Does Mauritius want to promote a carnival culture?

Points to Ponder

By Lex

A FIRST POINT: I was on a visit to Trinidad some time ago and I was staying at a relative’s place. My relative had organized a Ramayan session and after the Ramayan session, we sat down for dinner. It was exactly like Mauritius and the atmosphere was very congenial.

One of the gentlemen who was sitting at our table told me that he would be leaving Trinidad for about a month and a question from me elicited a reply that left me wondering.

He told me that the carnival festival would take place within the next few days, and his relatives, friends and himself wanted to stay away from the carnival with its pornographic culture, its scantily dressed women and what not. They simply wanted to move away for some time. He said that I do not know how degraded society becomes during those days.

Trinidadian society is akin to that in Mauritius, with the descendants of African slaves and those of Indian immigrants. The only difference is that here we have a majority of the latter whereas in Trinidad the former predominate.

Government, or rather the Minister of Tourism, has decided that Mauritius shall be known as the island where carnivals are held. And there is the understanding that anything that goes in a carnival will be part and parcel of the festival. It is beyond anybody to prevent an upsurge of crimes, including the use of hard drugs, before, during and after, the carnival period. If the Minister of Tourism would say that carnival promotes culture, he might as well say that prostitution also promotes tourism and therefore that also should be officially promoted.

Let me point out that we are against, and deeply against, this type of culture in the country. We would never accept it in our midst. I do not understand the reason for which the Minister of Culture has not accepted to promote such a culture if indeed this is part of our culture.

I am now putting a question point blank: what is the official position of the government on the promotion of the carnival culture? Are the individual members for it or against it? If they are for it, why is it that the matter is being handled by the Minister of Tourism and not by the Minister of Culture? Do we have two ministers to handle one subject? Is there some division on the acceptance of carnival within the government?

I will call upon all the socio-religious groups to oppose this move to introduce carnival as part of our culture. Do not tell me that this is done simply to attract the tourists to visit the island. If tourists want to see that type of culture, they might as well go to Brazil or Trinidad. These socio-cultural groups are there to safeguard our culture and any Johnny-come-lately cannot be tolerated to disturb our peace and quiet.

Some people, and among them we have several politicians, do not want to have those organizations around us. We tell them that this country is not their personal belonging; they are temporarily here to manage the affairs of the country and they should never try to disturb us. Do not forget the majority of the electors who voted for the government.

* * *

Banks must perk up!

A SECOND POINT: A relative of mine came to Mauritius after a rather long stay in Europe. He wanted to exchange his Euros for Mauritian rupees and went to a foreign bank operating in Mauritius for that purpose. He was directed to a clerk who dealt with such matters. The lady verified his documents, informed him that the officer responsible was not available, and that therefore he would have to wait. My relative asked for how long, and the clerk told him she cannot say. After five minutes, he asked the lady whether he would have to wait for long; she again replied that she did not know when the officer would come back.

My relative requested to have back his documents, and went to another bank. He again had to deal with a lady clerk. She asked for all the relevant documents, she verified them and apparently she was satisfied. She then said that a form must be filled in. She went to talk to another clerk, then to still another and another. She came back to her seat and said that she must talk to the manager. My relative said he had no problem with that and to go ahead. She said that he was not in the bank and my relative must wait. He got fed up, took back his documents and went to yet another bank. This time he went to the State Bank of Mauritius and they changed his Euros into rupees in a matter of minutes. The entire transaction took not more than five minutes.

I understand that they are very slow indeed in their country of origin when it comes to the service industry but I never thought that the same working system would prevail here also, in spite of the fact that one of the two banks has been here for so many years.

* * *

Is the Ministry of Agriculture for genetically modified seeds?

A THIRD POINT: A friend of mine wanted to grow some coriander in his backyard. The coriander was not meant for sale but as this friend likes very tasty food, he thought that he would grow his own spices. He had the seeds at home, that is the “la grain cotomili” which his wife uses for her “masala”. He sowed the grains, watered the bed and waited for fifteen days but nothing came out of the earth.

The gentleman waited for another ten days but still nothing happened. He had some experience with gardening and wondered what was wrong. He met somebody who is a professional planter; the latter explained that the “cotomili” seeds would not germinate because they came from genetically modified plants and they are not meant to be planted. If he wanted to plant the seeds, he should have bought the planting seeds that are sold at ten times the value of the seeds that are used in the kitchen.

The Ministry of Agriculture must explain to members of the public, in very clear terms, what is meant by “genetically modified” seeds or products. Who holds the copyright or the patent or the legal rights of the genetically modified materials, what is the benefit of such material, and emphasis must be laid on the harmful effects when genetically material or product is consumed. Many people are scared to consume any type of food that is not natural, such as genetic modified food. Do they have reason to beware of such food?

Why does the Ministry not produce natural seeds that it can sell to the planting community and to the general public interested to grow whatever they need for their personal consumption? If ordinary seeds cost say Rs.1000 per kilo, genetically modified seeds cost about Rs.10,000 for the same weight. Is my friend prepared to pay such a price for a few seeds?

I have been told that that a very strong lobby is working on behalf of the international producers of genetically modified material, starting from food items and going down to flowers, and that in the near future, all the countries will be under the wings of those international cartels. They will sell the seeds and produces at a price that they will fix.

We know that in France, there is a strong organization against the introduction of genetically modified seeds and products led by Jose Bove. However, people are asking whether the organization is strong enough to keep on fighting and for how long.

What is the opinion of the Minister of Agriculture? Has he been influenced by the producers of genetically modified seeds? On whose side is he? If he is on the side of the planting community, why does he not start producing locally seeds that the ministry used to sell at the Barkly Experimental Station? Why does he not think about those consumers who want to stay away from genetically modified products?

* Published in print edition on 13 July 2012

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