This article is based on both the talk Lindsey Collen gave at the LALIT assembly of members on 15 March, 2015 at Grand River North West, and on the discussion that followed.
It is under five headings, as you’ll see ...
1. The New Aneerood Jugnauth Regime seizes control of the Labour Party State apparatus and begins dismantling it
It is significant that the “Lepep” (Peoples’) Government has defeated both the previous Labour “Government” and the previous MMM “Opposition”, thus replacing both Government and Opposition. The new Regime has 3/4 of Parliamentary seats. And that’s not all. It is on the verge of increasing this majority, with the resignation, within three months of their election, of three MMM MPs Jean-Claude Barbier, Rafeek Sorefan ek Joe Lesjongard.
This all means that the Lepep Government is seizing control of the Labour Party State, and has begun dismantling it. In short, it is proceeding by what it calls “cleaning up”, and in order to do this, the new Government, is putting as many of the relevant chess pieces from the previous chess board into places from which they cannot move. In particular:
- Not just replacing the previous Prime Minister Ramgoolam, but arresting him and laying serious charges against him. The previous head of Government is completely paralyzed, which, we may add, is fortunate, given what has been exposed so far as the content of his monarchical impunity.
- The new Government sacked the head of the Central bank, R. Bheenick, and then after he had removed a whole filing cabinet, arrested and charged him, thus assuring control of the main economic arm of the State.
- They have got rid of and instituted enquiries on the previous head of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, Dan Callikhan, who was in charge of the outlandish Labour Propaganda machine under Ramgoolam – thus wresting control of the main propaganda arm of the State from the previous regime.
- They have arrested the former secret service chief, M. Jookhoo – thus ensuring control of this key element of the bourgeois state.
- They have arrested another ex-police chief, a key element of the repressive apparatus in charge of VIP security, in the person of VIPSU chief, Sooroojbally.
- The Police Commissioner has taken retirement and been replaced, rounding up the new Government’s control of the repressive forces.
- The DPP’s Office (which will be mighty busy when all the dozens of police enquiries get tied up) has been brought under political control again, under the Attorney general, Ravi Yerrigadoo – thus giving Aneerood Jugnauth control of the prosecution arm. [This is now being challenged in the Courts – 20 March]
- They have put the Voice of Hindu, communalist organization that is close to Navin Ramgoolam on the defensive through police enquiries and retrieval of State land from their members – thus paralysing the Labour virulent communal arm.
- They have received the State Visit of Naraindra Modi for Independence Day – thus grabbing diplomatic initiative from Labour.
- And they have changed the CEO of dozens of para-statal bodies, thus ensuring the new regime’s control over the administrative/economic arm of the State in all fields.
- They have given medals around liberally, including to over 500 police officers, thus recognizing them as supporters of the new regime.
A Political Revolution
So, we in LALIT have gone through the process of “realization” of how drastic the change is since December, when the general elections were not ordinary elections but, in fact, brought in a kind of “political revolution”. All the other political forces in the Opposition, whether they are Parliamentary or Extra-Parliamentary, understand nothing of this yet. They are simply “punch-drunk”. They have all been taken over by events, unable to make sense of them.
All this change in the State, together with all the hysterical uprising around “Vire Mam!” before elections, gives the distinct whiff of a pale, electoralist version of the Arab Spring in Mauritius. There was a huge popular will that galvanized itself behind the Lepep Alliance, even though the alliance was only patched together a few weeks earlier in order to oust Labour. And there is the same rush to “oust” the incumbent without much serious thinking about the kind of regime that is needed to replace him.
And once elected, the new Government never once whispered a word of the usual post-electoral “national reconciliation” verbiage. All discourse is about “cleaning up” the mess. And mess it certainly was.
So, we have been and still are witnessing something of a “political” revolution – without the least deep social change, let alone economic change. But, the new regime is turning the previous Labour one upside down all right, not just by actions listed above, but also in the process of “cleaning up”, that we will refer to below.
