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2nd Lockdown – DAY SEVENTEEN – On Proper Political Programs

26.03.2021

LALIT, as readers of this blog no doubt know, has for 40 years been campaigning and mobilizing on a number of key issues. Our program is these issues. 


When, in LALIT, we accuse the Government parties, the Opposition parties and even the 11 new parties just formed, of not having a program, we accuse them of something very specific. Here goes! These are all issues we campaign and mobilize on (not just bragging), and on which other parties have not got a program:


On the economy, even during a pandemic


* They do not have a program for new production that would assure job creation and foreign exchange. None whatsoever.


* They don’t have a plan to stop selling-off arable land for luxury villa projects, nor to use this land for production. Even the epidemic and the lockdown do not make them see this necessity.


* They do not have a plan to halt the fishing concessions to foreign companies that overfish Mauritian waters, nor a plan to set up a sustainable Mauritian fishing industry. This could employ fisherfolk on new sites and in food processing, and ensure foreign exchange. After Wakashio, even fisherfolk without cards are now recognized and can be included.


* They do not have a plan to assure food security and food sovereignty – even in a pandemic, even with threats of war. They have no plan to convert land from cane and real estate to food production and animal husbandry, nor to set up facilities for preserving healthy food, thus creating jobs and foreign exchange, too.


* They have no plan to develop Rodrigues’ agriculture and food preservation sector, already in advance of the Island of Mauritius – while everyone knows dams are needed as well as storage godowns, loans and proper marketing. 


* They do not have a plan to get the Diego Garcia military base closed down, with an ecological clean-up done, and for Chagossians’ right to return to live there, with freedom of movement over the whole of the Republic. 


* They do not have a plan for a Regional Government and MPs, like Rodrigues has, for Chagos nor for Agalega, so that Mauritius becomes a more federal Republic.


* They have no plan for a regular monthly revenue for all.


* They don’t have any plan on how to set about getting all these kinds of economic measures into motion. 


* They have no plan to remove the life-and-death control that the capitalist class have over everyone else, and to replace hierarchies with equality, and replace economic autocracy with democracy.


* They have no plan to decrease the gap between the powerful rich few and the many working poor. At best they want the inequality to be made less morally “unjustifiable” by eliminating its concomitant nepotism and corruption, while maintaining class inequality. They see “meritocracy”, the guardian of inequality, as the solution. 


In LALIT, we have a program on all these issues. We mobilize those who want to work on the land and the sea, which is what constitutes the country, and then put pressure, this way, on government to force land-owners to employ people or to free up the land on cheap leases. And if bosses are recalcitrant, the government must be forced to go ahead and nationalize the land under democratic control. If the Government is recalcitrant and refuses, we the people will have to take over the big tracts of land wasted on the production of sugar cane and on land speculation and rich men’s villas and golf courses. Everyone must have a guaranteed income. It stands to reason.


There are a whole host of pro-capitalist ideologues already realizing that if jobs, food security and a guaranteed revenue are not organized, the capitalist system will be in difficulty soon. Editorialists like Philip Forget and Lindsay Rivière want investment in agriculture and food production, as do economists like Pierre Dinan and Eric Ng. Trade unionists have been calling for the return of a Ministry of Economic Planning. Finance Minister Padayachy has begun to “talk-the-talk” recently on not just planting food crops, but on preserving and marketing them abroad. 


But political parties, themselves, Government and Opposition, in the National Assembly and outside, are totally silent on economic plans. They have no strategy for the economy. Yet, this is what a political program, in the final analysis, depends upon. Lalit is the only party with an economic program.


But, even on social issues, parties other than Lalit, have no program.


On Society


* They do not have a plan for a register, in which every family, and every adult, who has housing problems, can register their name and needs. This way we, as a society, can look the problem in the face. In Lalit, we know how serious it is. It is only masked by the Napoleonic inheritance laws that cause over-crowded house-occupiers to look to government statisticians like house owners. (The real owner is often long since dead.) They do not have a plan to set up a brand new CHA to ensure housing for all, with its own fairness Tribunal. They do not even announce a plan to replace the asbestos housing that is poisoning people every day.


