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A Racist Article


There is a thoroughly racist column in Saturday’s edition 15-16 May 2021 of L’Express signed El Figaro. It is shocking that it finds its way into print. And this in the year 2021.

The article is in favour of the right to vote for the Mauritian diaspora. “Une demande tout a fait légitime,” he says. 

The main reason El Figaro gives for why the diaspora should have the right to vote is what is shocking. 

He says the right to vote is “Fortement légitime ... car a Maurice, nous offrons le droit de vote aux travailleurs bangladeshis et autres citoyens des pays du Commonwealth.” That is his idea of the motivation for the diaspora to seek the right to vote.

Why on earth does he single out “travailleurs bangladeshis” this way? Other than through pure racism? He attempts to explain, justifying himself by means of quoting what is essentially a pack of lies: “Les Bangladeshis ont d’ailleurs dominé d’actualité juste après les élections de 2019 quand  les Mauriciens ont appris qu’un grand nombre de ces travailleurs avaient été mobilisés par le Mouvement socialiste militant (MSM) pour prendre part au vote.” Mauritians “learned” this – as if it were a fact. Is this utter invention going to continue masquerading as factual? To persist despite any proof to the contrary?

Does this man not even know how elections are held in Mauritius, for a start? Does he not know that there are independent officers from the Electoral Commission, who check each elector on polling day to see if his or her name is on the electoral register? If not, there is no way someone can vote. They also check either an ID Card or a Passport for identify verification? This is all done, more to the point, in front of the agents nominated by all the political parties, so in front of MMM, Labour and PMSD agents inter alia, who sit there checking who is coming in to vote, person by person. 

These allegations about Bangladeshis voting – all lies – were made on social media just after the elections. They were lies then, and they are lies now. And they have been exposed as lies by L’Express in a fine article on 4 February by Iqbal Khan. 

His article was in response to the lies re-surfacing once again at a Rama Valayden meeting – by then, the lie had grown to specifying “12,000 Bangladeshis”. The dossier taken as a whole is a demolition job on the whole racist lie about Bangladeshis and the general elections. 

It would do well for El Figaro to take the time to read the dossier. 

The L’Express dossier shows how “social media posts” after the December 2019 elections had alleged that “8,000 Bangladeshis” had voted. This was claimed, it said, curiously only after the elections – all the agents were presumably duped during voting. The allegations were completely omitted from all endless electoral petitions that the Opposition lodged, as is testified in the L’Express article. No-one in their right mind would take the risk of going before the Courts on the basis of such distilled racism. 

So, when El Figaro adds, “On saura la vérité quand (enfin!) les pétitions électorales seront entendu en cour”, this is just another lie to add to the original lie about the 8,000 Bangladeshis voting. There are no court cases on the question of Bangladeshis voting in the election. The racism involved in these serial allegations is so blatant it hurts. 

The Electoral Commissioner, after the first bout of allegations, was forced, so persistent were the lies on social media, and in an effort to quell the rumours being spread presumably by bad losers (a-la-Trump and his fascist base and “the big lie” in the USA) to actually come forward and publish the exact number of electors who are residents of Mauritius who are Commonwealth citizens and also inscribed on the electoral rolls. Those are, after all, the qualifications according to the Constitution for the right to vote: you are a resident for two years, Mauritian or Commonwealth citizen, and you enroll your name on the Electoral Register in one of 21 Constituencies, which rolls are renewed on an annual basis. The main qualification to vote is, of course, residence – although this is challenged continually by the far-right in Europe and the USA, and more recently in India. 

Anyway, in all, the Electoral Commissioner announced, there were 838 foreign residents, of whom 45 (repeat forty-five) were Bangladeshi citizens, who were entitled to vote in one of the 21 constituencies. This is out of the nearly 950,000 registered electors. We assume that some of these 45 individuals exercised their right to vote. In LALIT, we are aware of about a dozen people from Bangladesh married to Mauritians and resident here, who may each have voted in his or her Constituency. 

As an aside, it is precisely because big segments of the Press had convinced themselves because of their own political agendas that the “MSM-ML-ex-MMM” Alliance would lose, that the election seemed to them a “shock” victory to quote from the L’Express article of 4 February. But it was not a shock to anyone at grassroots level in the country. It was what everyone with their ears to the ground expected. At the closing of the polls, for example, LALIT central committee members, who had been lor terin for weeks running our own campaign behind our own candidates and against the MSM and the rest, held a guessing game: and every single member put their symbolic Rs1 on an MSM-Alliance win, and two of us bet the MSM would get the exact number of seats it did get. No shock to the well-informed. 

But, it is not just legal electors that bother El Figaro, but illegal ones! All, of course, Bangladeshis, as El Figaro goes on with his racist diatribe: “D’un coté, il y a un nombre officiel de Bangladeshis a avoir obtenu le droit de vote a Maurice.” There are exactly 45. “De l’autre, on soupconne ces étrangers [sic] d’avoir été la pièce-maitresse, après les fameuses Computer rooms, d’une vaste opération visant a maintenir le clan Jugnauth au pouvoir”.  This “soupconne” is what slipped into the place of the facts that Mauritians had “appris” or “learned”. His article is based on nothing but this “soupconne” invented by who-knows-who, for who-knows-what-reason, mainly on social media at a time when “bad losers” would lose, and then lost. And this is then the reason for the diaspora seeking the right to vote?

El Figaro goes on to say something, which if true, though based on lies therefore on an erroneous premise, is indeed, in any case, a sad spectacle. He says: “Le cas des Bangladeshis votant aux élections a Maurice a sans doute contribué énormement a enflammer les sentiments au sein de la diaspora et a fair pousser les ailes a tout mouvement réclamant le droit de vote pour nos compatriotes établis, travaillant ou étudiant a l’étranger.” If there is this kind of racist motivation, the mind boggles.

El Figaro says getting the right to vote will be difficult, and read why, if you can believe such an outrageous bit of sick racism: “si en 2019, on a fait disparaitre du registre électoral les noms des Mauriciens, tout en permettant aux Bangladeshis de voter,” then how can these genuine Mauritians abroad be so naive as to think they can acquire the right to vote, he asks? So, when the campaign for the diaspora to get the right to vote fails – as it well might, it being outside the usual rationale for voting rights i.e. residence, or more precisely, electors being present to live through the consequences of their vote, and by paying VAT and other taxes needing representation – El Figaro is already preparing a racist explanation. It’s because of the Bangladeshis. He is referring to migrant workers, the most powerless people in Mauritius, who he manages to blame for the Labour, MMM and PMSD defeat at the elections. This is dangerous stuff.