Meanwhile, the bourgeois press, in its totality, the MMM Opposition and the Labour Opposition, are all totally stunned. 100 days have passed since the elections and they still don’t know what hit them. Both Parliamentary Opposition Parties, it can be said without exaggeration, started exploding before the elections, and have continued to explode since them.
All the MMM leaders, from Paul Bérenger to Arianne Navarre and Ajay Guness, make public declarations as though they have not absorbed what has happened to them and their ill-fated alliance with Labour. They pretend they never stood together behind their empty slogan, “Un Peuple Uni, Un Pays Moderne” (and forget that their banners were altered to read “un peuple tuni” (meaning literally naked, or, as here, poverty-stricken). They seem oblivious to the fact that they were inside, they were part of, the fiasco that the Ramgoolam regime is being exposed as having been. They, too, must bear the burden of being in alliance with all the liquid money horded by Ramgoolam. They too must bear the burden of being with Ramgoolam and all the favours to his mistress and friends, all the abuse of power. Journalists, when they interview the MMM people, don’t manage to get them to face up to this, and often they can’t manage to do that because they, themselves, often under MMM ideological hegemony, do not yet realize it.
The MMM had already lost the Deputy Leader Collendavelloo, and many member and agents of the MMM had turned their backs on their party at the time of the Alliance with Ramgoolam. Now, a free mason wing has left, in numbers, and in series. Today [it was 16 March] Paul Bérenger is seeking a new mandate from his Delegates’ Assembly. But the crisis in the MMM seems bound to continue inexorably.
In Labour, whether it is new spokesperson Arvind Boolell, or his colleagues Nita Deerpalsing or Patrick Assirvaden, they are all staggering about, lost in the woods. Even when ex Labour Minister Sheila Bappoo resigns, this first remains secret for a month, and then causes a fight between her and Nita Deerpalsing. Navin Ramgoolam, meanwhile, has not even been properly suspended or expelled, as he should have been, if Labour was to have hoped for a fairly swift recovery. As it is now, all the scandals being revealed continue to reflect on the whole of Labour, and cannot be criticized by Labour. As it is, Labour had lost a lot ex-Ministers when Ramgoolam did not give them investiture. Many of their agents had “Vire Mam!”
After their defeat and divorce, the MMM and Travayis have continued to fall to lower and lower depths. The MMM has already lost one-third of its newly elected 12 MPs. Labour’s members have melted into the distance, so that it is no longer clear who has left and who is left. The bourgeois press hasn’t been able to keep us the least bit informed on where all these (ex) Labour people are.
It is amazing how much emphasis the MMM and Labour, as well as most of the press and radio, have placed on the way the mess is being cleaned up, without having absorbed how bad the mess is. I am referring to when the three Minister Pravind Jugnauth, Roshi Bhadain and Ravi Yerrigadoo went to see those two Swiss top employees of a State Owned Company, Mauritius Duty Free Paradise, together with ex-friend of Ramgoolam, in order to squeeze from them the contracts between various Swiss and Cyprus companies with the State Company. The mainstream outside of Government cry “scandal” at the way the Ministers tried to get hold of the contracts, when the State is trying to control contracts which are presumably legal as contracts, but not at all ethical, perhaps involving bribery, commissions and so on. The Government clearly has a right to the documents, and seems to have acquired them.
The bourgeoisie and its mouth-pieces pretend they were always against Ramgoolam, even though they shouted from the rooftops in favour of a strong Labour-MMM Alliance. The bourgeoisie is clearly shell-shocked. This is the effect of a political revolution, not just the usual “alternance”.
[By the way, the lesson for LALIT, around the unveiling of the deep corruption of the Ramgoolam regime is that we have learnt how corruption is not just equal to the amount of funds siphoned out of the economy, however grave this may be. It means that political decisions and policies are total fiascos. Important projects have been sacrificed perhaps to commissions, causing massive regression in the country. Let’s list two examples. There was the policy decision to do something about the terrible traffic jams that haunt Port Louis (everyone was wasting time sitting around in buses, cars and lorries, shops were losing customers, and children getting worn out by what should have been short trips, etc), so two projects were planned to alleviate the traffic: the Ring Road around Port Louis and the new bit of motorway Terre-Rouge-Verdun. But roads have quite literally collapsed. So, the policy decision to alleviate traffic has also collapsed. And it is due either mainly or entirely to corruption. There are already engineers suspended, and so on. And everyone is still wasting time in traffic jams. The second thing is the need to develop the Port, either to the north side or the south. But the previous regime set up two projects, one north and one south, that literally froze all development in two huge areas, Jin Fei and Neotown, and nothing has come of them, except killing off what was going on there. The question is now posed as to whether there was corruption involved.]
