* * *

China Town surely deserves its cultural centre?

Lai Min restaurant is certainly one of the foremost landmarks of Chinatown in Port Louis, having delighted the palates of many a Mauritian. Perhaps it is not as frequented as before, but it still retains a quaint charm reminiscent of the olden days that continues to give pleasure.

The idea of building a Cultural Centre in Chinatown on a plot of land that was apparently earmarked for that purpose as part of a twinning with Foshan city in China must be saluted as a most welcome one indeed, and there is unnecessary hassling about it at the level of the municipality. Chinese culture is very rich indeed, and the Chinese civilization has made fundamental contributions towards the advancement of mankind. In Mauritius, we do not know enough about these aspects, and about such great thinkers as Confucius, except anecdotally.

In a similar manner to the other ethnic groups in the country, the Chinese community has enriched the economic, social and cultural landscape of the island. Their long-standing presence in the capital city, quietly going about their activities and without trampling upon the rights of anybody, is something that must be given its due recognition. Many organizations benefit from land lease from government, and there is no reason to deny this access to the Chinese community for putting up a centre that will benefit not only the Chinese but hopefully all Mauritians, given the expanding role of a China that is now more open to the world and must be made better known.

If the municipality cannot come to a decision, this issue must be settled at national level for such a deserving project.

* Published in print edition on 15 April 2011

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