LALIT decided in its last week’s Central Committee, after reports from all regions and branches, not to field candidates in the coming Municipal Elections that have been brought forward by three years. “We will participate in the campaign, but without candidates,” Ram Seegobin announced on Top FM Friday 22 May. “Every election, because it is a tactical issue,” he explained, “we, in LALIT, take a decision on the nature of our participation. Sometimes we have fielded candidates, other times not. It all depends on the particular political stakes.”
The political stakes are confused, to say the least. The Labour Party, in Government until December 2014, is so thoroughly disgraced by its Leader, Navin Ramgoolam, as to be sitting the election out, while its ally for the General Elections, the MMM, weakened by multiple resignations and rid of its pro-Labour Free Mason wing, is standing against the new Lepep (MSM-PMSD-ML) Alliance, which is now in Government.
At the same time, Municipalities have unfortunately gradually had their political powers reduced to a minimum. These legislative changes have, in turn, reduced the political importance of the local government elections, themselves.
LALIT will be running a campaign, during the Municipals, for more decentralized power for all the local authorities, town and country. We will be doing this by means of leaflets and meetings. Our aim is to help build cities that have vast public spaces and a vibrant cultural, sporting and intellectual Life. “We need bicycle lanes everywhere,” Ram Seegobin said, “and pedestrian walk-ways so that every child in the country can get to Primary School without having to face traffic hazards.”
Recent changes in the Local Government Act have continued to centralize power more and more, until Municipalities have finally been hollowed out into “managers of very little”. While in the past, Municipalities had wide powers to provide social housing, organize roads, run pre-schools and creches, organize drama festivals, run de-centralized libraries, rent halls to city dwellers and organize cultural, artistic and literary events, they now seem to do nothing but allocate contracts to private rubbish-collection firms, and give hand-outs to religious groups to host pilgrims going past at the time of religious ceremonies. The role of Municipalities in planning cities has become nil. They have not even been able to enforce simple laws allowing flood-waters an open passage to the sea, or preventing private buildings from encroaching on roads and river-beds. Meanwhile the new “malls” out in open spaces and at Caudan Waterfront, have hollowed out even the long-standing commercial roles of the cities of Port Louis, Rose-Hill and Curepipe. While bringing some impoverished form of “social life” into being in these new private, commercial spaces, they have more significantly brought in destruction of proper social life in public spaces. Indeed, the buildings of the Municipalities of Port Louis, Rose-Hill, Q. Bornes, Vacoas and Curepipe, which used to be amongst the biggest buildings in the cities, are now dwarfed by huge private constructions – as if symbolizing the encroachment of the private sphere at the expense of the “life of the city”.
We demand more public spaces, indoor and outdoor, with bicycle and pedestrian lanes everywhere where there are streets and roads. Please contact us to give a hand with creating new really lively cities!