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LALIT's Campaign issues all come centre-stage


Lalit suddenly sees all its most important campaigns centre-stage. The media can hardly manage to avoid headlining these vital issues, and pushing its usual fodder of scandals, corruption and "alternance" between two ailing bourgeoise political alliances and their ever-changing partners into the background. All these issues need to be addressed as part of our overall Program.

With the receivership at St. Felix Sugar Estate and the massive crisis between Government and small planters on one side and the sugar barons on the other, the systemic crisis that Lalit has been predicting and describing as it unfurls is now centre-stage, for everyone to see. Our campaign "For an alternative political economy" has for the past four years been based on an understanding that it is imperative to make political challenges to the running of the economy, as the capitalist economy and State lead the country into economic ruin. With the collapse of sugar and textile protection, as Lalit outlined would happen, the entire economy will be structurally weakened and the political block that has ruled for half a century (the sugar barons in alliance with large and small planters mostly led by Labour) will be unstable.

This is what we see now, as 122 sugar factory workers are out of a job. The Government will be furious because the Mauritius Sugar Producers' Association that groups together all the barons had given its word that next week they would come up with counter-proposals to get out of the present dead-lock over how to share EU money, how to share energy production (both fights over who will produce electricity and at what price, and how bagasse and molasses income gets divided between millers and planters) and how much land the State should get from the sugar barons in exchange for unmentionables like rupee devaluation engineered in their favour. The Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy (MAAS), which is the subject of Lalit's film on an alternative political economy to sugar and cane, is now in question. What should be in question is not just the sharing of the goods in the MAAS, but the question of WHAT to plant, and WHAT to produce must be put on the agenda, at the same time as WHO TAKES THE DECISIONS.

In fact, the four slogans on LALIT's long nation-wide poster campaign, show the extent to which we have been spot on. The first "Use EU Money to create not destroy jobs!" This has gradually forced even the Prime Minister to admit publicly for the first time that the EU money is for "restructuring the economy" not for "floating the sugar cane industry". Second, we called for "Government to take back control of Foreign Exchange to prevent provoked depreciation". This too is on everyone's lips and has been since the row over the replacement of the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius. The new Governor put a halt to provoked rupee depreciation. Third, on the land question our demand was "Land for planting diversified food crops for all retrenched labourers!" Fourth, "Unemployment benefit!" The Government is responding to this demand, even if not at all in the form Lalit made it.

Lalit has been known for the whole of our 30 years' existence for our campaign and work on the mother tongue. Our 50-page monthly publication from 1976 came out in Mauritian Kreol only, all its 60-odd numbers. After that our weekly newspaper and leaflets and magazines have all been in Kreol. Today, it is a subject of nation-wide concern. Kreol is now being introduced as medium in part of the national education system, the part run by the Catholic Church, which used to be totally against the mother tongue.

Lalit has since the death in detention of Serge Victorine in 1979 run a campaign against police and prison guards' violence. As part of the campaign we contacted the Committee under the UN Convention Against Torture, requesting that it send a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation. Lalit members, together with activists from different social organizations, set up the organization JUSTICE a few years ago, and it has been the veritable spearhead of actions against police violence. It has systematically rallied victims and their families, and drawn attention nationally and internationally to the level of violence. Lalit members are active in JUSTICE.

Last week, a delegation of 8 people from the Committee came and visited cells, prisons and spoke to State officers at all levels. The Bastille prison has been closed, the notorious Prison Security Squad disbanded, and officers of the Mahebourg police station transferred. At the same time, the notorious Major Crime Investigation Squad that had become a symbol of violence and torture on detainees, has disintegrated. Its head, Mr. Radhooa has died. It has been separated from the other three departments it was unhealthily intertwined with, i.e. the Curepipe CID, the Anti-Pirating Squad and the Gambling Squad. Officers of the MCIT are still suspended from work, following the violence on the musician Nitin Chinien, following the death of Rajesh Ramlogun in custody, and following the illegal body-searches at the Cyber City. A number of civil cases for damages are gradually encircling the MCIT. JUSTICE in its Press Conference on 30 October asks whether there are signs that the end of impunity is getting nearer.

All this to say, that one of Lalit's main campaigns is centre stage and has been for the past month.

LALIT has since its foundation been combatting communalism, and it was one of the two reasons why we set up a party when the MMM was posing as a "left" party. It had abandoned its anti-communal role in history. With the recent waves of communalism, the anti-communal struggle gets back on to the agenda. LALIT has again and again struggled against the Best Loser System, defying it by drawing our general election candidates' so-called communities from a hat, and denouncing it. Now, the situation is quite grave, and the need to do away with the system altogether has become urgent. Whether the bourgeois parties are in a position to do so is, however, in question. They are tied up in knots by communalo-religious-racist lobbies of all ilk.

Lalit has since its participation in hunger strike actions in 1977 and 1978 been struggling for the closure of the US military base on Diego, for re-unification of Mauritius by getting Diego back, and for full reparations and the right of return for all Chagossians. As part of this struggle we helped set up the NO BASES NETWORK, to close all foreign military bases, which was constituted in 2007.

Today, Diego Garcia is centre stage. 2007 has seen it being prepared to house Stealth Bombers intended for use in a strike on Iran next year. 2007 has seen the US exposed as having used Diego to carry around illegal prisoners for torture. 2007 has seen the UK State being soundly criticized by its High Court for illegal displacement of the Chagossians.

As right now one of our woman militants is in Palestine facing the Israeli army and colonizers, as part of the international effort to expose the genocide going on in Palestine, the Israeli army prepares for some hideous assault on Gaza.

What it means that so many of our main campaigns are centre-stage is that Lalit's choice of issues is not fortuitous. They are amongst the key issues that define our future history in Mauritius, and in the world.