On this 25th Anniversary of Mauritius’ status as a Republic and, at the same time, on the eve of 50th Anniversary of Independence, LALIT is hereby making a public appeal to Members of Parliament to begin their speeches on the 2017 Budget in Mauritian Kreol, at least until they are ruled out-of-order by the Speaker. The people of Mauritius have a right, even more so now that there is live broadcasting of Parliament, to understand what exactly their elected representatives are saying in the National Assembly, in particular over the Budget when the issues being discuss pertain to public funds, i.e. the public’s money.
LALIT is making this appeal a good two weeks before the Budget to give the various political parties in Parliament (MSM, ML, PMSD, MMM, Labour, MP, RP) time to plan the action we are calling for.
We are aware that three leaders of the Parliamentary Opposition Parties are in favour of the use of Mauritian Kreol. They have all publicly called for it to be an option. We are referring to Hons. Duval, Bérenger and Ganoo. We also understand that Hon. Shakeel Mohamed is personally in favour of an option to speak in Kreol. Hon. Roshi Bhadain is, by contrast, one of the few who is, perhaps through ignorance of the arguments, against. We are aware that there are Ministers and PPSs, too, who are in favour of this important measure. There are still one or two aspects of de-colonization that have not yet been addressed, the right to the option to speak in Mauritian Kreol in the National Assembly, being one of them.
This struggle for the mother tongue has a long history. Hon Aneerood Jugnauth, now Mentor Minister, as far back as in 1977 introduced a Private Members Motion for Kreol to be one of the languages accepted in Parliament, while Hon. Azize Asgarally made a long declaration in favour of Kreol in Parliament in the same year. Even before that, nearly a hundred years ago, a brave Municipal Councilor, Mamode Ellam, in 1922 dared to take the floor in Kreol (Henri Marimootoo, Week-End, 5 Feb 2006). For 5 months debate raged in the Municipal Council until the pressure was so strong that the Councilor conceded. It would be wonderful if 2017 were to be the year that Kreol took its place, as an option, in the National Assembly.
We, in LALIT have petitioned successive Prime Ministers over the decades. But, we have made no real progress through appeals to the executive Branch of Government.
This communique is therefore a public appeal to elected Members of the National Assembly to take part in a humble and dignified protest during the budget speeches. We call on them, when they stand up for their budget speech, to speak Kreol (and make a point of doing so in a very appropriate, formal register) until such time as the Speaker rules them out of order. Then it is the Speaker who is imposing English or French on each MP, and not our elected MPs who are submitting voluntarily. This collective action, low key as it may be, may just put enough pressure on the executive Branch so that it sets up a Select Committee to usher in the change. This protest can even be done via MPs informing the Speaker of their intent, thus formalizing the action.
This very gentle form of passive resistance will gradually build up an expression of the public support outside of the National Assembly that already exists for Kreol to take its place in Parliament. Massive public support has been known to exist for 40 years now. SOFRES surveys in 1977 and 2009 prove that two-thirds of people are in favour of Kreol in Parliament. The 2009 survey gives this figure, despite very high percentages of people not knowing that there is, for example, a Kreol dictionary. Since 2011 there is an official orthography for Mauritian Kreol which is used by the MIE and in hundreds of schools by hundreds of teachers. Doctors and dentists, their nursing and clerical staff, all use Kreol. Police officers and the Courts have long used Kreol for almost all written statements as well as for the giving of evidence as witness in all the Courts. Court transcribers have now adopted the official orthography, after following a course run by the Institute for Judicial and Legal Studies. Universities now have courses on Kreol. And now that there is live broadcasting of the proceedings of the National Assembly, there is growing discontent and even anger amongst the people when they do not understand what their representatives are saying. At budget time, this rightful anger is always accentuated. It is indeed absurd to leave the people of the country in this situation, and it is clearly impolite, perhaps hurtful.
The National Assembly is the only democratic part of the Mauritian State at national level. It would be fitting for this institution to be at the forefront of this kind of democratic reform.
22 Me, 2017