Following the confrontation between Minister of Finance Sithanen and Nita Deerpalsing over the "targeting" of social services, first in the Mauritius Times of Friday 15 February, and then on Radio Plus the day after, it was the turn of the L'Express to join in the fray, on Tuesday 19 February.
L'Express has consistently attacked the fundamental principle of the Welfare State that universal rights represent. So it was to be expected that the editorial line would come out strongly in favour of Sithanen's position on "targeting". But the form of that support was rather surprising. The main front page title was a quote from Sithanen's speech at some obscure function in Belle-Mare: "La pauvrete affecte toutes les communautes". On page 5, apart from the Belle-Mare article, there is another report of a function at Bel Ombre where Sithanen intervened, as well as a long anonymous "Billet", signed "Nou Bann et Bann La", attacking Nita Deerpalsing.
The next day, Wednesday 20 February, the L'Express was at it again: this time they published a kilometric article by Minister Sithanen on the eradication of poverty, but clearly in reply to Nita Deerpalsing's opportunistic reference to communal problems arising from the targeting of social benefits. At least the man is replying politically, instead of threatening to resign for the third time. But he did cancel a seminar that was to be held on precisely the "Eradication of Poverty", obviously preferring to pontificate himself rather than listen to other points of view. But what was intriguing was the decision of the L'Express to re-print on Wednesday, next to Sithanen's long essay, that same anonymous "Nou Bann et Bann La" from the day before. The editorial reason for this repeat reads like this: "Nous publions a nouveau cet article car c'est une version tronquee qui est parue hier a la suite d'une mauvaise manipulation informatique".
So we thought it would be interesting to check what had been left out in the first version, due to software problems: there are two short paragraphs at the end that could have been left out because of a "mauvaise manipulation informatique", but even then one cannot but feel that they had been added after the "billet" was first published, specially when we consider the other bits of text that had been added in the second version. In the first version, the very learned author has Marie Antoinette say: "Qu'ils mangent donc de l'herbe", and this becomes "Qu'ils mangent donc de la brioche" in the next version; similarly M.Rashid Emrith makes a first appearance in the second version; and finally "C'est meme criminel" becomes "C'est meme pire: c'est Tartuffe 'born again'".
They obviously have very serious soft-ware problems at L'Express, when a "mauvaise manipulation informatique" can produce the kind of text modifications from one version to another.
Perhaps it would have been simpler if L'Express had simply said they were re-printing this anonymous rubbish because it was the only outside support they could whip up for Sithanen, and stop him from resigning, again.