Mauritius Times — 60 Year
By Somduth Bhuckory
On the 22nd March 1956, Guy Rozemont died. The Labour Party had to choose a fit candidate to replace him in the Legislative Council. Its choice fell on Dr Dupre. In our issue of the 19th May 1956 recommending Dr Dupre we wrote: “It is but proper that out of deference for the memory of Guy Rozemont this seat should go to a member of the Labour Party. It would be a really sad day if it is otherwise… To send Dr Dupre would only mean that the public approves of the principles and leadership of the Party… We are now in the very throes of Constitutional talks. The strength of the Labour Party will once more be demonstrated at the polls…”. We told our friends and readers that by voting the Labour candidate they would reject at the polls the P.R. which the officials and nominees had recently passed in the Legislative Council.
On the 21st of May 1956, the electors of Port Louis went to the polls. Dr Dupre was elected by a fairly big majority. The victory of Labour was not only a victory of progress over reaction but also the people’s rejection of P.R.
Shortly after came the municipal elections. On the 2nd September 1956, Labour fought the election on the P.R. issue. It scored a tremendous victory. It snatched eleven seats out of sixteen.
On the 19th November, the electors of Moka-Flacq went to the polls to elect a candidate to replace the late Hon Ackbar Gujadhur. Labour presented Mr R. Balgobin once more. The election was fought on a Constitutional issue.
Recommending Balgobin we wrote: “The Mauritius Times recommends unreservedly Mr Balgobin to the electors of Moka-Flacq. Vote for Mr Balgobin and you will vote for Adult Suffrage without P.R., for Responsible Government and social progress. The opponents of Labour have had to bite the dust twice in Port Louis recently. Let Labour carry the day once more. Give the enemies of the proletariat a lasting lesson by voting for Balgobin.”
Balgobin scored a big victory. Labourites were delighted to see that he won the seat which he lost in 1953.
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On the 11th Aug 1957, Hon Venkatasamy suddenly died. Speculations ran high as to who would be designated by Labour to fill the seat left vacant by him. To the satisfaction of all Labourites, Jay Narain Roy was selected. There could have been no better choice. We have to repeat exactly what we said when Dupre was chosen. Out of deference for the memory of Venkatasamy, this seat should go to a member of the Labour Party. It would be really a sad day if it is otherwise. It will be remembered that at the last general elections Roy fell a victim of communalism. Knowing full well that he was stabbed in the back he exhorted his friends to vote the Labour list. While he helped to elect Philippe Rozemont he himself fell down. But people had not to wait for long to be disappointed with Rozemont. In spite of the treacherous blow Roy received, he continued as usual to serve his former constituents. He kept on with his social, literary and political activities with the same zeal as when he was an MLC. He indeed took his defeat with magnanimity. Those who did not vote Roy regretted their blunder bitterly.
Does Roy deserve the confidence of the electors of Grand Port-Savanne? Has he done anything worthwhile during his term in Council? Does he possess the necessary qualifications? These are the few questions which must have inevitably cropped up in the mind of the electors.
About Roy’s qualifications, we have little doubt. A prolific writer, he has been writing for the last twenty years with mastery on a host of subjects; and as a speaker, there is hardly any Sunday when Roy is not out addressing a gathering somewhere. As a Labour Inspector, he came in close contact with labourers and artisans. He acquainted himself with their weal and woes and with their everyday problems. The experience he acquired at the Labour Department proved much beneficial when he became Secretary of the Amalgamated Labourers’ Union and later on M.L.C.
Being himself a planter he knows the difficulties which the planters have to face. He can speak with authority on sugar cane, tobacco and tea plantation.
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The greatest contribution of Roy as an M.L.C. was a motion which he tabled on the 17th June, 1949. In that motion Roy asked that in view of the hardships of tenants of land, the Government should enact a tenancy legislation to regulate the relations between tenants and landlords. The motion was debated during three sittings. Ultimately it was decided that Government should appoint a fully representative committee to prepare an agricultural legislation to regulate the relation between landlords and tenants.
A Committee was set up. It drafted a bill but it was not given force of law. Had Roy been elected in 1953 he would have pressed the Government to bring forward that legislation. The defeat of Roy deprived the people of an important piece of legislation and land tenants in particular have been left unprotected from the exploitation of landlords.
Thousands of planters, tenants and landless people are eager to see Roy in Council renewing his agitation for a land legislation. Socialists all over the country wish to see him back among his colleague in Council helping them in their struggle to alleviate the sufferings of the masses.
The platform of Labour in this election is not Universal Suffrage or against P.R. Labour is fighting to maintain itself in office. It is fighting to implement its quinquennial plan as enunciated in the Speech from the Throne.
The country is undergoing a period of transition – a period of doubt, of uncertainty and of hesitation. A subject race which remained in opposition for two centuries has all of a sudden been saddled with power, though we admit that the power conferred has got checks. Many people find it hard to reconcile this with the present situation. No wonder then that the reactionaries are exploiting it to its full.
Every indication shows that Roy will come out from this ordeal with flying colours. In spite of all the brainwashing, indoctrination, appeal to communal sentiments, we are confident that the electors will not allow themselves to be fooled once more.
We have been assured that the big majority of the coloured population is voting Labour. But what will the Muslims do? Our Muslim friends have been used as footstools by the reactionaries. Let them in this election show their independence. Let them show to the country that they are a community with a character.
Friday 18 October 1957
4th year No 167
* Published in print edition on 13 July 2021
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