Midnight Express


History has repeated itself. Five years ago in 2005, the May 1st rally was a crucially important event for Navin Ramgoolam. He was then the Leader of Opposition and it was going to be the last May Day rally before the general elections. The MMM-MSM government, which was holding its meeting in Vacoas, had monopolized all available public transport with its unlimited funds. Navin Ramgoolam knew that he had to win the highly psychological battle of crowds for the May Day rally to convince not just his supporters but indeed the whole country that he was going to form the next government.



The next day, l’express newspaper splashed out on its front page that the MMM-MSM government alliance had won the May Day battle of the crowds outright. It quoted attendance figures of 17,000 for the government alliance and 13,000 for the Alliance Sociale of Navin Ramgoolam. In an attempt to convince the public that those figures were reliable, l’express attributed them to police estimates. There was an immediate reaction from CP Gopalsing. In a rejoinder to the editor, he stated: “I wish to inform you that in line with current policy, police do not make any assessment of attendance at public meetings/gatherings. Consequently, the Police Headquarters has not communicated any figures respecting attendance at Labour Day rallies.”


It was, as one commentator put it, a resounding slap on the face of the paper which had broadcast this false information. Navin Ramgoolam was outraged at the manner l’express had presented the facts. He took the trouble of consulting several expert sources and was able to demonstrate that not more than 12,000 attended the MMM-MSM rally in Vacoas and that the Alliance Sociale crowd in Quatre Bornes stood at around 25,000.

Two weeks ago l’express published an article from which a clear inference could be drawn that the Alliance de l’Avenir was losing ground during the campaign. According to that paper, bookmakers had, on 30 March 2010, been selling bets on the Alliance de l’Avenir at Rs 320. However, after two weeks of a lacklustre campaign, it was on offer for 140 rupees. The paper concluded that these figures were clear evidence that the Alliance de l’Avenir was not doing as well as it pretended. This “information” could not have been based on any factual evidence since the Alliance de l’Avenir had not yet been constituted as at 30 March 2010. Bets could not have been organized even before the Alliance was constituted.

As I write today (4th May) the Commissioner of Police has, with reference to an article published in one or two papers, issued a press release giving a lie to the existence of a so-called NIU report on the elections. The so-called report, it is alleged, would have concluded that the Alliance du Coeur would be winning the elections. Navin Ramgoolam was, as it might be expected, outraged and felt compelled to denounce such misinformation which had no foundation in facts. None of the papers chose to make amends…

On his part, Jean Claude de L’Estrac of l’express chose to make his own headlines by making public confessions to the effect that the Prime Minister would have offered the post of President to him on two occasions…

Mr de L’Estrac must have been extremely credulous to have taken the Prime Minister at his word in such a case. From Mr de L’Estrac’s own account, the Prime Minister knew all along that Sir Anerood was not willing to leave Le Reduit and would have imposed a most unacceptable condition for so doing, if ever… Yet it would appear that he went to negotiate at the behest of Navin Ramgoolam to convince Sir Anerood to resign as President. Mr de l’Estrac should ask himself why would the Prime Minister logically send him to meet Sir Anerood knowing full well that the latter would never resign before the expiry of his mandate .

It was most inappropriate on the part of Mr de l’Estrac to have, in the process, adversely commented, four years after the demise of Sir Satcam, on the latter’s expectations to occupy the post of President, especially when Sir Satcam is no longer present to rebut the version of the story given by Mr de l’Estrac. The latter should not lose sight of one important factor. Sir Satcam, a former leader of the Labour Party and a key political figure in the history of post-independence Mauritius, had a legitimate right to aspire to the post of President. He was during the long span of his political career as good a patriot as any other Mauritian.



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