2. Economic policies of the new Government will become clearer after the 23 March Lutchmeenaraidoo budget. However, we already see that the new Government:
- intends supporting sugar and cane, and not going all out for agricultural diversification and food production, for export and local consumption.
- intends to hide unemployment, through a Rs10 billion fund for small enterprises, without the Government specifying what new sector will be developed through this means. There is just the continued non-sequitur: “We will replace sugar and textiles by … small enterprises”.
- intends to continue depreciating the Mauritian Rupee continuously.
- will have difficulty getting the bourgeoisie to put a halt to its long “investment strike”.
- has made Mauritius the first “third World” country to sign up to the Trade In Services, under WTO about a week ago. This means all WTO members can invest in “services” in Mauritius, on the same basis as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that exists with the EU. This means “discrimination” in favour of national institutions becomes illegal. So tax advantages or subsidies are no longer possible. This just prolongs and deepends the new super-capitalism of neo-liberalism.
Note that the bourgeoisie and all the pro-capitalist spokesmen (they are usually men) quickly came forward and congratulated the Government on its victory. They must have at once realized that they had lost a lot by supporting the MMM-PT that the electorate kicked out so royally. So, on the spot they started referring to a Jugnauth “second economic miracle”.
3. Social “Measures” taken by the Lepep Government:
- big increase in old age and other universal pensions.
- wage compensation at the fixed sum of Rs600 across-the-board (above a certain low level).
- abolishing the DLC (Driving License Counterpart) and the “double jeopardy” of the previous system of losing points from your license plus paying a fine for road offences.
- taking back a whole lot of beach land and other State land distributed illegally by Ramgoolam’s regime to those close to the Labour Party. This action was both drastic and seemingly well-planned by the new regime.
- The coal-based CT Power project has been abandoned completely.
- The biometric ID card has been met on “hold”, with a commitment to destroy its central data base.
4. “CLEANING UP” has begun. In truth the new regime is dismantling the results of the Labour Party favouritism and corruption that hides behind its policy of supposed “economic democratization”, something a bit like the ANC’s Black Business Empowerment. And although LALIT more than any other political formation has been systematically exposing and denouncing the “monarchic” impunity and greed of Ramgoolam’s rule from 2008 onwards, we never guessed just how rotten it was until we now discover what it actually entailed, as the “cleaning up” proceeds. Nor did we realize to what extent the new regime, in particular the MSM, was already preparing its attack on the old regime from before seizing state control and “cleaning up”.
(We should mention, in passing, that the term “cleaning up” (netwayaz), has both a positive meaning “getting rid of the dirt in the state machine” but it also implies that the “state” is a good machine, as it is. All it needs is a bit of cleaning. Just remove some dirt that is affecting the smooth running of its cogs, as it were. More worrying, is the fact that cleaning up easily spills over into fascist discourse, where “cleaning” becomes utterly pernicious. So, we must be careful to use inverted commas when referring to this politics. And we must be aware of the dangers that lurk within it.)
Let’s list some of the “enquiries” that are going on as part of the “cleaning up”.
On RAMGOOLAM, himself
- Ramgoolam was arrested, and given bail firstly on charges of conspiracy (around a burglary that took place at his seaside house in Roches Noires in 2011) to pretend that Ramgoolam and his mistress were not there at all at the time. This enquiry is also linked to a parallel one that is trying to establish a link between a death in police cells, that of Ashok Kumar Ramdhony, with the case of theft.
