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End the Ban on Kreol in Parliament

25.07.2020

LALIT condemns the Jugnauth Government’s continued ban on the use of Kreol in the National Assembly. We accuse the Government of flouting democracy. We accuse them of prolonging colonization. We accuse them of violating the right to free expression.


Once again, the Prime Minister has replied to a Parliamentary Question on the use of Kreol in Parliament. It is the fourth time in four consecutive years. Each time, all we hear is premeditated “delaying tactics” – in 2017, 2018, 2019 and now last week in 2020. 


The Jugnauth Government is treating not just Parliament, but the entire nation, as if we are all idiots. What is clear though: Jugnauth wants neither to pay the political price of taking a stand against the right to use Kreol in Parliament, which some three-quarters of people positively want, nor to run the political risk of inevitably annoying those in the elite who still bow down to English and French as superior languages. So, he procrastinates. This means he continues, himself, to bow down, in reality, to colonial prejudice. 


Not just this Government is like this. All the different Governments in power since Independence have refused this move to decolonize the National Assembly language rules. Only for Municipal and District Councils did the MMM in 1977 introduce Kreol as an option. From then on, they became as cowardly as the others. 


But there is something even more strange. All the Oppositions in Parliament since Independence are also too timid to make any move other than ask meek questions. 


For example, why not work in a concerted way: one by one, each Opposition MP when addressing the National Assembly, at some point, begins to speak in Kreol, good Kreol, and continues until the Speaker rules him or her out of order. That would be a fine non-violent action in the tradition of passive resistance. That is one of the tools that has worked during de-colonization world-wide, and we are still in the process of decolonization. Its chances of working are very high when you have 3/4 of the population behind you. But, the Opposition, just like the Government, makes a point of doing the minimum necessary to avoid the accusation of doing nothing at all. Never more. 


At the Forum organized by Ledikasyon pu Travayer in March this year just before the coronavirus lockdown, LALIT proposed just that. Although the Labour Party representative Cader Sayed-Hossen said, “Why not?” to the suggestion, the representative of the MMM, Paul Bérenger refused outright. Patrice Armance for the PMSD also refused to consider it. Now the question is WHY? Why do they refuse to do even this mild kind of action? Have their parties come to represent the social classes that are against the Kreol language? The social classes that are in favour of English and French remaining the only languages allowed in Parliament? We have to remind readers that on the slightest issue, these same Opposition Parties are willing to do all manner of walk-outs. All this to remind everyone that without pressure from the people, neither Government nor Opposition will do anything at all. They will only pretend to be doing something. They do not care that over 90% of people speak Kreol as their mother tongue, and that Kreol is the universal vernacular. 


But, although the Opposition is cowardly, the fault lies firmly with Government. Let us look at the ludicrous games that the Prime Minister, or his Vice, have played with the people for the last four years:


2017


In 2017, when MP Ganoo of the Mouvement Patriotique posed a Parliamentary Question, the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth replied that Government “will consider its introduction in the National Assembly”. Sounds good. Although we note the strange “future tense” there. Will consider. Not is considering.


Jugnauth makes out that all MPs already have to have developed a “mastery of the language” before Kreol can be allowed. Sounds as if he has some test in mind. Then he adds yet another silly condition before he “will consider”. It is about IT: “Apart from the language issue, other arrangements, both administrative and logistical, especially in terms of appropriate IT hardware and software, will have to be put in place before contemplating the introduction of Mauritian Creole language in the National Assembly.” So, we are left idle waiting for who knows what IT to magically be organized. 


2018


In 2018, MP Bhagwan of the MMM puts a PQ. Pravind Jugnauth replies the same way. He will “reassure the House that Government will consider the introduction of the Kreol Morisien”. Note the repeat of the strange future tense. And he says MPs and staff need to “develop a mastery of the language”. Again the threat of an examination! He gives a bit more detail in his delaying tactic, “We need to have a specialized software platform in Kreol which would have to be compatible with the existing Digital Recording Voice to Text platform presently being used by the National Assembly which enables the posting of the unrevised version of the Hansard of a sitting within 24 hours. In addition, the officers of the Hansard Unit of the National Assembly will have to be trained in Kreol language for the purpose of transcribing and editing the proceedings of the National Assembly.” The originally flawed argument persists, is embroidered upon. Another year goes by. We are still idly waiting.


