LALIT members gathered for an end-of-year Assembly to share analysis of the past year’s actions. There were reports from the four Regionals – Curepipe-South, Rose-Hill-East, Quatre Bornes-West and Port Louis-North – in particular on branch construction in each region, but also on localized party actions. There were also reports from different members on the LALIT publication, REVI LALIT, now up to Number 126, as an important tool for party building around the on-going program; and reports from party commissions, in particular the Diego Garcia Commission, LALIT’s Documentation and Web-Site, and the Trade union Commission.
We will, in this article, give an outline of the Report prepared about LALIT’s work as a whole over 2016, presented jointly by Alain Ah-Vee, who gave the first part of the Report outlining the scope of LALIT’s political work over 2016 (Part I), and Lindsey Collen, who made analytic points about the year’s work (Part II).
Alain introduced his report by saying there are two aspects to keep in mind when looking back at the year: how we nurture and consolidate branches and build new ones, and how we establish and maintain on-going links with the broad masses. And these two aspects of party-building, he said, are particularly important during a downturn in the class struggle, like the present one.
He said party structures were all working well, with the Central Committee meeting 23 times, and the Political Bureau which emanates from it and prepares its agendas meeting 23 times, too. The weekly Program Meeting has met some 50 times, with 15 of its meetings dedicated to the 5 editions of REVI LALIT, in other words acting as an Editorial Board. The rest of the meetings are either on specific issues or to take up pressing issues between two Central Committee meetings. The Branches and Regional Committees are all working well as we will hear in the Reports from each of them. We have only had two Members’ Assemblies this year, and other big meetings.
But the Residential Seminar at the beginning of the year was a key moment, and how far we had got in implementing the “Plan of Action” that we decided upon, and was amazed to find we had done everything that we had planned. The Seminar kept us pro-active, and prevented us from reacting to attacks, and being pushed on to the eternal defensive.
Campaign Against Smart Cities strategy becomes campaign on “The Land Question”
At the beginning of the year we all from different regions participated in a poster campaign – first centralized in Port Louis, and then all over where there are different branches. It read, “IRS, Gated Communities, Smart Cities: Dan Ki Lintere?” At the beginning, it was important to pose the question as to whose interests are being served by this terrible strategy to sell off and to concrete up the country. Then when Independence Day came, we held a Colloquium, where 8 members presented papers on different issues on “The Land Question”. Starting from opposing the Smart Cities Strategy, we moved on to the need for agrarian reform. Alain also said how the LALIT Film For an Alternative Economy, when we projected it that day, was still very relevant. And it was at this meeting that we began to plan local meetings, writing the dates and places up on the board as members present proposed to organize them. These meetings were on the issue of popular control over agricultural land, so as to put the land at the service of job creation, food security and housing – not land speculation by the Sugar Estates. The list of places where we held neighbourhood meetings included: Petite Riviere, La Tour Koenig, GRNW, St. Pierre, Beau Bassin, Riviere Noire, Baie du Cap, Albion, Anse Jonchee, Cite Malherbes A and then B, Petit Verger, Camp Le Vieux, Bambous, Richelieu, Beau Songes, Roches Noires. There were from 10 people at smaller meetings to 50 people, when we met in Village Halls or Community Centres. People brought in a huge store of knowledge about IRSs, Hunting Lodges, Domaines and Golf Resorts near where they live, or at which they have worked as domestic workers. This enriched our knowledge of the massive problems this kind of supposed “development” poses, and also dug the foundations for our “mapping project”.
By November, this campaign had caught on at a national level and we could hold the Press Conference with representatives of different areas present to speak out about their own problems.
Broadening the struggle
At one point, when the CTSP asked us to join them in the struggle against water privatization, we made a counter-proposal to come together on the broader issue of the land question, including control over water. But union Federations, especially in down-turns, are notoriously “defensive” organizations, and our counter-attack is perhaps too political a proposal. So, we supported each other in the respective campaigns instead. When CUT invited LALIT to a workshop against repression for drug issues, there too, we put emphasis on the issue of job creation as part of the way to deal with substance abuse over the middle and long-term.
LALIT also worked closely with Muvman Lakaz, especially over the problem with housing collapsing in Richelieu, and linked the issue with the more general issue of how to use the land. There is a pamphlet written by Lindsey Collen for members to take home and read – the 12-page one with the abstract colour picture on the front – which tells the story of a Forum, in such a way as to show how the avangard of the working class lies low in downturns, but can make an appearance in places where LALIT has worked consistently over the years.
When the inhabitants of Baie du Cap called on LALIT for support in their problems with an IRS, there too, we together with them, linked what seemed like their localized problem with the overall Government strategy being to tail-end Sugar Estate bosses in their land speculation deals, and then even encourage and subsidize them. All this at the expense of people from villages, who used to be employed by Bel Ombre and St Felix and who are now expected to just make way for an IRS. There is a pamphlet written by Kisna Kistnasamy – about the Baie du Cap and LALIT press conference held in the remote coastal village, and which has had three very good Press Reports, bringing the issue to national level.
