Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago
By Jay Narain Roy
Sir Robert Scott left the country on leave on Thursday, 8th November. With the system of accumulated leave in several colonies, it is often difficult for the public to understand when leave is due to an officer. But it is not easy for us to understand why Sir Robert who has scarcely been through half his term should go on leave.
As far as governorship is concerned, the officers are posted primarily for a period of five years. During his term of office, a Governor is expected to give all-round guidance and to chalk out a line of policy that while ensuring British prestige can bring about tangible results towards progress and prosperity. It has often been found that Governors do not go on leave between their terms in a colony. They do so between their posting from one country to another. Particularly is this somewhat inscrutable when we remember that Sir Robert as leader of the Mauritian constitutional delegation had been to England only recently.
Sir Robert comes to us after two of his immediate Scotch predecessors had retired from this country. The last one was even made to serve beyond the retiring age. Sir Robert is still young and this is his first governorship. He was Financial Secretary and Colonial Secretary in other colonies and we are posted from other colonies as regards his attitude and popularity. We have seen him at work here and so far we have no reason to feel that we are blessed with a captain who can safely take us to port from the present difficulties.
I have had the occasion to express my views on his review of the political situation. I had also the opportunity to say what I felt about his arrangements to receive the Princess. But politically his two years have been futile years for the country. If there is a seeming cleavage between the administration and the people, if the accredited representatives of the masses have unanimously opted to boycott the ministerial system, if there is a constitutional stalemate today, we can say that the Governor cannot free himself from the direct responsibilities. It shows him as an extremely hollow judge of men and matters and a poor administrator at that.
The impression is growing even in England that his assessment of the political situation was not very sound and it has made Whitehall to commit a series of blunders in regard to our constitutional set-up. Some even think that he may either be recalled or severely ticked off for creating this tragic situation just when it is imperative to reassert British prestige and win widespread confidence. It is almost certain that when the Labour Party seizes power in England, Sir Robert will find himself in an awkward situation.
But the Government under the present Governor has been somewhat oblivious of the economic situation. On one side is the constant clamour of workers and peasants claiming their legitimate rights that have brutally been suppressed by the industrial Leviathan, and on the other is the repeated demand of Mallefille Street to step down the income-tax rates. Even the leader of the Parti Mauricien has felt that a financial enquiry into our affairs is absolutely necessary.
Together with these clamours there is the fact that the export of rum has dwindled considerably; the export of molasses has an uncertain future; the aloe fibre industry has met its doom and it has become impossible to send our tea and tobacco to compete in foreign markets. We have therefore had to pile up our eggs into the single basket of the sugar industry which is wholly dependent on the vagaries of the elements. Unemployment is everyday looming larger and even during the busy months. The Labour Welfare Fund which could have been used to salvage the needy workers is under the influence of sugar magnates, Civil Commissioners and Co.
The Liaison Officer for Labour so far was the President of the Board of Directors of the largest sugar estate. The Labour Welfare Fund which was meant to serve labour has been made to serve the vested interests. The Central Board which is to arbitrate between millers and planters has all its senior officials from the class of millers. The Central Electricity Board, the Agricultural College Board, the Sugar Research Institute and a host of other institutions have been worked up into a monopoly of a single class and salaries are somewhat fantastically reminiscent of the sugar industry.
The wail of ex-servicemen who saved civilisation from collapse is becoming too insistent as Sir Robert Scott is governing this country. There is no sign that the Government is at all concerned about the lot of the poorer classes. There is no hope so far that these wailings will cease as long as the present incumbent will remain at the helm of affairs. I am sure there will be a tremendous sign of relief from Grand Gaube to Souillac and from Flacq to Flic en Flacq if we are informed that Sir Robert Scott will not return to this country.
But we never know. As an intelligent Scotsman he might like to turn a new leaf and realise the crude fact that so far he has only bothered about constitutional affairs which is only one-fourth of the work of a Governor. He might realise that the only thing he has done has ended in ignominious failure and this might be a serious comment to his first governorship. Looking ahead he might feel before it is too late that the one and only mission of British governorships is to sweat for the moral and material uplift of the inhabitants. He might still feel after his preliminary discomfitures that human nature being the same everywhere the real problem behind all this camouflage of racial safeguards is to ensure economic justice in an economy which all contribute to build and where the jeopardy of any jerking relations will shake the very foundations of this comely bastion of the Commonwealth.
Friday 23rd November 1956
* Published in print edition on 24 May 2019