It is the year of an impending general election. And yet all talk of alliances is suspended, all actual campaigning is also suspended, because both leaders of the two of the supposedly “main parties”, the MSM and Labour have criminal cases against them in the Courts. Navin Ramgoolam has two cases: the Roches Noires one for conspiracy around a robbery, and the millions-in-currency-in-his-safe case. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth is waiting for the judgement in the case against him for conflict of interests over Medpoint at the Privy Council. This shows the inherent weakness of these one-strong-leader parties.
It is also the year of a great deal of friction and conflict as elections get nearer, both within parties as they fight over tickets, and between parties striving to position themselves for alliances.
The Situation in the Government parties and in the Government?
- LALIT has since the outset exposed the instability and incoherence in the Lepep Government. This is no source of wonder because the MSM-ML alliance has never had a real program, nor any proper economic plan, and it shares no common vision of how society could be.
- Today the original alliance of the MSM and ML and PMSD has shrunk to just the MSM and ML.
- The original campaign about how the Lepep alliance would bring another economic miracle was based on the tandem of Sir Aneerood Jugnauth as Prime Minister and Vishu Lutchmeenaraidoo as his Finance Minister. That lasted no time. Both are no longer in those posts.
- In fact the economic miracle has turned into an economic nightmare for most people (lepep). There is precarious work, unemployment at over 25% amongst the youth, many of them graduates, the price of food is very high, there is a massive housing crisis, including the asbestos problem as an urgent part of it, transport is expensive and not very good. As for the promise of water on a 24/7 basis, it was just a hollow promise. Today, as we meet, there is a demonstration of inhabitants of Forest Side.
- To give an idea of how unstable Government has been, the Cabinet has been reshuffled nine times.
1) June 2015 – just six months after the election victory and immediately after the MSM-ML-PMSD municipal elections victory, Pravind Jugnauth, Minister of ICT resigns as Minister after the Intermediary Court finds him guilty in the Medpoint case (later reversed, now at the Privy Council).
2) March 2016 - Raj Dayal resigns as Environment Minister over the “bags of coloured powder” corruption case.
3) April 2016 - Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo loses his post as Finance Minister and gets down-graded to Minister of Foreign Affairs, following his Euroloan in 2016, when the finance minister was involved in speculation in gold prices. 4) May 2016 - Pravind Jugnauth re-joins the Cabinet after the verdict against him is overturned by the Supreme Court.
5) December 2016 - PMSD resigns from Government altogether, Xavier Duval having seen himself as future Prime-Minister, via a place as Opposition Leader, given that the PMSD is the most numerous party in Parliament. New Ministers are nominated to replace PMSD ones.
6) January 2017, there is the handing over of power from father SAJ to son Pravind. This, in turn, provokes the resignation of Minister Roshi Bhadain who is absent from the investiture ceremony. (He had positioned himself to replace Pravind Jugnauth had the judgment against him been upheld). Bhadain is replaced by Sudhir Seesungkur.
7) September 2017, Attorney General Ravi Yerrigadoo resigns after the “dobi deklas” scandal. Maneesh Gobin becomes new Justice Minister.
8) November 2017 – Vice Prime Minister Showkutally Soodhun survives his death threats on by then Opposition Leader Xavier Duval and survives taking a stand in favour of Saudi Arabia against Qatar off his own bat, but has to step down after making communal comments in the Housing Minister’s office: Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo is nominated to replace him. Roubina Jaddoo then replaces her as Gender Minister.
9) July 2018 - Roubina Jaddoo, herself, has to resign as Minister, in turn, after the Drugs Commission (Lam Shang Leen) Report implicates her in her work as lawyer.And so Daureeawoo is Gender Minister as well as VPM. Sanjeev Teeluckdharry also has to step down as Deputy Speaker. He is replaced by Bobby Hureeram.
The cabinet has also been incoherent at many levels. For example, in foreign affairs. Minister Soodhun, who was never Minister of Foreign Affairs took it on himself as mentioned to support Saudi Arabia. Soodhun’s very close links with Crown Prince Salman have, since the Khashoggi murder, been somewhat less vaunted in public.
