Constitutional Proposals

Whoever is communally-minded, it is not the Hindus. Whoever is responsible for the introduction of sectional interests into constitutional discussions, it is not the Labour Party

Running true to form, NMU calumniates the Labour Party by alleging that it opposes the constitutional proposals in a spirit of party only. In Le Cernéen of April 13, we read a virulent denunciation of the Labour Party whose ambitions, we are told, “ne soient pas gênées par le nouveau système”. No grounds of criticism have been made except, says NMU falsely as is his usual custom when dealing with the Labour Party and social justice generally, in “l’intérêt du parti”. The ideal of the Labour Party is, he says, “Us first!”

Who is responsible of the importation of purely sectional interests into the constitutional proposals? Not the Labour Party. No, indeed, it is the proposals themselves which are conceived on a sectional basis. And the proposals have been framed by Mr Lennox-Boyd (whose frank and public avowal of admiration for the fascist Franco makes him a real soulmate for Le Baron) after being suitable briefed and informed by various interested persons in Mauritius. Interested in what? Interested in maintaining, as long as possible, colonialism and imperialist exploitation by denying human rights to the people; that’s what.

Read the constitutional proposals, and what do we see? Both Mr Lennox-Boyd and the Governor advocating Proportional Representation so as to weaken Labour’s position in the Legislative Council. (It is now over two weeks since my letter in The Times said just that; and no one has yet contradicted me). In the constitutional dispatches there appears an anti-Labour bias; the interests of the colonialists must be preserved; “Us first!” cry the imperialists, in effect. Yet NMU has the audacity to accuse the Labour Party of importing party considerations into the discussions on the proposals!

During their tour of India, Messrs Krushchev and Bulganin made some startling utterances and criticisms. But one thing which Mr Krushchev said deserves to be quoted: “The imperialists states are most ingenious in adapting themselves to circumstances when compelled to make concessions to peoples that have risen against them.” No one in Mauritius has risen against Britain, and no one has any intention of doing so; anti-British feelings exist only as a figment of NMU’s disordered imagination. But that the colonial power has proved itself “ingenious” in adapting itself to the circumstances cannot be denied. Mr Lennox-Boyd was forced to admit that adult suffrage cannot be withheld from Mauritius any longer. But its introduction is to depend on Proportional Representation. In that way, instead of by sending troops to put down imaginary disorders, is colonialism to be preserved. And instead of letting the majority party in the Legislative Council advise the Governor who should be members of the Executive Council, the ridiculous system of electing the Executive from the Legislative by Proportional Representation is to be continued. The proposals are a mockery of democracy; they appear democratic only to those people who, like NMU, don’t know what democracy means. They don’t care, either.

The proposals weigh the scales against the Labour Party. Proportional representation is intended, as – I repeat — the Governor and Mr Lennox-Boyd admit, to weaken Labour strength in the legislative Council. Even if Labour wins a majority of seats in the elections, there are still to be up to twelve nominees to be reckoned with; and the Colonial Secretary said in the Legislative Council that the nomination of these members would depend on the result of the general election. That is of course a tacit admission that nomination would be used to frustrate the will of the electorate as democratically registered at the ballot boxes, should Labour get a majority of elected seats but not enough to have an over-all majority when 12 nominees are counted in.

Nomination frustrated the majority verdict in 1953, and the votes of nominated members have been used in Council to oppose the will of the elected members (for example after the debate on Hon Bissoondoyal’s motion on the Police). But if the reactionaries should get a majority of elected seats, would the Governor then appoint a dozen Labour nominees? Not on your life!

The history of political development in the colonies is a catalogue of frustration of the people by upholding the imperialists. An 18 against 7 victory for Labour at the general election would certainly be followed by the appointment of all 12 nominated members to Council, and all reactionaries. It would be 1953 all over again. But reverse the result, Suppose the reactionaries won the next election, by 18 against 7. Would there be 12 Labour nominees, appointed? Of course not; indeed, it’s probable that in such a case the attitude of the Governor would be that the election result was such a fair one that there would be no need to appoint any nominees at all.

NMU and some of his supporters are, of course, notorious for in the past having opposed any constitutional advance at all yet the Governor alleges in his dispatch that he has not come across any opposition to constitutional advance as such. He seems singularly ill-informed. Only just before the delegation left for England last year, Hon Koenig was advocating the strange doctrine that adult suffrage should wait upon universal literacy in Mauritius. A serious of Opinion du Jour in Le Cernéen was designed to show that Mauritius didn’t need any reform in the Constitution. Yet the Governor could say that he hadn’t come across any opposition to reform!

Labour’s attitude to the proposals is well-based. The proposals are to be resisted in so far as they confer sectional advantage, for purely sectional interests, on one part of the community. They are to be welcomed where they recognise the readiness of Mauritius for political advance and emancipation. In fighting the sectional proposals, the Labour Party is not concerned with any advantage that may perhaps accrue to itself if those proposals are defeated; it is concerned with getting social and political justice for Mauritius. This attitude is in direct contrast with the attitude of NMU and Hon Mohamed who are concerned not with social  and political justice for Mauritius, but with what they conceive to be social and political justice for their own communities.

Hon Mohamed’s advocacy of communal voting for the Moslems surely rebuts the allegations that it is the Hindus who think and vote communally? When we recall the 1953 election directive issued by Hon Mohamed appealing to his Moslem brothers to support certain named candidates in certain constituencies, we have additional grounds for discounting the vicious and false accusations of the traducers that it is the Hindus who are separatist. Incidentally, in maintaining in his dispatch that the Hindus are communally-minded, the Governor again displays ignorance of facts.

To sum up. Whoever is communally-minded, it is not the Hindus. And whoever is responsible for the introduction of sectional, party interests into the constitutional discussions, it is not the Labour Party. The seat of responsibility for that is with the people who framed the proposals and the reactionary advantage that the proposals confer.

 

  • Published in print edition on 17 November 2017

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