2019


In 2019, when MP Ganoo asks another PQ, the Deputy Prime Minister Collendavelloo replies: Government, he says, will bring the “necessary amendments to the Constitution and the Standing Orders and Rules of the National Assembly”. Sounds more concrete. But he, too, adds the mantra about MPs and staff needing to acquire “the mastery of the language” as a condition so that Hansard can be prepared. “Moreover, since the software uses artificial intelligence to build up its library, dictionary and User Profiles, the prerequisite will be a standardization of the Kreol Morisien in terms of orthography, grammar and vocabulary.” This reply now unmasks the weakness of the IT pretext. In order, as everyone knows, to build a library, dictionary and User Profiles for digitization, you need to use the Kreol language and accumulate data. 


2020


By 2020, when MP Reza Uteem of the MMM puts his recent PQ, Pravind Jugnauth re-iterates that, “I wish to reassure the House, once again, that the Government will consider the introduction of the Kreol Morisien.” Again the weirdo “will consider”. And then more of the same blathering on about technical issues.


The Prime Minister never sets up a Committee to deal with these issues.


The Government never sets a time-frame. 


It just goes on and on making fools of us.


There are only two arguments used by the Prime Minister and his surrogate over the four years of intentional delays. 


First, that MPs and staff have to develop “a mastery of the language” first. After having been gutter talk for two centuries, according to the elites, Kreol is now so difficult that MPs and the civil servants in the National Assembly cannot seem to manage to learn it – even in four years. It is truly grotesque as arguments go. 


Already, MPs are using one or two languages that they hardly “master”, and for which they do not have to sit any exam i.e. English and French. It is natural that their “mastery” of these languages is dubious, simply because they are neither their mother tongues nor the vernacular. They are not even the language they use in order to beg the very votes that get them into Parliament in the first place. By definition, people master their home language better than school-learnt languages. (We assume that people as learned as the Prime Minister and his Deputy are not confusing language and literacy. Learning to read and write is another matter. But that too, should not be too difficult for MPs and civil servants because children from Grades 1 manage it. As they perfect their skills and master it by the time they are in, say, Grade 3. By Grade 4 – and it has been four years since the Prime Minister implied they had begun learning “mastery of the language” – they are positively grand masters.


The second argument is about technical matters. As we mentioned, any IT technical problems referred to are solved only by building up a data base, i.e. by using the Kreol language in Parliament. To pretend the contrary is daft. 


But IT is only a support. For the first three-quarters of the life of the Mauritian Parliament, there was no automatic transcription from oral to written English and French. Civil servants did it manually. And it was accurate and quick. They worked in short shifts, moving in and out of the National Assembly in turn.  So, for the first few years (four would be a lot), the transcription could be done both manually and with the soft-wear being primed by getting enough data. There is no reason why it should not be done in 24 hours.


LALIT is different from other parties that are in Government and the Opposition like a revolving door, all the while pretending they are in favour, while sabotaging the Kreol language’s entry into Parliament. As a mere option. Jugnauth cannot even genuinely contemplate Kreol as an option.


So, they expect us to stand around waiting. Opposition parties asking questions, Government parties using delaying tactics. 


The action that is needed from the Opposition is so simple. Each person addressing the floor, just uses Kreol. It is so natural. The Speaker will take a while even to realize it. Once ruled out of order, each speaker decides how much to persist. The Speaker will be shown up to be suppressing people’s natural tongue. It is too cruel to be seen over time. Everyone will see this on TV to boot. 


And this would be in line with LALIT’s 2019 Program, that has been stable since 1982 when we became a political party: 


* Kreol must be able to be spoken in the National Assembly, on equal footing with English. 


* It is time to decolonize all State institutions.  


July 2020