And the MSM state has shown its tendency to resort to repression in the face of any problem. When there is a go-slow by pilots at Air Mauritius, they deport and suspend pilots. When there is a drugs problem, they increase landings. They have now gone ahead and installed a vast number of cameras inside every village and housing estate at the cost of Rs 16 billion. Even when a handful of people demonstrate against the Metro Express, they react with repression. The recent ICTA amendments are draconian – if someone “feels annoyed” by something on social media or any other electronic device that you forward, you can get locked up for years. And so it continues. Repression is the only idea the MSM has.
- During all this on-going chaos at the level of Cabinet, Parliament, itself, also has difficulty in maintaining a minimum level of serenity. The Speaker, Maya Hanoomanjee,who acts like a pre-school teacher not a Speaker, cannot deal with MPs who, in the words of a child when asked by the Ombudsperson for Children what Parliament is: “men in suits and ties who fight in English” ("bann misye ki met kostim, kravat, lager an Angle").
By October 2018, when S.Teeluckdharry had been replaced by Bobby Hurreeram as Deputy Speaker, he in turn resigns. Joe Lesjongard, ex-MMM, then ex-Mouvement Patriotique, replaces him. Hurreeram goes back to being Chief Whip.
Other MSM fallout
As well as reflecting poorly on Roubina Jaddoo, the Lam Shang Leen Drugs Commission Report badly harmed the MSM member Raouf Gulbul, who is, inter alia, Pravind Jugnauth’s lawyer. Raouf Gulbul’s nephew is testifying against him in the exposure of the drugs baron Veeren’s modus operandi.
The former President herself
As well as the Cabinet and Parliament being in constant disarray, the Commission of Enquiry into the former President of the Republic, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who had to step down in the Sobrinho affair, has shown the degree of corruption of the office of President. She was an ML nomination and has continued to shock everyone, as the Commission unfolds before our eyes. She had literally become a pawn in the hands of a big Angolan group of finance capitalists inter-mingled with a rather strange NGO with supposedly billions of dollars of Bill Gates money, and wanting to set up shop in Mauritius.
MSM has Problems with its only partner left, the ML
From word go, there were ML MPs that were causing embarrassment. For a start there is Minister Gayan, who was moved from Health (where he only caused problems in everything around the treatment of those dependent on drugs) to Tourism, but whose preferential treatment of Ms Sumputh have continued to pose problems. The MP Sangeet Fowdar, though he was in the ML political bureau, consistently attacks the ML, and then flatters the MMM and Bérenger. Collendavelloo’s close links with Sobrinho, who he famously “looked in the eye” and saw he could trust, have made him an embarrassment to Government, too.
Right now, there is a dispute just under the surface between Collendavelloo and the MSM on the gas turbine Rs 7 billion dossier. CEB technicians have already been to France for training, tenders for construction for the buildings were already launched, when in December 2018, Jugnauth made the Independent Review Panel cancel the contract with the Greek company in charge of works. Meanwhile, Collendavello is still talking about how necessary the gas turbine project is to prevent black-outs. And there was the serious conflict over water privatization. Collendavello stuck his neck out about how CWA privatization was both inevitable and a wonderful idea, while the MSM just does not agree, knowing how much political opposition there is in the broad masses.
For a Government that calls itself a People’s Government (Guvernman Lepep) it is hard to see how they can campaign on this kind of report on what they’ve done – even with Jugnauth capitalizing on the wonders of the Metro Express (if it opens on time) and on the prestige of new stadiums built for the coming the Indian Ocean Games, and repeating how they have increased pensions and brought in a minimum wage of Rs9,000 per month.
Opposition in Parliament
With a Government in such disarray, the Opposition should be making political progress.
But no, it is not. It is more than ever before divided and in perhaps even more disarray than Government. None of the parties in Parliament even pretends to have an alternative political program. At most they blather on about corruption in vague terms – while they lack credibility even on this.
