I was too quick to write the other day that water problems in Ragoo Lane were over. They aren’t. Yesterday, we were back to relying on the water lorry. Instead of getting running water 24/7, as promised in the election campaign, some of us get it 0/7. In Rodrigues, for many families it is always like this.
There was a bit of rain last night but the situation does not look good. The rainy season is drawing to its close with a big shortfall. And this in the absence of tourists. It seems that the very infrastructure for tourism uses the water, whether the tourists are here or not. Imagine villages not getting running water while gardens, golf courses and swimming pools for absent tourists are maintained. This is a symbol for capitalism’s democracy.
But, even if we haven’t got running water, we still get to think. And we sure need to think about democracy. The present Speaker makes us think about it, too. He is supposed to represent the whole of the National Assembly, an arbiter between the totality of the elected representatives of the people (Opposition and back benchers) and the ancient powers still there in the executive. The executive, remember, is the descendent of the powers of the monarch. And Soorooj Phokeer believes it is his role is to support the executive, the Sun Trust’s party, the MSM. He is of the school of Showkutally Soodhun who swears allegiance as a slave to the Sun Trust controllers.
And during an emergency like a pandemic, the executive seizes enormous temporary powers. It is a time of all dangers. But also a time for creative programs. An idea of how democracy can be expanded is what will allow us to imagine how to apply a bold program like organize new food production sectors on all sugar estates’ land and using mill infrastructure; and to suspend all permits to fishing companies from abroad that ransack the Mauritian waters, and create a sustainable fishing industry. All this creates good jobs, assures food security and gets foreign exchange. We need a democracy so that we can have a program to build housing for all, and pedestrian paths and cycle lanes from home to school, and to the nearest Metro and bus station. Let’s look at democracy deepened.
1. First, we need to ensure that the National Assembly gets more power relative to the executive, specially the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This is how we curb the monarchic, even dynastic, powers of the Prime Minister in bourgeois democracy. Parliament must be bigger, say around 100 and the Cabinet smaller – say 12 members. Then set up Parliamentary Committees, filmed live on TV, to ratify or reject nominations to important posts. And similar committees on important issues. This would be like a developed and filmed Public Accounts Committee. Such committees function fairly well in the USA.
2. Simultaneously, we the electors must get more power over the people we elect to the National Assembly. The LALIT proposal for this is simple. The right of recall by a formal electoral petition. Its content must fit political guidelines and be ratified by the Electoral Commission, then electors in a Constituency can recall an MP. This exists in the UK already.
3. Because we live in a class society – made more unequal by the Covid pandemic – we need control over the electoral expenses of candidates. We are not talking about “funding of parties”, but “control over expenses”. We need a law that shifts the onus on to the candidates and parties to prove that any expenses on their behalf were not done by them. If they go over the expenses limit, their election is annulled and a by-election organized.
4. There ought to be no class barriers to standing for an election. At present, there are both language and literacy barriers. Kreol should no longer to banned in the National Assembly.
5. So, LALIT proposes an enlarged Parliament of, say, 21 four-member constituencies plus one MP each for Agalega and Chagos, and 20 proportional representation MPs from a public, closed list from amongst candidates in the Constituencies. The four-member constituencies and the 20 PR will allow the communal Best Loser system to be done away with, without fear of unintended communal consequences. Each elector will get two bits of paper, one for electing 4 MPs, and the other to choose their party. In all this would mean 106 MPs.
6. People then mobilize against the parties they do not agree with. There is no short cut. You need to construct the party you want based on the program you build for the classes you represent.
Such are the things we need to think about when we are spending time in lockdown mode.