LALIT also held a joint meeting with four representatives of an association that following the Truth and Justice Commission works to get back land that the Sugar Estates have stolen from “rightful owners”. They agree with our campaign, and said they will inform their members about our neighbourhood meetings so they can attend meetings near where they live.
Lindsey gave a talk to 50 University Students on the Land question.
And for Labour Day, we made the Land Question our theme for the year. We came on to the issue of WHO CONTROLS THE LAND.
The LALIT campaign seems also to have been some influence on representatives of non-real-estate sections of the bourgeoisie. People like Amedée Darga, Pierre Dinan, Lindsay Riviere, Vasant Jogoo, Eric Ng, Kee Chong Li Kong Wing, and even a boss at the Board of Investment, have all spoke out against mere land speculation, mere selling off real estate as opposed to productive investment.
Our neighbourhood meetings also threw up the need for us to do a short session with branch members from all branches on “how to preside” this new batch of neighbourhood meetings.
Diego Garcia: LALIT campaign and International Conference
In January, we held a LALIT “brainstorming meeting” on the Diego Garcia struggle, knowing that the end of 2016 is a key moment with the expiry of the lease between the UK and USA for Diego Garcia for the military base still sitting there on Mauritian land. We in LALIT had forced the previous Labour Government finally to go to an international court – the Government chose the Tribunal under UNCLOS, which is binding – to challenge the UK’s setting up of a Marine Protected Area around Chagos; the Tribunal’s judgment was not yet published. We guessed there were chances of Mauritius winning. But win or lose, we again took up our battle for Mauritius to go to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. We wrote to the Foreign Minister, then the Prime Minister. The Mauritian State won at the Tribunal under UNCLOS. So, we had to persist and persist with this victory in hand. We wrote two Open Letters to Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugees Group warning him of the dangers before him if he continued the struggle “as a British litigant” rather than as a Mauritian citizen. LALIT was meanwhile invited, unusually, to not just one but two, MBC Radio programs on Diego Garcia. We issued press communiqués, and in our build-up to our 2nd International Conference on Diego Garcia, we increased pressure on the Mauritian Government to act, not just on the right to return, but on sovereignty, base closure and ecological clean-up. Our Conference theme finally settled on: “50 Years’ Destruction by the UK and USA on Diego Garcia: Accusation against the UK and USA. 50 Years’ of Struggle:
The next base closure: Diego Garcia!”
And the Diego Garcia LALIT Commission met 5 times, plus once in an open meeting with other organizations and individuals, in preparation for the Conference. We contacted Fernand Mandarin, Chagos Refugees Group, MPRB, LPT, MLF, CTSP, CIG and other individuals like Jean-Claude Bibi and Alain Laridon. We called on the MBC to get hold of show the Peadar King film, which is the only film with a clear position on sovereignty, being made in Ireland where anti-colonial sensibility is high, in the context of a season of films on Chagos. We issued a proposed Roadmap for Jugnauth after his “ultimatum” to the British to come and discuss sovereignty following the Tribunal judgment.
In fact, as the Conference approached, the ultimatum expired, and PM Jugnauth put the issue on the UN General Assembly Agenda. At the same time as our Conference, Jugnauth together with Olivier Bancoult would be at the UN General Assembly.
Our Conference saw 5 international guest speakers, interestingly three from the USA (David Vine, Maricela Guzman and Clare Bayard) and Jammu Narayana Rao (India) and Wilbert van der Zeijden (The Netherlands). The Opening Speech was by Former President of the Republic, Cassam Uteem who has remained faithful to all three aspects of the struggle. Olivier Bancoult gave a speech in the form of a Report-Back from the UN General Assembly, where he was part of the delegation. For LALIT, Ram Seegobin, Lindsey Collen, Rada Kistnasamy, Kisna Kistnasamy, Anne-Marie Joly, Rajni Lallah and myself all spoke, Alain said. The program included two films (Paedar King and John Pilger) and an exhibition of photographs of Chagossians and the struggle for Diego Garcia, taken by the doyen of photographers, Vel Kadarasen over the years (organized within the Conference by the MLF, including an official opening in the presence of Vel and his family.) The 160 participants had time to speak after each panel of speakers, and could read the messages of support from all over the world up on bulletin boards around the Conference. The Second Declaration of Grande Riviere was ratified (see our website), and is now available in English and French as well as the original Kreol. It was sent to all the guests, as well as to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, and the one or two MPs that take up the issue regularly. As mandated by the Declaration, a formal letter has been sent to AFCONE requesting an inspection of Diego Garcia for nuclear materials.