The PMSD: From when he was still in Government Xavier Duval began to position himself as future Prime Minister, which seemed possible with Pravind Jugnauth’s case – in which he was in fact sentenced to a year’s prison. He later decided to resign, become Leader of the Opposition to better position himself as future Prime Minister. But his party’s defeat in the Quatre Bornes bye-election has caused him to change tack altogether. He is preparing his trousseau for a new partner, and the best way he sees to make himself valuable, is to fall back on the PMSD’s old role as representative of communal minorities, and for this, he has to heat up communal discontent. This is something very easy to do for any populist in times of increasing unemployment. In particular, he has:
- Changed the PMSD from being opposed to the communal Best Loser System and going so far as to call for a new communal Census. He has attacked the democratic institutions with the best reputations within the State Apparatus: the Electoral Supervisory and Boundaries Commissions.
- Duval is preparing to field candidates, old-style-PMSD, in Rodrigues. He is working close to the Mouvement Rodrigues to overturn the OPR in Rodrigues.
- The PMSD is consciously taking over terrain abandoned by the MMM: The Palestinian people and the Kreol language. Their political line on both, however, is communal.
Labour Party: Navin Ramgoolam is a dead-weight for Labour, on the one hand, because of his criminal cases in Court, but no-one has been able to challenge him successfully so far. Arvin Boolell’s attempt ended in him being escorted by Ramgoolam’s security guards, to give them a polite appellation. Even staunch Labour supporter Yousouf Mohamed has said Navin Ramgoolam has to go. But then again, that would be in the advantage of his son, who is one of Labour’s very few MPs.
- Even when they won the Quatre Bornes bye-election by a very wide margin with Boolell as candidate, the victory was pyrrhic in the sense that the MSM had not contended the seat. Arvin Boolell has, however, continued a low-key challenge on Ramgoolam’s leadership, saying in an interview in WeekEnd that he would like that role himself.
- Navin Ramgoolam had seemed to be preparing to stand in No.10, but now this is in doubt. He is trying to pick up the dissatisfied MSM base. And there is the phenomenon (since the MSM was born) of a section of its base being linked with the Labour Party base by a communicating chamber of some sort. This means people flow into the Party they think will win the next election – and that is how they spill so suddenly from the one to the other. The Labour meetings in the countryside are attracting quite large crowds (Olivia and St. Pierre),as people see the Labour Party as a stick to beat the MSM with. There are also possible re-enforcements in the wings: maybe Rama Sithanen and/or MTM Vasant Bunwaree? And some parties make pro-Labour sounds from time to time. All from PMSD and MP, to even the Obeegadoo group.
The MMM: Never before so weak, the MMM had only 12 MP’s elected in 2014, and then lost 6 of them.
- It is now an urban party, having lost its last remaining rural remnants (Ganoo, Joomye). remember that in 1976, the MMM was a national party, with MPs from both the countryside and the towns. No longer.
- After losing Collendavelloo (now ML) before elections because of the MMM alliance with Labour, which broke down before elections, since the elections, there have been two more big defections: first the Ganoo group (now MP) and then the S.Obeegadoo group (now Platform Militan).
- The MMM has recruited some new people into its Central Committee including Joanna Berenger, Daniella Bastien, and also Sheila Bunwaree and now Kadress Pillay (taking over the chair of the MMM Education Commission, with Obeegadoo’s resignation)
Muvman Patriotik:Ganoo left the MMM in 2015 with 2 other suspended members, Kavi Ramano and Atma Bumma to form the MR. Other MMM MP’s namely Barbier, Lesjongard, Soreefan, Joomye also joined the MP. Among other high profile politicians who join MP are Lysie Ribot, Yassin Hamuth , Norbert Froget, Dr. Prakash Ramburrun, Faizal Boodhoo.
