Soodhun shooting from the hip

Political Caricatures

By L.E Pep

After his acquittal in the case of alleged sectarian remarks last week, Showkutally Soodhun appeared in court again this week, on October 1st. This time he is accused of threatening to gun down the leader of the opposition, Xavier Duval.

It was at an Eid-ul-Fitr dinner in Flacq in the evening of Tuesday 18th of July. Showkutally Soodhun had allegedly stated: “If my bodyguard gave me his revolver, I’ll shoot Xavier Duval in Parliament.”

The reason he would have given to the audience was that the leader of the opposition had criticized Saudi Arabia, a country to which he is very close and which he claimed had appointed him as its roving ambassador.

In November last year, the former minister’s lawyers had called for a halt to the trial because the word “jihad”, which the accused had used at the dinner, did not make sense in the Mauritian context. But the request was rejected.

This is the first time in our history that a VPM threatens to gun down the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. Anyway, netizens have had a field day since Mr Soodhun has occupied the front stage. By his perceived glorification of his intentions to shoot XLD as a holy action (by giving it the appellation of Jihad), some commentators have pointed out that Mr Soodhun might have committed the offence of emotive rabble-rousing and incitement to racial hatred. Let the court decide!

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Growth forecast for 2019 downgraded to 3.8%

Despite the many measures announced in the budget (that was accompanied by the cheering and desk-thumping of parliamentarians from the majority) to pull the economy to a higher trajectory and the attempt by the BOM to support the economy by lowering the Repo rate, the latest National Accounts statistics show that these policy measures have had little impact. GDP at market prices in 2019 would grow by 3.8% instead of 3.9% as forecasted in June 2019. Gross Value Added at basic prices in 2019 is expected to grow by 3.5%, lower than the 3.6% growth in 2018.

The main contributors to the 3.5% growth in GVA at basic prices would be: “Financial and insurance activities” (0.6 percentage point), and “Construction” and “Wholesale & retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” each contributing 0.4 percentage point.

The slowdown is attributable mainly to the manufacturing and tourism sectors. The manufacturing sector will grow by 0.8% instead of the expected 1.1%, mainly because of lower performance in agri-food processing. In the services sector, 10,000 fewer tourists are expected out of the 1,435,000 arrivals initially estimated. This causes a 0.7% decline in growth, from a 2.5% growth rate that was initially estimated to 1.8%.

What is even more disturbing is the dip in private sector investment which is expected to grow by 2.7% in 2019 compared to the 10.4% growth in 2018 whereas the investment, as measured by the Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF), would grow by 7.9% in 2019, after a growth of 10.9% in 2018. Thus 2019 will turn out to be another year of lacklustre growth below potential.

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The Children’s Bill: The State abdicates

The Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo shifts the responsibility to the parents expecting them to assume their responsibilities on whether or not to allow their child to marry at the age of 16. That’s the easy way out, the state does not want to take the responsibility or would there be a hidden agenda to placate a certain section of voters in view of forthcoming general elections?

Civil society and many non-governmental organizations are not convinced. The fact that there is a tendency to divert attention towards a discussion on the final decision that will be entrusted to a judge is being criticized by these NGOs. “It is not enough,” they say; they want the outright abolition of Article 145 of the Criminal Code concerning the marriage of minors especially as Mauritius is a signatory to various charters and conventions on the rights of the child.

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Change happens when we consciously choose to change

A very interesting article titled “CHANGE happens when we CONSCIOUSLY choose to change’ by Manusha Coonjan, Member of Komite National of Rezistans Ek Alternativ on domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV). She proposes a multi-dimensional wholesome approach to finding lasting solutions to the problem which takes the form of physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, social and financial abuse. IPV is costing us some Rs 2 billion per year. Should we be surprised “when more time is spent in consuming violence than learning and practising human values”? It is time that we join hands with such organizations to eliminate IPV.

The following have been suggested. At the family level, educate, empower and transmit human values and principles of ethics. The parents must be given the opportunity, time, and instructions, wherever needed, on how to take on such responsibility. At the local community level, support groups must be mobilized to oppose domestic violence through greater surveillance, greater support to IPV victims and men prone to IPV. The State through its criminal justice, healthcare and education systems must adopt a more integrated and committed approach especially in the training of police officers and health professionals, eliminating stereotypes and promoting greater dissemination of personal civil liberties and rights.

As for the treatment, it is being proposed that “abusers should be rehabilitated, the earlier the better. They should be re-educated and treated to become healthy human beings who will help build a positive society. Victims should be given the space and time to heal.” Rather than more shelters, a commune system should be envisaged which “would be a better place where the victims (adults and children) could be empowered and can expect to live peacefully and given the proper physical and psychological treatment and follow-up.”

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Employees of the sugar industry threatening to strike

The Joint Negotiating Panel was given the green light by workers for union action on Monday, September 30, 2019. Employees of the sugar industry made it clear to PM Pravind Jugnauth and Minister of Agro-Industry Mahen Seeruttun that they will be using their strong bargaining power to put pressure so as to obtain consent for their demands.

The three resolutions voted at a workers’ assembly on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at Rabita Hall relate to an interim wage increase of Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 as from January 2020, a “land reform” programme based on a fair distribution of land under a new VRS plan and, finally, the use of their ‘bargaining power’ in the run-up to the general elections to ensure that their demands are met.

According to the spokesman of the Joint Negotiating Panel (JNP), Ashok Subron, the workers “have made their voices heard and sent a very strong message to the government and the Prime Minister,” especially after the report of the Joint Technical Committee. This report had been finalized without the participation of the employees’ representatives, explains the trade unionist.

“From this date of Sunday, September 29, 2019, we are launching a campaign for the land reform. Workers who will be opting for retirement will be claiming monetary compensation equivalent to two months’ salary per year of service, as well as 21-25 perches of farmland with the possibility of building a house on one-third of the land. These workers will then be able to use this land for cultivation or transform it into a photovoltaic farm,” explains the JNP spokesperson.

The workers also gave the green light to the trade union leaders to proceed with union action in case of failure of the negotiations, because they believe that “the government has cast aside the workers of the sugar industry,” adds Ashok Subron. Thus, the panel may have recourse to three union actions, depending on the situation. A large demonstration of 3000 people in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, a collective hunger strike as a last resort and finally a repeat of the big strike of 2014, in November 2019.

In 2014, on the eve of the general elections, the JNP had launched an industrial strike that lasted nine days. However, Ashok Subron hopes that he will not have to go through that process again if Pravind Jugnauth and Mahen Seeruttun stop siding with the sugar barons. “They will have to make a choice between political funding from the corporate bosses and the workers’ vote,” Subron says.

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Quote: PRB on the 50 years of MMM

“Not all politicians are rotten, we have the ability to make this second birth becomes a reality.”

* Published in print edition on 4 October 2019

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