Press and MBC coverage of Friday, 18 May's mass meeting of all trade union delegates at Octave Wiehe when six political parties spoke, was interesting, not so much for what they did report, but for what they did not. The MBC was not present at all for the afternoon session. Its report was thus nil. All the parties in Government were absent, so that explains that.
The organizers, the Trade Union Common Platform, had formally asked parties to take a stand on two things:
1. The National Pay Council, which the Unions are rightly boycotting.
2. Wage compensation of Rs800 that the Unions are rightly demanding.
The first bit of news is that the MSM and MMM orators, Nando Bodha and Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, did not address point Number Two, the question of Rs800 wage compensation. This is a key omission. It has important consequences, too. Maybe it was, after all, just an innocent omission on the part of reporters.
The second bit of news not mentioned was something plain for everyone to see from before the session even started. The MMM had three representatives sitting up on the stage, instead of one. Next to Mr. Lutchmeenaradoo, were two high profile MMM neophytes, Vijay Makann and Sailendra Gokhool, clearly there to "montre figir" to the delegates. This bit of news was not mentioned either. Well, maybe the silence was again just an innocent omission. Mr. Gokhool, by the way, is such a neophyte that Tulsiraj Benydin, presiding, introduced him by mistake as Shakeel Mohamed.
The third evasion was on the question of "Where has the Platform National gone?" The Platform National consisted of the same Unions, the same MMM, Rezistans ek Alternativ, Union National, Muvman Premye Me and MSM, and yet the Press do not pose the question as to where it was. Once again, we need to ask why the disappearance of the Platform National was not mentioned? Lalit was the only element present for Friday's Mass Meeting organized by the Trade Union Common Platform while not being a member of Platform National (1). Any commentator should draw attention to a shift in the trade union leadership's position. Lalit supports the shift. The Press might be against it. They would perhaps like the Unions to pump Berenger for a bit longer. Be that as it may, the disappearance of the Platform National is a fact. Commentators could also ponder over whether it is a temporary or more durable dissappearance, or whether it is linked to the fact that the MMM and MSM do not agree with a fixed sum compensation.
Curiously, journalists cannot claim they forgot the very existence of Platform National. It was mentioned very centrally from the podium. And this is yet another thing, the fourth, not reported. Half of Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo's speech was a plea for the Platform National to re-appear to take up the expulsion of the Riche Terre planters from their land. No-one took up his plea for a common platform. Both the plea and its being ignored, are news. Journalists did not mention them.
Fifthly, and at another level, journalists also completely ignored the present very difficult crisis in the biggest federation, the FPU. Nor do they explain where new federations that have appeared recently, came from, even when their names are on documents in the press. This is the same as what happened, when for a whole year, journalists remained silent on the worst split that the GWF has suffered for 30 years, with SILU and other unions leaving. These major events are without a trace in the Press. During his speech at the mass meeting, Jack Bizlall, speaking for the MPM, made public reference to the present problems, but the public is left in the dark as to their nature. It is probably true to say that less harm is done to the working class by the press's silence than by anything they would write, so congenitally anti-union is the Press. But, we wonder what the motivation is for their silence.
Sixthly, Lalit representative Ram Seegobin's requisitory against Government, though perhaps stronger than all the others, is not reported. Was this because his requisitory against the MMM and MSM was also very strong? When speaking about demonstrations against sacking 150 DWC workers that the MMM co-organized, Ram Seegobin asked who it was who sacked 800 DWC workers? Delegates called out the answer. When he asked who introduced targeting, for pensions? Delegates replied. Even when he asked who introduced targeting for SC and HSC exam fees, delegates replied. People do not forget that easily.
Seventhly, even jokes are not reported. Ram Seegobin's joke that workers would do well to recall, if met by RIOT police at Thursday's planned demonstration, that the men with shields and baton will not be there to give "biberon" to "ti-baba".
Judging by questions asked by delegates in the plenary at the end of the session, they are very much caught up in the question of "What will you do for us when you are next in power?" This can be expected when their leadership has, until so recently, been in a "Platform National" with these parties, despite their so recent pro-capitalist five years in power.
(1) Lalit was not in the Platform National because of the presence of three pro-capitalist parties, the MMM, MSM and UN, who had consistently attacked the working class when they were in Government for five years, only two years ago. Lalit had found it a particularly horrifying when the Platform National was called on the subject of DWC sackings when the MMM and MSM had sacked 800 DWC workers, and on the subject of targeting for subsidies on SC and HSC exam fees when the MMM and MSM had targeted old-age pensions and introduced the concept of targeting for exam fees.