What happened was Bérenger made Ganoo scapegoat for the fiasco of the alliance with the Labour Party. It was supposed to bring a 60-0 victory, but brought a crushing defeat. Anyway Bérenger says he did not appreciate the way Ganoo presented the Labour-MMM, as allowing Bérenger a 5-year term as Prime Minister (while Ramgoolam went to Reduit in the Alliance de L’Unité et Modernité’s 2nd Republic plan) whereas the Re-make of 2000 gave Bérenger only 2 years after a 3 years wait. The campaign against Ganoo reached amazing levels, when in Week End of 15 March, 2015, the names of MMM free-masons were published. In L’Express(14 March 2015) Ajay Guness accuses a groupuscule in the MMM (Barbier, Lysie Ribot, the late Jayen Cuttaree). The next week, Bérenger comes up with a refinement, that there is a group of bad free-mason actors (Week End 22 March 2015). Presumably, Cuttaree was a good one.
Those who opposed the alliance with Labour had of course left beforehand anyway: I.Collendavelloo and V.Lutchmeenaraidoo.
Ganoo’s analysis of why the MMM lost in 2014 was that the MMM leadership under-estimated to what extent the Labour base was against Bérenger becoming Prime Minister. People do, of course, whether in the Labour base or not, remember how Bérenger moved against Harish Boodhoo after his ill-advised alliance with him in 1982. Then too, in 1983, Bérenger lost out. And lost his reputation, too. Ganoo also believed that the MMM electorate did not forget the Navin Ramgoolam’s years as Prime Minister.
And then by 2016, the MP, itself became totally unstable, and finally 3 ex-MMM Parliamentarians resigned, in turn, from the MP: Rafick Soreefan, Joe Lejongard, Kavi Ramano. Ramano explained deep differences over the leadership’s line under Ganoo. But, there was nothing more detailed made public.
18 others then resigned: 5 founder members of the MP Jimmy Chowrimootoo, the No4 ex-candidate Danen Beemadoo, the former Mayor of Q. Bornes Lysie Ribot and then Jenny Mooteealoo who was ex-MMM candidate – denouncing Ganoo’s orders from above as President. No programmatic criticism was ever made public.
- Ganoo has, interestingly, and maybe because he is in No. 14 where LALIT has always been strong, taken up points from LALIT’s program: decriminalization of gandya (Ganoo had previously held the line that there should be a ban on any party that had such a proposal in its program), the Kreol language (he was the only MP to follow LALIT’s proposal to actually just speak in Kreol in Parliament until the Speaker puts you out of order) and on Chagos. He has also worked closely with unions including CTSP (a Forum on labour law) and the Centre Idriss Goomany (on drugs) – both allies on these kinds of subjects.
Jean Claude Barbier in an on-line newspaper (Minority Voice-29 January 2019, and this is quoted in Le Xournal), also speaks in favour of decriminalizing gandya. At their Third Anniversary Congress, the MP invited Arvin Boolell, Assirvaden (both Labour) and Mahmad Kodabaccus (PMSD). So, their presence gives an idea of the MP’s possible allies.
- Steve Obeegadoo when he was in the MMM was often one of those members who criticizes the leadership from a tangent, without doing so clearly. So, he was like a secret, cowardly, one-man tendency in the MMM – but without a clear platform to make it clear what he did not agree with. This, of course, nurtured the intolerant side to the Bérenger leadership, and ended up contributing to turning the MMM from a party to a fan club for Bérenger.
- To give an idea of the PM, at a Kongre noktirn in Buckingham, Rose-Hill (24 October 2018), with speakers being F.Labelle (active in catholic church groups), P.Jeeha (small planters’ representative) and Phillippe Boudou (ex-MMM Mayor in BB-RH), Steve Obeegadoo announced that they had not left the MMM; the MMM has left them aground. So, they are taking up the torch where the MMM dropped it, and are fighting for, of all misguided things, ... meritocracy. So, the group is not even sharp enough to see that “meritocracy” is the very opposite of “democracy”. It is rule by those who merité (who knows on what basis?) and not by the whole of the people.
