Happy New Year 2019?

I am finding it very difficult to be optimistic as 2019 approaches. Still as someone has rightly said, “Man can plan as much as he likes, but life has a way of turning up just as it’s meant to be”

By Ramesh Beeharry

As the current year inches towards its end, Humanity is preparing to welcome the New Year 2019. As usual, we Mauritians have already been discussing how to spend our treizième mois. This is an invention on which we have sole universal rights, because no sane country would adopt this crazy idea as a compensation measure. But this is so anchored in the Mauritius psyche by now that even our part-time, once-a-week gardener expects we will add a little something in December! So to keep matters simple, we just pay him double.

But what does anyone wish a people who have got everything?! At management schools they used to tell us – whenever preparing an important personal Appraisal – we should start with the good points.

So let’s start with the Good.

Chagos. I wish the nation that SAJ’s admirable endeavour — his very own swan song in a way — to recover the Chagos will end in success. As I pointed out in a piece earlier this year, it took the Tuhoe people of New Zealand 118 years to get justice from the British Crown; and we have been fighting in earnest for 20 years. I also observed that the road to justice may indeed be long, but the passage of time in no way diminishes the essence of what is just. So, some day our erstwhile British masters will have to give in to our just demand!

Metro Express. Considering the gridlock that the country goes through every working day, the decision to re-introduce a railway system is another feather in the Government’s cap. Sure there are inconveniences — lots of them! But just as we forget the pain due to an aching tooth once the dentist has pulled the offending tooth out, the inconveniences caused by the works will be forgotten once this modern means of transport gets into operation. But the habitual moaners will never find anything to praise a majority-led government.

We must not forget that fossil fuel is set to be exhausted before the end of this century. Fortunately for us, we just have to lift our heads and there is the sun. Eventually we have no choice but to extend the railway network island wide and run it on solar power generated by solar farms spread along the railway tracks.

NMW. The introduction of a National Minimum Wage in Jan-2018 was a landmark policy measure that will have repercussions throughout history. In one fell swoop it has lifted 140,000 workers out of the poverty trap. No longer have we any working citizen who is below the breadline. I hope that soon Government will look into addressing the plight of old-age pensioners/disabled who are struggling to survive on Rs 5810 a month. A particular attention should be paid to those OAPs/disabled who have a dependent partner. In this day and age it is impossible for a couple to survive on Rs 5810 a month.

And so now to some of the Bad and, boy, have we got them!

President. Do we need one? When Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was appointed President of the Republic many like me thought that, apart from bringing a woman’s touch to the job, she might do better than the ex-politicians who had occupied Reduit since the beginning of the premature Republic in 1992; I am not sure if we are ready for one even after 50 years of Independence! Be that as it may, the lady had to resign in the wake of conduct unbecoming of a Presidency. Thus since March 2018, the country has been left bereft of its President. Not that anyone would have noticed, mind you.

Anyway Vice President Barlen Vyapoory seems to be managing “tant bien que mal.” So that people are asking how relevant the post of President really is, especially the way in which the man seems to be acting as the proverbial rubber stamp to anything coming out of Government House. Anyone wish to join a movement to abolish the post of President and Vice President and save the country millions?

Crumbs! I wish that the new roads criss-crossing the country (I could not resist thinking of Tevye’s gripe about one going up, one coming down and one more leading nowhere just for show) would not start to crumble under the vibration of the tearaway moped driven by ladies of a certain age. The Rubicon thus crossed, we can be sure that they will manage to hold solid under the cooling summer drizzle — and torrents — as juggernauts trundle by.

And should the worse happen, I wish this time round it would take the authorities a little less than three years to find their Eureka moment and get some foreign professor (why always foreign? Do our University profs have ‘Use-Less’ stamped on the forehead?) to advise of a remedy that my friend Keshwar’s domino group could have told them right at the beginning!

Fake News. I wish that no one will go round posting (doctored?) pictures on social media of people’s near and dear ones offering generous handfuls of birthday cake to their best friend, without their permission. In fact, bearing in mind the serious harm this medium can do, including driving young people to self-harm and suicide, maybe we should start a movement to have it banned from our shores. Chock-full of tittle-tattle and drivel, they are anything but social — whereas people would once pick up the phone to wish their friends/relations Happy Birthday, now they post inanities on this very (un)social media.

Nepotism. I wish an end to discrimination on the grounds of being related to a Government member. Every time Government wants to appoint someone to an important post that they deserve at astronomical salaries, the opposition/media comes out all guns blazing. Why do they always presume nepotism at every turn? Does being related closely — sometimes body closely — to a Minister preclude a competent candidate from applying for a job they did not know even existed?

After all in this land of equality, we would all like to be able to get our share of the action, wouldn’t we? Not only do we think that we deserve it, but it does no harm if we are a kissing cousin of the village councillor from Isodore Rose. Just love this name, don’t you? Reminds me of my Chemistry teacher whom I had this terrible crush on at the pubescent age of thirteen.

Lastly, the Ugly.

Election. Although 2019 should be the year of the general elections and change (for better?), I do not wish this medieval plague on the lepep admirab.

  1. It is generally agreed that the Lepep Government has failed to deliver on its election-2014 pledge of cleaning up the country. Further they have shown a particularly special bent for nepotism and to cap it all, we have a “l’impostor” Prince who seems incapable of delivering either as ruler or bean-counter. But the worst sin of all is the tampering with sacrosanct institutions whenever these have gotten in their way.
  2. As for Brand D*, we can straightaway discount it because, unable to muster enough votes since way back in 1967, it has been smarting since with a huge chip on its shoulders and relying on the crumbs falling from the table of real power.Readers will no doubt be aware that Brand D refers to Duval – a label earned following Xavier Duval’s interview to Weekly magazine, wherein he stated that Duval, unlike the others, was not a dynasty, but a brand.
  3. With all the acrobatics worthy of the best circus performers and led by an old septuagenarian who is well past his sell-by date, the MMM has lost all credibility as an alternative government. Even its supporters have been deserting it in droves after the Dec-2014 debacle.
  4. Also past his sell-by-date is the septuagenarian LP leader. After the 2014 Republic II fiasco coupled with images of safes overflowing with millions worth of brand new notes, ordinary LP voters were expecting him to do the decent thing and quietly leave the stage. But no, the dhit wants to return with the same old team. Rumour has it that this will be underpinned by an economic policy — led by the same people — which succeeded in decimating the middle classes last time round.
  5. Thus to coin a phrase, the choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea. Consequently many people are wishing for a Third Force to emerge. A new party comprising a majority of women and young faces may bring a freshness to Mauritius politics and rid us of the terrible mouldy stink that follows the trail of the all the existing parties. What the people expect are fresh faces chosen from their neighborhoods. Flacq residents want a candidate from their village with whom they can relate, and not someone from Chamouny who they rarely get to see!

But the obstinacy of the status quo being what it is in these parts, I am afraid I am finding it very difficult to be optimistic as 2019 approaches. Still as someone has rightly said, “Man can plan as much as he likes, but life has a way of turning up just as it’s meant to be.” That sort of half cheers me up and I hope it does the same for you.

* Published in print edition on 28 December 2018

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