LALIT on 2 February wrote to Dr. Dinesh Hurreeram, President of the University of Mauritius Academic Staff Association (UMASA) to support the Staff Association in its struggle for the right to take stands on political issues and participate in political life. A copy of the letter was sent to the Press.
Here is the content of the LALIT letter of support:
President and Members,
University of Mauritius Academic Staff Association,
Univ of Mauritius
Dear Mr. Hurreeram, Colleagues and Friends,
We would like to put on record our wholehearted support for your eminently reasonable demand that university staff no longer be prohibitted from taking an active part in political debates. No work contract should ever infringe in such a way on free expression.
The kind of repression on academic freedom that the existing prohibition entails is directly detrimental to the whole notion of a university, as a place of thinking freely, discussing openly, understanding the world, learning and teaching philosophical concepts. In fact, from the beginning of Platos Academy, the subject of politics has in fact been central. Is not the quest for knowledge intimately linked to the philosophical question as to what is the best life for humanity? And is this not a political question?
We would go further, and state that the earlier arrangement between your employers and yourselves (which we believe certain staff members still benefit from today, in their existing contract of service) goes further, by not prohibiting staff from standing on political platforms. The only restriction, which we believe to be a reasonable one, is that during an electoral campaign, staff should get leave without pay. (This enables the University to use the money saved to pay a replacement, while someone is on a campaign trail).
If someone subsequently becomes a Minister or PPS, then they would clearly need either to resign, or be given long leave.
One of the arguments published in the Press against your stand i.e. that Les étudiants peuvent être la proie facile de personnes sans scrupules capables de les influencer is a very weak argument. Students at the University are adults, and are at the University precisely to learn to think and argue. Most Mauritians are actually employed from the age of 16, where they are much more likely to fall prey to unscrupulous employers, whose power over them is much greater than that of a teacher over an adult pupil.
Please be assured of our support of your noble cause, the struggle for academic freedom.