- Operation “Lakaz Liyon” (Lion’s den) – Rs 220,000,000 in cash was found at Ramgoolam’s River Walk home. Most of it was in two kinds of serially numbered banknotes: $100 notes direct from two different Federal Bank outlets in the USA (Chicago and New York) and Rs2,000 direct from the central bank.
- The dossier around his mistress Mrs. Nandeenee Soornack, now in Italy since the day votes were counted on 11 December, and from where there is no extradition treaty. This also includes Ramgoolam’s ex-friend Rakesh Gooljaury. They were being paid the fine sum of 4.5% as commission from sales at the Mauritius Duty Free Paradise, which is, remember, a State-owned company, plus some deal for 48% from profits of products sold there through middle-man companies called Dufry and Frydu. Hundreds of millions of rupees are involved. Plus Mrs Soornack, and Mr. Gooljaury owe some Rs58 million for rent. She claims she owes “only” Rs40 million!
- We are seeing a huge “dossier” peeping out: the acquiring of 6 Airbus aircraft for Air Mauritius. The contract is not small: Rs75 billion. There is talk is of commissions having been paid into bank accounts in Switzerland and Cyprus.
- It will be worth watching the Ramgoolam connection with Denis Sassou Nguesso, the head of state of Congo Brazzaville, who came to Mauritius with a delegation of no less than 65 people, in the context of some hairbrained scheme for a triangle between Mauritius -Congo-Singapore (three leaders with maybe the only connection anyone can think of being that all three ruling families are free masons, Nguesso-Li Kwan Yu-Ramgoolam).
- Loads of enquiries and taking back of land. Minister Soodhun has already started taking land back swiftly. Dossiers include people like Sungkur, Nundlall, VoH, family members of VoH, Ramgoolam’s niece, Woochit, 200 arpents in Rosebelle, and a whole lot of agricultural land, illegally sub-let.
- Bheenick and the Central Bank’s filing cabinet being in his house.
- 81 Mauritian accounts in the Swiss Bank accounts published on the web (This is coincidental, but may impinge on things here).
- The Betamax contract, for ship freight of all the country’s oil and petrol, has been broken. An enquiry has been opened. Government will save Rs350 million a year by having broken the old contract.
- Jin Fei contract being renegotiated.
- Tertiary education scams have led to a whole host of enquiries. Bacshi, head of the TEC is out, and under enquiry, with an objection to departure.
- MBC is under a number of enquiries.
- At the Central Bank, there are enquiries.
- There are the audio-tapes that were illegally placed in the Jugnauth family’s home.
- The Casino having run as a loss (!) is under investigation.
- Both the road projects mentioned earlier have big enquiries.
- BPML; the question of using state land for parking.
- The Light Rail project has been abandones, and credit renegotiated with India.
- There are charges against ex Ministers of Justice and Health, Faugoo and Bundhoo, from a confrontation with police during the election campaign.
Everyone present at our Assembly is cordially invited to add to this list. I’ve just run this one up quickly, fearing my talk would get too long.
5. So, where are we now? And, in mid February 2015, where are we headed?
First, it is safe to say that Labour and the MMM will continue to weaken for a long while, in particular Labour. Their only hope is that the new regime becomes unpopular fast!
Extra-parliamentary parties are also much weakened, from Cehl Meeah to Les Verts. Cehl Meeah is silent. Sylvio Michel has been ousted, and replaced by a collegial leadership, something rather meagerly reported in the press, and his party is very quiet, too.
But, what sort of help can we expect from others in the non-parliamentary opposition?
Those around Ashok Subron are quiet. Either they don’t know what to do now, or the press and radio have stopped pumping them up. Their supposed attack against the Best Loser system, which is in fact their “single issue” political campaign, has, after their 10 years of barking up the wrong tree, left them standing in exactly the same place they started from. LALIT has warned them that their tactic would lead nowhere. And it has lead them worse than nowhere. Two or three days ago Aneerood Jugnauth announced that he intends to do no more than prolong the absurd mini-amendment that Ramgoolam-Berenger brought in last year. The UN Human Rights Committee, he says, will be satisfied, and it is true: they will be. But, the Best Loser remains intact. No doubt the RA people are relieved that Jugnauth does not intend going ahead with a communal census. So, the 10 year Rezistans ek Alternativ strategy has been revealed for what it is: a bankrupt and dishonest bit of opportunism: in public they always claimed to be bravely attacking the Best Loser System, while in Court they took oaths in affidavits to the effect that they were not in any way touching, affecting, or in any way hindering the smooth operation of the BLS. And, like Berenger, they seem to have great difficulty admitting to having ever made any mistake.
