Politics Back In Business

By Nobel P. Loser

The first sitting of Parliament this year is scheduled for Tuesday 22 March. A mere coincidence as this particular date brings back sad and infamous events to our collective memory.

To catch up with recent history, it was on this chosen date that a party in power decided, back in March 1983, to cause a political stir in the corridors of power by staging a collective resignation by a handful of ministers. Some of the actors of this episode will attend Tuesday’s parliamentary proceedings and lots of minds will be haunted by this unprecedented political showdown of those days.

With Parliament resuming its activities, it goes without saying that politics will be back in business. During the next several months we should be prepared to get re-accustomed to the usual folklore surrounding the business of lawmakers inside and outside the Assembly.

As usual, the Opposition has the easiest job and it will be doing what it knows best. Government, having the most difficult job, will be doing the best it can to have its way. For the politically active minds among the population, it’s certain that their political eyes will look in the direction of the main leaders; and more so, they will try to interpret everything, from words to body language, from silence to reaction. The usual business, isn’t it?

But three new things will mark the weekly sessions for some time from now. First, the behaviour of members from both sides of the House will be dictated by an important political rendezvous scheduled for this year – namely local council elections. The political management of local councils is currently in the hands of the Labour Party (LP). The political parties will not wait for the new Local Government Bill to be debated and approved to get started on the election campaign. There is the risk that every Tuesday will be turned into a campaign festival with PQs raised pregnant with political meaning to influence the elections.

The second matter that will mark the workings of Parliament relates to the degree of warmth of relations among members from the parliamentary majority’s rank and file within the LP-led coalition; this will be so especially in view of various innuendoes used recently in certain public statements on one or two specific issues.

The third new thing that will also shape Parliament’s business relates to the strong but secret agenda of the Opposition to first cause a breach of trust within the ranks of the coalition while at the same time trying to get into a possible working arrangement with LP over the medium or long term. The Opposition’s political future prospect is so thin in terms of available options that choosing the wrong strategy again may result in its complete blackout from power for quite a longer period than one could imagine.

All three issues, as can be seen, relate to politics and political manoeuvring.

There is only one person who will enjoy and breathe peace and political serenity. It is the Labour leader. It will be wrong to assume that he is not going to play politics, though he may be seen as being an unconventional political actor. His real strength lies not in his words or smile; it is in that very strange capacity he effortlessly displays to contain pressures and emotions without at all releasing into the atmosphere any kind of political radioactivity that may be toxic towards the pursuit of his silent and undisclosed strategy.

This kind of self-assurance is not always good for the others. This personal strength of his brings no comfort to his friends and foes across the political spectrum, within or outside the coalition. The problem is that most of the other leaders or highly trained politicians have never been used to deal with such a situation. Being street fighters, they are used to all sorts of tactical fights and tactical withdrawals even if they are always short of fight techniques.

One thing is sure. There is no sign of the Labour leader giving way or making way for his known or unknown political foes to prosper politically to the detriment of his own political interest. The best that LP’s political friends and foes could do in the circumstances is to stop idle dreaming. If they dream to achieve anything, they should choose a clear-cut strategy and walk along a designated road map. Anything less than this would see them swallowed by strong political torrents unleashed by a political tsunami.

As far as the Opposition is concerned, they have no one to blame for their current plight except themselves. Some past and failed strategies, including the March 1983 episode, seem to have left many political scars in the psyche of the electorate. The political punishment it met at the polls of 2003 in number 7, and nationwide in 2005 and 2010, provide some support to this view.

As far as Parliament is itself concerned, the present session can be fruitful in the sense that it may give some indication as to the direction in which the political mood of our veterans is to swing. Apart from this, we should not expect any big deal. Except that there will be no surprise as to the quality and level of debates, themselves, which is the fruit of the quality and standard of our political leadership. A full day in the Public Gallery can unveil these truths.

In any case, the country can rest assured. We have seen worst in the past. So nothing will come as a surprise to us. Those who have a good knowledge about the workings of the political establishment will concur that the opening of this political season on Tuesday next will bring more questions than answers on issues most pertinent to the future development of this country. By courtesy of our politicians-cum-lobbyists from both sides of the House.

But it is good to remind them and refresh their memory that this country needs fearless political actions on some policy matters of great importance that should shape up Mauritius for the next 10-15 years. These decisions should under all circumstances be dictated by the pursuit of the common good and not, as recent history has amply proved, designed to favour special-interest groups.

We are hesitating to lay bare the facts that, of late, special-interest groups have been seen to be back in the driving seat. They are working hard to achieve their self-interests and ambitions to the detriment of the general good.

We end on this anecdote. While referring to some special-interest groups, a career diplomat recently observed that, if they are given the opportunity, many among them would be ready to abandon their neck ties, preferring to wear an original Liverpool jersey to prove their loyalty to the Reds. Not while travelling to Anfield Road but when they travel to Treasury Building!

* Published in print edition on 18 March 2011

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