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LALIT poster campaign and open letter on Peoples’ Language in Parliament


Today, 21 October, LALIT has held a poster campaign on the slogan Langaz Lepep bizin rant dan Parlman as well as sending an open letter to the Prime Minister, Sir Aneerood Jugnauth. Copies of the letter have been sent to the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Attorney General, as well as the other opposition parties’ leaders like Shakeel Mohamed and Alan Ganoo.

Here is the content of the letter.

Dear Sir,

You will recall that we wrote to you, as Leader of the House, and to the Speaker in December, 2014 after the election of your electoral alliance to the National Assembly with a 3/4 majority. We wrote to call on you to bring in a simple constitutional amendment to allow the language of the people, Mauritian Kreol, to become joint (with English) medium in the National Assembly.  In that letter we referred to the fact that you already intended for live MBC TV broadcasting of Parliament, which makes the introduction of the language people understand more pressing.

This Friday, on your initiative, the National Assembly will be discussing the Select Committee’s advice to discuss and implement such live broadcast.

 Given that:
- Kreol is the main language of “lepep”,
- 67% of the people are in favour of using Mauritian Kreol in the National Assembly, only 18% are strongly against, and 9% somewhat against. This was despite the survey also showing, in another question, that only 20% of people knew there were Kreol dictionaries and courses in existence! (SOFRES, 2009)
- Kreol is now taught as a subject in its own right, in schools, and has been for four cohorts, which means literally tens of thousands of families are familiar with it in written form.
- Court Transcribers have followed a course in written Kreol, organized by the Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies, 
* The MIE has a Kreol Unit headed by Dr. Nita Ragoonundhun, preparing text books in Kreol,
* The University of Mauritius and the Open University offer courses in and on Kreol at graduate level,
* Theoretical linguists at high level, in particular Prof. Dany Adone and Dr. Fabiola Henri, have done the groundwork on elucidating the Mauritian Kreol grammar, that we all already use naturally,
* There is a national orthography prepared by, inter alia, Dr. Vinesh Hookoomsing and Dr. Arnaud Carpooran, 
* There is a growing body of literature in Mauritian Kreol,
* The Association, Ledikasyon pu Travayer was in 2013 awarded the UNESCO Linguapax Prize for promotion of the mother-tongue, Kreol, and the 2004 UNESCO World Literacy Prize for its literacy work in the mother tongue.
* There are full-length dictionaries, and a grammar handbook prepared by Dr. Daniella Police,
* Official Communiqués by Ministries and written versions of Ministers’ Speeches are already in Mauritian Kreol,

We call on your Government to introduce a Bill for a Constitutional Amendment, as part of the discussion of the plan to broadcast live. This way the Official Languages of the National Assembly become both English, as it is at present, and Mauritian Kreol, while French can still, as it is now, be used for addressing the Chair.

This means, in technical terms, amending the Constitution to add the letter and words in square brackets:

Section 49: The official language[s] of the Assembly shall be English [and Mauritian Kreol] but any member may address the chair in French. 

We re-iterate our belief that, if approached in good faith, the political parties in the Opposition will agree to the Amendment.

In practical terms, the Hansard Stenographers will need a one-week training course. The Open University, MIE, LPT, or the University of Mauritius, can probably organize one, or the Speaker can perhaps call on an individual pedagogue to run such a Course. 

We suggest that the Minister of Justice calls for volunteers (like the Kreol Speaking union, academics, associations) to translate The Constitution, immediately, and Erskine May: Parliamentary Practice, over the next 6 months (all 500 pages), into Kreol. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker will need to set up a small committee of lexographers with knowledge of both English and Kreol, to discuss “Parliamentary” and “unParliamentary language”.

We maintain that the process of decolonization and further democratization will also be a unifying factor for “the people” of the country.

We thank you for considering this.

Yours sincerely,

Rada Kistnasamy

Copy to:

The Speaker

Minister of Justice, Hon. Ravi Yerigadoo.
Leader of Opposition, Hon. Paul Bérenger.
Head of Labour Parliamentary team, Hon. Shakeel Mohamed.
Head of Muvman Patriotik Parliamentary team, Hon Alan Ganoo.

The Press.