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Open Letter to Prime Minister - Land Use, Misuse, Abuse and the Needs of the People

17.01.2020

 


Dear Sir,


As you know, the land and sea of a country are the means of survival and “epannwisman” of the people of a country.


The government of the Republic of Mauritius is, however, failing so far to ensure that the land and the sea are used for the survival of the people of the country. 


1. The sugar cane industry is a lame duck industry, and must be replaced by land-use that 


a) creates stable jobs,


b) eases up land for housing, 


c) guarantees food security and, with related food industries, 


d) ensures foreign exchange enters the country from food exports. 


Until today, most of the good arable land in Mauritius is under monopoly control of the sugar cane companies that still thrive, as companies, on the private benefits of past colonization, slavery, indenture and wage labour. The sugar cane industry, while monopolizing the land, no longer serves any of the needs of the people of the country. For example:


- It no longer pays any export levy,


- It has laid off almost all its permanently employed tens of thousands of workers,


- It no longer provides housing,


- It no longer provides good revenue from foreign exchange, and


- It de-localizes, exploiting working people in countries poorer than Mauritius.


Yet, it still gets Government subsidies:


- Direct subsidies to planters, including sugar estates.


- Parastatal bodies that support it.


And now, to cover its losses, the companies that have diversified into tourism and real estate, get all manner of hidden subsidies to go ahead and actually selling off what is the collective means of survival of the whole of the people of the country. 


2. The huge sea that is the responsibility of the people of Mauritius (2.3 million square kilometres, plus 400,000 square kilometres jointly with Seychelles) is neither used for fishing and other sea industries, nor even cared for and protected from exploitation by fishing and other activities by companies from other countries.


We, in LALIT call therefore, for:


1. Immediate laws to force all sugar cane estates and other big planters to re-organize their land so as to free up interline cropping, and to kick off a large food production industry that will be bio-production, and if the estates do not begin their own planting of food crops, that they lease their land cheaply to small planters for this use.


2. Immediate laws to force all sugar cane estates and big planters to set up factories of their choice for different kinds of food preservation and transformation, for export and for local consumption; these factories have to be operational before the first harvest under proposal number 1. If the capitalists refuse, the State must set them up.


3. To freeze and then cancel all real estate sales to non-Mauritians, in particular the sale of arable land, and to remove all subsidies under IRS, Smart Cities and PDS-type schemes to real estate companies.


4. For Government to encourage the private sector to invest in a sustainable fishing fleet to both use and preserve fishing in our waters, including Chagos, and if it does not invest, that the Government set up a fishing company to do so, with its relevant canning, transforming and freezing operations. This way fisherfolk and their children can get work.


5. To set up parastatals that can organize storage, research services, and the regional, international and local marketing for both sectors of the food industry – agricultural and fishing – thus creating jobs and supporting the industries – for the Islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega and Chagos.


6. To open a register for all those in housing difficulties, to sign up for a house, and to set up a modernized CHA-type organization to build and rent houses to those in need, in proper “integrated agricultural and fishing villages”; To set up a timetable for the elimination of dangerous ex-CHA asbestos houses and their replacement with concrete secure houses. 


This way the land and sea will be used in the interests of jobs, housing, food security and foreign exchange, thus enabling the “epannwisman” of the people of the country, and in difficult times that may come, survival of the people of the country. 


Rada Kistnasamy


for LALIT


17 January 2020.