Those around Jack Bizlall, in the EDP, seem to have exploded apart. Jameel Peerally, for example, seems to have left. Bizlall’s aim was to bring together everyone who wanted to defend “parliamentary democracy” (Entente pour le democratie parlementaire) against the Ramgoolam/Berenger regime that they wrongly predicted would come out as winners. By the time Ramgoolam/Berenger got so soundly defeated, the EDP plan had obviously reached expiry date. Dev Ramano has started to write long-winded artcles in the name not of the EDP, but of the Muvman Premye Me, which Bizlall had announced was closing down. There is the beginning of the “Parlman Popiler” that the CTSP hosts at its building in Rosehill, but which forms part of the announced EDP strategy whereby members do their own thing but in collaboration. It seems that Catherine Boudet has been given a sub-contract to run the thing; invitations even come from her. It seems a sad and absurd institution, a bit like playing dolls’ houses. But, it represents a danger, too, in times like those we are living in now. It demands that you “liquidate” your organization, in order to be there. This is the last thing that should be encouraged.
Others who were high-profile during the general elections like Sheila Bunwaree and Roshni Muneeram, are also quiet (except that the Number Two of Ansam, Gaetan Siew, has been given an important Government nomination).
Habib Mosaheb did a one-off program for Radio One, which was supposed to have been a series with a program every month, where young people in politics would take part. The one-and-only one saw a young person from EDP (Tan Yan), RA (Parapen) and from Lalit (Shabeela Kalla) on a panel. The representatives of RA and particularly of EDP spent their time on air and off joking about how Radio One was managing to bring about “left unity”, but more remarkable was they were both so pro the new Government. Their political analyses were 100% within mainstream bourgeois economics.
It is true to say that EDP and RA, like the PT and MMM that they openly mimic, have been left without an iota of political coherence. They seem not to have come to grips with what has happened, nor with what is still happening.
So, the Lepep Government is getting hold of bourgeois state power. And it will, once again, like the SAJ First Reign, be a Bonapartist rule, meaning that it will dictate to all social classes, including the bourgeoisie, but without bringing into question the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
But the systemic economic crisis that Mauritius is going through, and the effects here of the Euro zone crisis, are continuing and will continue. For that the MSM-PMSD-ML Government has no plan. They do not even pretend to have one.
So, we can expect to continue plunging into the kind of degeneration that has become typical of this stage of international capitalism: the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer. And more importantly, those who take decisions affecting everyone, remain a tiny minority of the population, some 1% world-wide. That is capitalism for us: a small minority take all the decisions, grab ownership of the proceeds of a good part of past workers’ work, while the vast majority of people, if we are lucky enough to get hold of a job, sell our labour power by the rupee – either rupee per hour, per ton, or even per word. And all along, the capitalists continue to ransack the planet, even as they make us near all kinds of dangerous tipping points in nature. While, the hierarchical system that is patriarchy, older by far than the young 250-300 year old rule by capitalists, continues its domination of women and children, and most men.
All this to say, that lots of work lies ahead for us. Political organization and work is the only way out of the mess the world is in. We will need all the resources we have in terms of experience, in terms of shared understanding, in terms of courage, and in terms of our power to organize. And we need patience. Revolutionary patient.
LALIT is the only political party with any coherence, truth to tell. We are the only party that is relevant to the present epoch. We are also perhaps the only party with the will and the nerve. And we have the revolutionary patience. We are not big. But, we must construct a party that is strong enough to take the lead in the difficult times ahead. And what is a party, in LALIT’s sense: it is a group of leaders. Our members are leaders. And that is where the next talk will perhaps begin.
Rada will be talking about “party building”.