What are our political problems?

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

A common ground for Mauritianism and democracy

By Jay Narain Roy

The aim of this and other series is to make my countrymen think clearly about our problems. Few have made an attempt to appraise them clearly. Others are easily confused by tendentious propaganda which is generally unleashed from several quarters to stop the march of progress. It is by understanding our problems clearly that we can blow the cobwebs of illusions.

Our first problem is to evolve a Mauritian nation. Some people have, for about half a century, called this Mauritianism. Many who use it do not understand its significance, and even if they do, they are not sure how it can be brought about. What is the idea behind it? Only this that in our approach to our problems we put the country first and our community afterwards. It means that if there is a post to be filled, we should not appoint one just because he belongs to our community or creed or caste but because he is best able to advance the cause of the country.

Those who talk of Mauritianism so loosely do not seem to realise the revolutionary process it entails in our ordinary thinking. It necessarily means burying all obsessions of caste, race, religion, or community. How many are prepared for it? The concept of a Mauritian nation is the process of a mental revolution for which few people talking about it are prepared.

Why have people stuck to some basic communal ideas? It was started by the oligarchs and even today they practise it to an extent which shockingly retards the progress of the country. Those who were victims copied it from the leaders of society, and others have followed suit. The result is that the entire atmosphere is vitiated, and we seem to be sinking deeper and deeper into our fond illusions. Many seemingly educated people would rather have a fool of their community than the wisest of another. What is more tragic, the Tories help to encourage communalism because they are fully convinced that in communalism and racialism alone lies their salvation. Their outlook can be compared to that of the Afrikaners who think that they cannot survive if they accept the democratic idea of the parity of races.

So, we see where the stumbling-block lies. I do not give more than two decades for all coloured sections to imbibe the Mauritian ideal and to act up to it. But I cannot imagine that a time will ever come when the oligarchs would be prepared to put it into practice. There is so far absolutely no indication that the younger set think differently. So that unless this fundamental question is solved there cannot be any talk of Mauritianism.

That takes us to the second important political problem: the common ground for Mauritianism. On what basis are we to build a Mauritian nation? What about the languages, religions, and cultures? We have sometimes heard or read people who even today are prone to think that a Mauritian nation can only be formed if all Mauritians come to take to a single religion and the French language. Only congenital maniacs can in 1959 think along this line. It is absolutely certain that no power on earth can make the bulk of the people change their languages, religions and traditions.

That being so any disregard of the susceptibilities of the neighbour is bound to have very ugly consequences. It is the way to strife and bickerings. Therefore, we can build our common heritage on respect and tolerance of the neighbour. We have to create a sense of unity in our diversity and there lies the hope of our destiny.

It follows from this therefore that a religion that does not foster mutual regard and tolerance is ill-suited to our colonial resurgence. It follows also from the same fact that religious bodies that sneakingly wire-pull for appointments and promotion of their co-religionists over others are the archenemies of our national progress. As long as there are sections rabidly practising racialism, as long as there are religious bodies standing foursquare against tolerance and wire pulling for their coreligionists, all talk of a Mauritian understanding is an ungainly farce and a vile mockery.

That takes us to another important political problem: the sense of democracy. In this age of democracy all progress is gauged by the equality of opportunities for one and all. This can be ensured only by benevolent laws and economic planning. In the political language of the modern world, opportunities generally have an economic meaning as the happiness of the average citizen can only be measured in terms of economic welfare.

It is to ensure benevolent laws and economic planning for the needs of the people that we need to have a government fully responsible to the people and deriving its motive force from them.

Equality of opportunities have a vast range of subjects. It seeks to establish a sense of fair play by abolishing nepotism, racialism, monopolies and privileges. Fair play to the various sections in appointments and promotions, fair play towards the religions and cultures, fair play towards one and all in opportunities and development, fair play towards our economic needs in the Commonwealth pool, fair play in representation, fair play towards our opponents, fair play in allowing the four freedoms and human fundamental rights — these are some of the important implications.

These are a few of our major fundamental political problems. The rest are quite secondary. Young people will, I hope, understand how simple our political problems are and how duly complicated they have been made by some manoeuvres. They will also be able to understand how, while the bulk of the people are eager to march forward, the economic masters of the country are at every stage and in every direction trying to hold back the progress of this country. Like the witch in the Balinese folk song, wherever you wish to go, you are accosted by the same ominous silhouette.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 2 June 2023

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