Yesterday in Grand Riviere, LALIT held a press conference to present our 10 demands that have emerged after a year of campaign for democratic control over land utilisation. This campaign has consisted of 25-30 meetings across Mauritius, poster campaigns, leaflets and national land campaign assemblies. These demands, as well as in a traditional written leaflet form, were also presented in a visual form that was first developed in Baie du Cap LALIT-inhabitant meetings in opposing an IRS project there, and are becoming a tool for popularising our demands nationally. The posters, leaflets (both in readable and visual form) were all exhibited in the press conference in which thirteen LALIT militants and activists in the campaign from Baie du Cap, Richelieu, Rose Belle, Moka, Bambous, Curepipe and Vacoas participated.
Economists worried by real estate projects
Rada Kistnasamy presiding the press conference emphasized how this press conference was being held in a time where there is great concern about the economy: over 75% of Foreign Direct Investment comes from the real estate sector – a sector based on speculation and no production whatsoever. He stated that more and more economists are becoming alarmed at this state of affairs: an economy cannot be based on taking arable land, building villas on it and selling off the land.
LALIT's 10 demands
Rajni Lallah talked on the link between the economic crisis hitting working people the hardest, and the present political and institutional crises. What most enrages ordinary people is the terrible inequality when they struggle to get a job, to get a roof over their heads, literally struggle for survival, on the one hand, and when the government adopts economic politics that facilitate people like Sobrinho to get his hands on 131 villas on the other. (For more info on the Sobrinho affair, read http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1935/the-alvaro-sobrinho-affair-president-and-pm-entrapped/ ).
She also denounced the Parliamentary opposition: “No PNQ's, no PQ's are being asked to challenge land-destruction/real-estate promotion”. All the opposition parties: MMM, PMSD, Labour Party just like the MSM-ML, have over the years, when they have been in government, participated in setting up land-destruction/real-estate promotion measures.
She then presented the 10 demands (see http://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/1941/the-land-questionclear-demands-emerge/ to which two demands concerning food security and foreign currency have been added).
Our demands in visual form
Lindsey Collen explained how when LALIT started our campaign to stop IRS, ERS, so-called Smart Cities, members of the press couldn't get their heads round the fact that we were challenging the way agricultural land, mostly privately owned-land, was being used. They thought the land we were talking about concerned only public beaches. Another difficulty we met with in our campaign, she explained, is that some people thought we were “against development” when we were challenging an economy based on the destruction of agricultural land.
In the press conference, Lindsey Collen presented the “visual leaflet” that shows in pictorial form the class apartheid wall separating ordinary people's houses from luxury villas in gated communities. “People living in the luxury villas can freely come and go in areas where we, ordinary people, live, but we can't circulate inside gated communities”, she pointed out, exposing a colonial feature of this form of real estate project.
She explained how our visual leaflet makes it clear what exactly we are opposing, and how land can be used in an alternative way: to create integrated agricultural villages on 100 arpents of land with housing built on the perimeter with land on which inhabitant can plant food crops on and rear animals. Late Professor Chan, a Mauritian expert on integrated farming taught us in LALIT how integrated farming can be used for sustainable agriculture. The pictures in the leaflet help us imagine how land could be used in a productive way.
The visual leaflet also shows how thousand of jobs can be created not only in agriculture, but also in factories ding food conservation, processing and transformation, in marketing, transportation, storage, and agricultural research.
She also stated that we must stop describing our country as being “a little island” when in terms of territory comprising both land and sea, Mauritius is the 18th biggest countries of the word. Yet we are not developing the huge marine resources in the 2.3 millions square kilometres of sea that forms part of Mauritius.
There was a question from the press about our reference in the press conference to the Sobrinho affair and whether LALIT thought that the President must resign after her links with Sobrinho have been exposed. Ram Seegobin stated that the real estate orientation of government with all its laws and measures promoting real estate, are attracting people like Sobrinho. “Sobrinho is the tip of the iceberg” he said.
“President Gurrib-Fakim talks a lot about entrepreneurship and the need for private investment. It is this weakness that facilitated the entry of Sobrinho into Reduit. The President should now decide whether she is still capable of being the Head of State. We don't think she is”, he concluded.