* They do not have a plan to change education from making children compete at who rote-learns best to pass exams and to rise within social hierarchies, to instead nurturing a love-of-learning in all our children.


* They don’t have a plan to introduce the mother tongue as medium, or joint medium with English. They do not even have a plan to educate parents, at the same time, on the importance of learning through the language of the people. Their programs do not even enlighten people that our mother tongue is our tool for thinking – as human beings.


* They have no immediate plan to introduce Kreol as one of the languages that can be used in the National Assembly. Some, like the MSM, have delaying tactics on this. Others in Opposition, as Lalit saw at the debate organized last year by LPT, have nothing to offer. They have no plan to make the main MBC news in proper Mauritian Kreol – with its grammar and pronunciation respected – and continue to have Kreolophones reading out to other Kreolophones something written in French, or near-French, which neither readers nor listeners master.


* They have no plan to decrease the number of people, especially young men, in prison. They have no plan to release the majority, who are locked up because they either can’t pay bail or a fine, or a clever lawyer to get them off in the first place. Most parties do not even have a plan to decriminalize drug use – even drug dependency, a health issue.


* They have no protocol to propose to end all violence by officers of the state, and all deaths in detention. 


* They have no program to curtail patriarchal violence, nor to flatten patriarchal hierarchies.


* Even during the epidemic, we do not see any of these parties announcing a big increase in the number of nurses and records clerks being trained to staff state hospitals and dispensaries, and of permanent employees to do contact-tracing through the Biro Saniter during the epidemic, and then public health research afterwards. They do not announce how it is that they intend to control the increasing greed of the tandem of insurance-and-private-medicine – which often works in cahoots with private media.


* They have no ambition for every child to be able to walk safely or cycle safety to primary and secondary school. The roads continue to cater for private cars, mini-buses and lorries, while becoming less and less safe for children. No pedestrian and no cycling plans are organized for all children to be able to walk or cycle. This is a public health need.  It includes daily exercise in a holistic way, and decreases the need for road traffic that pollutes the air. With the development of the Metro, the pedestrian paths and cycle lanes should be integrated with the Metro stops, which need safe bicycle parking areas.


* There is no plan to eradicate pollution in the big picture:


            - Nuclear pollution on Chagos


            - Asbestos housing in some 45 housing estates.


            - Chemical pollution by sugar estates and golf courses of land, and lagoons – pesticides and herbicides, for example.


Most political parties, if they have a program at all, have a shopping-list type program: to increase pensions (at best) and lower road fines or taxes (at most feeble). Or, alternatively, assorted proposals of the “un-thought-through” type: to “limit office to two mandates” which they don’t seem to see is a decrease in democracy, nor that it gets circumvented via nephews (Putin) or wives (Clinton) and prevents debate getting to the real programmatic issues listed like new industries that create jobs. Alternatively, they sometimes call (dangerously, it turns out) for the State to control political parties’ finances, risking giving the Regime in power inordinate new powers over all opposition parties. It is time for us all to demand real programs on the economy and for social progress.


Lalit, during the last confinement was one of 10 organizations that already signed a program that addresses some of the points above. It was with the CTSP (Reeaz Chuttoo), MLC /AWF - (Haniff Peerun), Government Services Employees Association (Radakrishna Sadien), FPBOU (Deepak Benydin), ACSEF (Vinod Seegum), Muvman Liberasyon Fam - (Ragini Kistnasamy), NTUC, the FTU (Atma Shanto) and the CAP (Mosadeq Sahebdin).


 See https://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/newsarticle/2426/towards-a-working-class-program-during-the-lockdown-for-epidemic-control/? news on 31 March last year.


We need to move forward from here. And bear in mind some of the other issues most political parties have no program on, and on which we have been campaigning and mobilizing for years. What do you think?


 


Lindsey Collen