The Muvman Liberasyon Fam has informed other organizations it works with of its decision to hold its meetings on-line as new daily Covid cases rise. Here is the content of the letter the MLF has sent to LALIT and other organizations, which we are pleased to publish:
The women’s association, Muvman Liberasyon Fam, has begun to hold its weekly executive committee meetings “virtually” by video-conference, instead of meeting in person because of the steep rise in new Covid cases in the last one week. Last night [Tuesday night] eleven of us met on-line to discuss the Covid situation and one or two other items concerning women. One member was absent, and one ran out of battery for her mobile phone in the middle, leaving 10. The video-call was a learning process, with quite a few technical hitches. We ended up with three people participating at one-removed, by being on a fixed line with three of those (out of the eight) on the video-call, which admitted only eight. But, we succeeded. Next week we will use a different platform.
The reason the MLF met on-line instead of in-person was because we agree with the restriction to no more than 10 people in gatherings. It is possible the second lockdown was lifted a bit too early, we believe, causing the rise in cases that makes the restriction on gatherings important.
The alternative for the MLF weekly meeting was to ensure, as we did the previous week for our meeting, that 10 or less members attend. However, with the sharp increase in the number of new Covid cases, we concluded that the spirit of the law restricting gatherings is now what is important for society as a whole, so we’ll meet on-line by video conference for as long as the increase in the rise in the number of new daily cases continues. If we see a decrease in the number of new cases over the course of a few weeks, then we will reconsider meeting in person. We do not have to wait for the State to tell us what is in everyone’s interest anyway, we decided, but can put in place our own best practices at this dangerous time when cases rise steeply.
Though everyone expressed some Covid lockdown fatigue and, as we prepare to gather our internal resources to face a possible third wave, we reminded ourselves, on the call, how it was the Mauritian people, us ourselves, that, in the 1950s and 1960s eradicated, by our own behavior, the malaria epidemic by doing away with all the breeding grounds anopheles mosquitoes need in order to reproduce. And we hope to contribute towards doing something similar with the Coronavirus illness, by preventing opportunities for the virus to be transported from one of us to others. By limiting physical contact we can, at the very least, contribute to preventing Mauritius following behind India and other countries, by letting cases begin to rise and then not responding with enough rigour, and then ending up with collapsed hospital services, broken supply chains for oxygen, and burial and cremation facilities completely overwhelmed. It is not just the government, or worse still, the police who are responsible; we must, ourselves, act.
We, in MLF, believe that, as members of MLF, an association (or for any of us in a political party, a co-operative or union) we are different from other people in society, in that we work at sharing an overall vision of society and working towards it. This, in turn, means we acquire an additional, individual role, for example, to remind others (at work, in the family, on the bus, at the bank, at the market) of the importance of maintaining the physical distancing guidelines – as a common good – in times of rising case numbers. We do not need to raise the stakes each time we call for respect of mask-wearing, or physical distancing, but it is our duty to remind people – however gently – of our collective need to respect these guidelines. This is the difference between an ordinary citizen and someone committed to social change, like our active members. This individual work in society gives us the experience that, in turn, enables us to help develop and agree upon useful “demands” to put forward to the authorities.
The State will, according to all MLF members present, need to limit work hours (or work days) per person in some way so as to allow buses to function at half-full, and so that the shopping by alphabetical order can be re-introduced, in order to prevent the over-crowding both in buses and in retail outlets that we have witnessed in the past week or so. If not, there will later be the necessity of a new lockdown and it will be en catastrophe.
One member commented on the overcrowding in Port Louis last Saturday. This overcrowding is understandable, if dangerous: as the winter approaches, and as people fear another lock-down, they absolutely have to go to Port Louis to pick up bargain winter clothes, shoes and blankets. At the same time, as Eid nears, people know there are special bargains in Port Louis because a good number of people will be buying new clothes for the day. But, the end result, if there is not shopping by alphabet, is overcrowding – which may end up being instrumental in provoking another wave.
One member felt that it would be better to open the beaches than malls but soon realized that malls, unlike beaches, have entrances that can be controlled and that the bosses, in capitalism, work in cahoots with the state, and can control the level of crowding, as they do, easily. They even take temperatures at the door, and ensure that hand sanitizer is used. On the beach, there is no way to contemplate any form of social control, as the epidemic begins to spread faster, once again, and this could unfortunately expose us all to increased risk.
It was pointed out by one member that the Parliamentary Opposition – in particular the PMSD and MMM – have changed their line for the better somewhat, and now call for more respect for masks and physical distance-keeping, instead of seeming to will the MSM Government to be a disaster. Their line on the postponement of Municipal Elections mid-epidemic is also no longer to cry “the end of democracy”, but to insist reasonably that a new date be set.
As concerns what was in the press as a “women’s issue”, everyone at the on-line meeting was much intrigued by the long “debate” both in the National Assembly, itself, and in the press, radio and TV, around the accusation that the Minister of Gender Equality used mysogynist swearing in Parliament. The words can be heard on the recordings of the TV on-line coverage of Parliament. The curious thing about this event is that no-one has come forward as witness to it. In addition, no-one in Parliament at the time betrays any sign of having heard the swearwords, and they all continue quite normally, clearly having heard nothing untoward. Even afterwards no-one says, “I heard Ms. x or Ms. y saying that!” No journalist even says they heard the words being said from their gallery from which they hear a lot – let alone who said it. So, it is a ghostly event, we concluded, titillating everyone in the midst of a serious pandemic and of a massive economic and social crisis.
MLF, 12 May 2021