Following the Conference which coincided with the hot issue of sovereignty being on the UN General Assembly, LALIT members found that the British press was, for some reason, completely silent on this issue. Even when LALIT members sent them all the information, they persisted in writing only about Chagossians being “resettled” in colonial fashion, with no reference to the right to return, nor to sovereignty, nor to the need to close down the base. But eventually, when the British Assistant Minister came out with his rude and condescending statement in Parliament, the Mauritian Government was humiliated and furious, and brought out its best statement yet. This statement then helped us to break the reign of silence in the British press. A The Guardian article broke the sort of “D-Notice” that seemed to operate. And then the news was everywhere in the world: in all the major press outlets. At the same time as contacting the Press, LALIT members contacted MPs in Britain, concentrating on the Scotts and Welsh members, who are for historical reasons, sympathetic to anti-colonial struggles.
LALIT members together with Lindsay Morvan and Alain Laridon, went to the Balaclava to distribute leaflets at a meeting of African Commonwealth Parliamentarians. The Diego Garcia issue thus got on to their Resolution at the end of their deliberations. The letter called on them to inform the people of their country of the continued colonization by Britain of part of Mauritius.
Since the October Conference, we have had a study group type session with Barrister Jean-Claude Bibi on the UNCLOS tribunal judgments – the judgment and the concurring-and-minority judgment.
Twice this year, LALIT has taken a stand against the refusal by Aneerood Jugnauth to introduce Kreol as an optional language in Parliament. We brought out a communiqué and then wrote an article.
Our REVI LALIT is almost entirely in Kreol. It also contains articles on the language struggle in almost every number.
LALIT’s “Education and Language” Commission had a whole session, working out what to do to further advance the mother tongue. The present Lepep Government just refuses even to mention the Mauritian Kreol language. An entire “educational reform” has gone ahead without a word on the medium. We believe it is time to accuse the Education Minister of perpetuating harm on children’s cognitive development by her refusal to address the issue of the suppression of the mother tongue in schools.
ID Card struggle
After a meeting with the CITU executive on the ID Card issue, and what strategy to follow, we held a Press Conference jointly with CITU, CTSP and FTU. We called for the deadline for taking out a new card to be postponed. Later a Communiqué to this effect was published jointly with CITU, FCSOU, FTU, CTSP, MLF, CIG, ACIM. And the Government did once again extend the deadline. This time to March, 2017.
Symposium on NGO Phenomenon
LALIT organized a two-day symposium on the phenomenon of Non-Government Organizations, a relatively new phenomenon. Thirteen papers were presented and discussed, 8 on more general aspects of the problem, and 5 on specific issues or specific NGOs. The Symposium allowed us to contrast “associations” with the “NGO phenomenon”, and also to contextualize the phenomenon and its dangers for the working class struggle.
Brainstorming on Art and Culture
After circulating a document prepared by our Arts and Culture commission, we called an open brainstorming session with artists as part of a critique of Government action on art and culture. It was well-attended.
We began the year with each person or group that looks after a different part of the world updating our list of contacts. This, in itself, was enriching. Seeing how our contacts were developing in Africa and the Indian Ocean; in Europe; in the Indian sub-continent area; in Australia, the Far East and the Pacific; the Middle East; the Americas and the Caribbean.
We took a historical turn by holding a committee meeting on planning to commemorate and celebrate the 100 Years since the Russian Revolution next year.
We also did a big mailing campaign to all our contacts for the International Conference on Diego Garcia.
We attended two International meetings, one in Australia and one in Mumbai. A member also went to Namibia, and met our contacts there.
We participated, as a party, in an international solidarity event to mark the 35 years that Oscar Lopez Riviera has been locked up in jail in the USA for his participation in the freedom struggle of Puerto Rico. We stood, 35 of us, with candles on the Main Road in front of the LALIT headquarters. We were supposed to be one of 35 countries protesting on the same day. In fact, 43 countries participated. On the same day, seven LALIT members distributed a leaflet in public in front of the UN Embassy in John Kennedy street in Port Louis.
LALIT also supported the LPT-organized event in support of the Palestinian Refugee who was facing a death sentence for blasphemy in Saudi Arabia. LALIT then organized a petition signed by 40 people for Mauritius to put its opening of an embassy in Saudi Arabia on hold until the country respects human rights better.
Earlier in the year, we had an interesting get-together when two people from the US – Ulka and Jonathan – gave us an insight into their respective research work in India.
Our Means of Communicating our Program
LALIT’s means of circulating our program beyond our own Party is mainly around our bi-monthly Magazine, REVI LALIT, which has come out 5 times this year.
We also distribute leaflets from time to time in all the main bus stations of the country.
And for the past 12 years, we also have a website, which has this year so far had some 1.7 million hits. Our website includes our communiqués, articles and reports on our actions. We have photographs on the Home Page, that change regularly. We now have audio clips through SoundCloud and video through YouTube.