Did you say “fiasco”?
Fiasco! That was the reaction of the leader of the MMM when the list of candidates of “Alliance de l’Avenir” was published. The irony is that 20 days to the poll, Mr Bérenger knows that it is his own list of candidates that will deny him power. The team Bérenger has aligned does not inspire confidence to start with. It is likely to be his biggest handicap, his own fiasco.
Mr Bérenger’s Deputy Prime Minister-to-be Ashock Jugnath was found wanting in ethical standards for electoral bribery and corrupt practices. Mr Bérenger came up with a feeble excuse two days ago blaming the lawyers of Mr Jugnauth for losing the case. Does he need to be reminded that the Supreme Court and Law Lords of the Privy Council concurred that Mr Jugnauth had cheated when on the eve of the elections letters for the post of health care assistants were being distributed to electors in the constituency he stood as a candidate?
Next in line is the novice Reza Uteem, who is at his first electoral shot, parachuted at number three in the Government line-up. I suppose Mr Bérenger with his usual bluff will tell us, stupid Mauritians, that this appointment was made on the basis of meritocracy.
True it is that a minority wind is blowing in the direction of the MMM but Mr Bérenger needs a substantial swing, a hurricane almost to accede to power and he is unlikely to get it. The government of N. Ramgoolam and X. Duval has a good economic track record and has over the last five years taken a string of measures that have affected positively the traditional MMM electorate. It explained the hasty move of Paul Bérenger to conclude an alliance with Navin Ramgoolam.
Danielle Turner, the candidate in Constituency No 1, has summed up the situation fairly well. The five years Paul Bérenger was in power, he did not think of empowering the residents of CHA. They are now eligible, thanks to Navin Ramgoolam, to become owners of their own houses at a nominal sum of two thousand rupees. Navin Ramgoolam took the bold step to set up a Truth and Justice Commission whilst Paul Bérenger had dilly dallied on this issue during the five years he was in power. It was the same N. Ramgoolam who fought to inscribe Le Morne as a world heritage monument — an important symbol for the Creole community and Mauritians in general. Mauritius has also joined the list of countries where the Creole festival is pompously celebrated.
Politics, as Sir Satcam used to remind us, is full of imponderable factors. As soon as the Labour-MSM alliance was consummated, it was communally tagged as a being Hindu or a Hindi-speaking alliance. Dick Ng Sui Wah, who has just resigned as Secretary General of the Union nationale and up till his resignation formed part of the campaign team of the Alliance du Coeur, has made a number of disturbing revelations about the disgusting communal calculations on the side of the Alliance du Coeur.
It is time that we stop being hypocrites. The communal factor is still at the heart of elections in Mauritius and possibly the dominant factor. In any mature democracy an outgoing government is assessed on the basis of its economic performance. Not in Mauritius though. We still suffer from the fear of some form of hegemony, be it political or economic. The electorate is encouraged to polarize itself with the assistance of the press and men of faith. The intrusion of Père Grégoire in the electoral campaign is most disturbing, and Dick Ng Sui Wah is right when he warned that we are playing with fire. Ours is a fragile but yet cohesive society. Let us keep religious sensitivities out of the political fray.
Not a single word of protest has surfaced in the mainstream press to condemn Paul Bérenger for making adverse insinuations about the character and reputation of Mrs Hanoomanjee. Where are the sister-comrades, members of WIPs, hiding? Worse was the language used towards Dr Beebeejaun by the MMM candidate in Port Louis Constituency No 2. Is this person fit to be in Parliament? A candidate whose election was annulled for corrupt practice and one with a propensity for callous crimes? Fiasco, you said!!