- So, they are a group of people who wanted to stay in the MMM, but the MMM did not want them. They think the MMM should take itself in hand after so many electoral catastrophes. The PM says it is a political organization but not a party. They say other parties with their powerful leaders are all becoming dynasties.
- They intend to win the elections. But, they aim at new ways of organizing. Democracy is in crisis, they say, many young people do not even register as electors, they say. So, they want to do well for ... the country.
- They claim to be organizing in all constituencies – and we have seen them in a few. They say that the MMM’s idea of a branch structure is old hat.
- They are, at least, against communal classification (as in the apartheid system) and against the Communal Census idea. They rightly call for the Constitution to remove reference to community, presumably in the BLS.
- On Reform, they are in favour of referendums, and a law against crossing the floor.
- They have organized some Forums to, they say, re-nurture the debate culture. In October last year they had one on “Militantism dan Moris” with speakers like Bizlall, De l’Estrac and Cuttaree) – talking about renouveau.
Bhadain and his Reform Party
- After his defeat in the bye-election he provoked himself, when he resigned from the MSM, he has since announced on Radio Plus that he will be candidate not in Quatre Bornes again, but in No.20. He has recently praised N.Ramgoolam by saying he is a better manager of politics than Pravind Jugnauth.
- His program, he says, is at odds with what the MSM-ML does, especially as regards the management of public debt. He refuses to admit meeting Navin Ramgoolam recently, but it seems he did. He proposes that workers in any sector should not receive less than Rs15,000 monthly: that could be paid for by decreasing Ministers’ pension, with a tax on tourists. He is in favour of a targeting system for the payment of university fees.
- He is a very ambitious politician. He seems to have backing – in terms of finance, and also in terms of Diaspora in the elite. He is more a technocrat than a politician, and sees himself as a Minister i.e. not in Opposition.
- Today [it was 1 February, when Alain gave this paper] the Les Verts are demonstrating against the MBC-TV’s politics, and its lack of independence.
- They have also protested the Petroleum Hub in Albion, against the Por Lwi by Nature Festival, against the MBC-TV for its cruel lack of programs in Kreol.
They congratulated India for the Metro Express (on argued ecology grounds).
- After the high score in the bye-election, he has lost wind in his sails.
- As ever, he has announced with great pomp that he is taking his distance from his own party, the MPM so as supposedly to better combat the Government’s proposed electoral reform bill (Le Mauricien 15 Oct 2018). Then soon after, he speaks in the name of the party. He announces that he will hold Labour Day celebrations in Rose-Hill where he will put up a statue of some sort – not to be out-done by the CTSP.
- He was with Adi Teelock and others in the actions against the chopping down of beautiful trees at the Roland Armand parcour to make way for the Metro Express.
- And now he is threatening hunger strike over the 15 skippers at the ‘Le Paradis’boathouse who have a bigger work load for the same pay.
- In a Le Mauricien article on 25 January, he criticized the education system, and said his hope for this year was to re-think the system. His “citizens’ alternative” is a gormless proposal, though.
- Rezistans seems weakened by the bye-election results – being quite electoralist, Parapen got less votes than he did in the general elections, and came in after Bizlall and Diolle in that very constituency. Obviously, it is easy to pick up one of three votes in the general elections.
- During the bye-election, it became clear that RA has two lines on “capitalism” itself. Parapen sees no problem in it. Subron does see a problem, at least some of the time.
- Since the bye-election, RA seems to be acting more like an NGO on the problem of beaches and wetlands.
- They have had endless problems with their ill-fated opportunistic court case, which instead of confronting the communal Best Loser System head-on, took a legalistic challenge to not having to put one’s community. It has taken 14 years – and still no progress. But the right wing has now got UN support for a new communal census. This would be the very worst scenario, and yet it is a direct result of their ill-guided court actions. Subron seems to have been put in a hard place by the Electoral Reform that the MSM-ML proposes. While it lets the RA off by doing away with the need to classify oneself, it does so at the expense of democracy. So, the RA is in the unenviable position of having to try to get the Opposition to vote with Government on a Bill that it is hard to support.
