John Hatch’s Speech, Nationalisation of the London Times and the Parti Mauricien

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

Port Louis Diary

By Kritic

The Labour Party’s meeting in honour of John Hatch was indeed a great success. The audience was impressive and Rault, Ramgoolam, Forget, Ringadoo and Mohamed made excellent, appropriate speeches. John Hatch was simply marvellous. I have no doubt that he has left a happy but lasting impression. His speech which inevitably had to be interrupted for translation can be divided into three distinct parts, (a) the place of the Mauritius Labour Party in the context of worldwide Labour movement, (b) definition of the Socialist ideal, and (c) the necessity and importance of co-operation between the various communities constituting our plural society.

I liked the last part of his speech most. His very words, spoken with conviction and complete mastery of his thesis, still seem to ring in my mind: “Every failure that is made,” he said, “every weakness that is shown in your society, every one of you that falls down or betrays your country is giving ammunition to the racialists of South Africa and like-minded people and betraying your oppressed colleagues in these countries. On the other hand, every success you have, every time you strengthen your society and give proof you are willing to work together, no matter what your race is, every time you, Chinese, Indians, Mauritians, Europeans work together as a team, you are proving the racialists wrong and are giving aid and support and courage to those of your colleagues who are languishing in prison and who are being oppressed in these countries.

* * *

After the meeting, when we were coming out of the Kiosk at Plaine Verte, a large number of young boys came to him, shaking his hand and wishing him bon voyage. When we were in the car Harold Walter told him that he had overheard the boys expressing their satisfaction and pride at having touched his hand. He then told us that once when he was in the West Indies, after a very successful meeting, some people enthusiastically told him, “Sir, if you come back after ten years or so, you will find a lot of young boys bearing the name of John Hatch.” To which he jocularly replied, “Well, you better put this in writing in order not to cause any suspicion to my wife!”

* * *

A lot of queer things are said and done in any parliament in any part of the world including the British House of Commons. Recently, a Labour MP, Mr Emrys Hughes (a Welsh Labour Party politician, journalist and author, and Labour MP for South Ayrshire in Scotland from 1946 to 1969) tabled a motion seeking the nationalisation of The Times. Preposterous! you would have exclaimed, but Mr Hughes was in fact not at all serious about it and the whole thing boiled down to what was called a “parliamentary joke”. But when I read about the nationalisation of the London Times, I could not help speculating about the way Mr Andre Masson, with his characteristic seriousness about anything, would have reacted to such a thing happening in Mauritius.

At any rate, Mr Andre Masson will be soon taking the plane for London, and I would suggest that he makes it a point to meet Mr Emrys Hughes and give him a good thrashing. Mr Hughes must be told that so long as Mr André Masson lives no mainmise sur la liberté de la presse will be tolerated either in Port Louis or in London. Mr Hughes may then retort that Professors of Socialism in England do not act as advisers to the British Conservative Party.

* * *

I am really appalled at the scant attention which the local press has paid to the exhibition, ‘British Parliamentary Government’ arranged by the British Council in collaboration with the Hansard Society. The exhibition was opened by Sir Robert Stanley, speaker of the Legislative Council who made an appropriate introductory exposé to the exhibition. He did not fail to pay tribute to the unstinted zeal of Mr Seccombo, the British Council Representative, who is doing his best to promote the cause of British culture in Mauritius.

I think that everybody interested in parliamentary government ought to have visited the exhibition — it was so informative; the pictures and explanatory notes, succinctly summarised the history and development of British parliamentary practice.

* * *

The Parti Mauricien is in a mess. Its protest meetings against the constitution have singularly failed — at Quatre Bornes the other day Mr Koenig had an audience of less than a hundred. Le Reveil of brother Gaëtan, which was distributed free during the electoral campaign, has disappeared together with its haughty looking cock. I now hear that the regional offices of the Parti will be closed down. Why this debacle? Has the subsidy been cut off? And if there is no subsidy, how will brother Gaëtan and the rest go to London? Look, Mr Koenig, don’t you think it is time a stop was put to this farce?

* * *

I had great pleasure and fun to watch the debates on the Appropriation Bill (1959-60) which seeks to consecrate the Budget. I can well understand the feelings and apprehensions of Labour backbenchers who had to voice the dissatisfaction of their constituents at the doings of a Labour Government. They were in a difficult situation indeed. However, it must be conceded that they have been very tactful: they ventilated the grievances of their constituents without running down their Party.

But I did not like Dr Dupre’s innuendo on Guy Forget who hit back in as hard a manner as Dr Dupré deserved. It does no good to anyone to hear the inelegant references Dr Dupré made to Forget nor is it good for the public to know that Dupre ne sera jamais atteint d’un rhume de cerveau — cause ? — manque de matière.

* * *

So, Romriki Ramsamy has been unseated. It was clear right from the start that in law there was no chance of his winning the case. We have therefore to look forward to two by-elections. Will they held on the same date? Will they be held during the Council’s recess? This seems to be the appropriate time and the whole game of electioneering will start again.

Brother Gaëtan must be getting ready to fight the by-election. But see to it brother, that the office of the Parti Mauricien in that particular constituency is not closed. If there is none for the moment, one should be opened immediately. And Le Reveil? Will the cock come back on the journalistic stage? Strange things are likely to happen in this strange world.

6th Year – No 254
Friday 26th June 1959

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