Elections and the festive season are behind us. Both the MMM and the Labour Party (LP) structures and party nomenklatura have to undertake the thorough re-assessment that would not have taken place without the opportunity, if not the blessing in disguise, however harsh, that vox populi has granted them. They may be the first political parties that have to take on the difficult question of structures and functions of a leadership with unchecked powers, often cut-off or barricaded by lieutenants against ground reality and concerns of their own core electorates, let alone the population at large.
The LP, in power with the PMSD for most of ten years and the MSM for a fleeting part of this time, has paid a heavy price for its rather reckless leadership style and associated fracas. This should not obviate the need to take stock of other palpable reasons for disconnect and usure that left the LP in the lurch, all too visibly dependent on a “partage de pouvoirs” with the MMM, under the latter’s terms. Many here in Mauritius Times and elsewhere rightly made their opposing stance known while others inside and outside the LP fold stifled their disquiet and annoyance at the “fait accompli”, a mathematical “losing formula” that was eventually rejected. Not a simple tossing aside, the Navinchandra Ramgoolam-Paul Raymond Berenger love-book affair, with its constitutional niceties and its textbook recipe for political instability, was literally thrown out of the window.
However crucial and complicated the issue of leadership under the shroud of ongoing police enquiries promised by SAJ, it has to be thrashed out and concluded over the coming month or two, before the LP can engage its collective wisdom to address larger questions of revival and rejuvenation, implying a hard look at policy values, directions, management, governance, communication and relevance to contemporary aspirations of society.
Although the LP now faces a formidable political opponent for the loyalty of that electorate, younger or older, which seems prepared to express its opinion unambiguously, democracy and its own history impose on it the necessity over the medium-term to provide a credible alternative through dogged wading into uncharted territories of political meaning, structure and function.
Pretty much the same questions concern the MMM, its leader and its fleet of elders, knocked groggy by an electoral rout without even having been in office for the past ten years. And yet, its fabled structures, Comité Central, Bureau Politique and Assemblée des délegués alike, must have met more times in the past year than in the past twenty years.
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Education – Sectoral issues and problems
On the campaign trail, particularly over the airwaves, many Lepep figureheads, against a pathetic lack of opponents, were articulate critics showing often a detailed grasp of sectoral issues and problems. Mrs Leela Devi Dookhun was among those who showed impressive oratory and knowledge of subject matter on a multiplicity of issues that afflict the education system from pre-primary to secondary and vocational.
As newly appointed Minister, with a wide span covering all aspects of education, including academic, technical/vocational education and tertiary science, technology and research sectors, for the better interests of students, teachers and country, she has to be wished well in the ambitious scope ahead.
Mrs Dookhun has the resources of two Ministries and a jumble of institutions and parastatals at her side, to help circumnavigate a cohort of occult and shadowy lobbies, many of whom have, in no mean measure, been party to the sector’s problems and the chronic press disinformation and harassment conducted over the past five years or more.
Nowhere more so than in the tertiary regulation sector where, quite clearly, the problems, whether of the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) of India authorisation (EEILM, Manipal, etc), the medical and dental colleges of dubious affiliations, the sub-standard tutorial centres that have sprouted, the inadequate legal and institutional framework or the ministerial policy of numbers at all costs, cannot be simply and conveniently laid on Mr Bakshi’s doorstep, who, whatever his limitations, has only been in office since 2013.
Mr Bakshi is probably best placed to help defend the institution in several court cases coming up soon and may have a useful input to redrafting the TEC legislation. It may be wise to let that process carry through, even on his monthly contract renewal basis the previous government had sanctioned.
Naturally, the problems befall even less on past TEC Chairman Eric Ng, asked somewhat hastily by the new Minister to lev pake, when he was appointed only six months ago with the late-coming and difficult mandate of re-instating order in an institution mired by personnel cliques and ambitions, deeply troubled by a few black sheep benefiting from powerful lobbies and straight-jacketed by an insufficient legislation, overviewed for too long by an ineffectual Board.
One has to assume that the Minister has therefore a clear idea of new directions for the institution. And more generally, for the higher education sector. These have been succinctly summed up in the Government Programme announced in Parliament, by (a) a revamp of TEC legislation, and (b) a new Higher Education Bill, both of which had been overdue and are probably being worked out at ministerial levels.
* Published in print edition on 6 February 2015