Komite 13 Oktob
- A group of people, with individuals working close with Bizlall and with political ideas resembling that of Bizlall set up a Committee on 13 October 2018, after a workshop organized by a platform named Smart Citizen. Bizlall is past-master at naming Committees after a date – not just his party being Muvman Premye Me. Anyway, this Committee sees itself as a ‘Steering Committee’ with a mission of defending democracy. Their only program is participative democracy and they will hold “primaries” a-la-USA, but without the Parties. The workshop that set them up was on ‘Transformation of Government and Politics’, and they aim to improve the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. That could be anyone in the intelligentsia’s program. And then, as is the fashion, they have internal rules in place of a program about, say, the land, housing, jobs.
-The Komite is composed of 50% young people, 10% over 60’s with experience, and the rest 40 to 60 years. How bureaucratic can you get!
- Their position is confused. We quote: En fait, le modèle politique existant a engendré un modèle économique disparate avec des injustices évoluant dans une opacité totale et des perceptions de corruption à tous les niveaux. Les inégalités grandissent.L’entrepreneuriat local souffre. Les jeunes tombent dans des fléaux divers tels que la drogue. Nous avons l’impression que l’argent public est trop souvent mal utilisé. Sans transparence, il n’y a plus de confiance. Nous proposerons une vraie transformation du secteur public et de la politique sur une approche bottom-up, c’està- dire du point de vue du citoyen.
- They intend to put up 62 candidates in the general elections. And for this they will hold “primaries” – an idea Bizlall already proposed. The idea, already in action since 5 January apparently, is you have to get 100 signatories, and them a Committee of the Wise will examine applications and choose. At this point, the chosen candidates will meet and begin work on an electoral program, which will have headings like: social, economic, meritocracy.
The Party due to come out of this rather weird process will be set up in March 2019.
- Its founder Dev Sunnasy studied in France and worked in a computer company there. In Mauritius, he set up his own new technology company to develop networks. He set up Smart Citizen. Others in the Komite 13 Oktob are Ivor Tan Yan (also in Bizlall’s Muvman Premye Me), Alexandre Barbes-Pougnet (also president of Raliman Sitwayin pu Lapatri)
- They are, like Bizlall, against the Government’s electoral reform Bill.
Members include: Nilen Vencadsamy (ex-RA) and Patrick Philogene who also seems to be in Komite 13 Oktob.
Founded in July 2017, they describe themselves as a Mauritian movement for a new l’Isle Maurice. They intend to be a new political force. They ran an on-line campaign for a Commission of Inquiry on Sobrinho.
Organizations opposing Government on the Communal Front
- Affirmative Action (set up by ex-PMSD and ex-Bizlallist Jose Moirt and Father Jean Claude Veder).They are in favour of a communal census not just for the purposes of the Best Loser but as part of a campaign against discrimination. They see all problems of inequality, not as a result of class, but purely as a result of communalism, and their strategy is openly communal).
- Jean Maurice Labour suported them, and took very communal stands. He is on sick leave, and has been replaced by Father Mongelard as Vicar General in the Catholic Church. Instead of opposing the likes of Virendra Ramdhun on principle, this group tends to become like them.
In the face of the rise of communalism of all kinds, especially in the context of a worsening of the economic reality that is the daily life of working people, neither traditional parties nor these new emerging parties have any alternative solution. It is more than ever essential that we continue building LALIT on the basis of our ever-developing program to overthrow capitalism, and to build socialism – as indeed we have been doing in the 50 neighbourhoods we have worked in over the past year, and before that in our political tradition that has learnt from the best of past Mauritian traditions – of Labour, the IFB, the Communist League, the MMM – and of world-wide traditions of political action based on political thinking about a shared program for socialism.
[This article is a translation of Alain Ah-Vee’s talk to LALIT members on 1 February, 2019.]