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MAURITIUS MEDIA at a glance: 26 March, 2008 - What Democracy?

26.03.2008

In his message to the nation on the occasion of the Independence celebrations, Prime Minister Ramgoolam announced his intention of getting all political parties (small and large) together to discuss possible electoral reforms, "pu asize ansam pu desid enn meyer formil sa lane la mem." But a few days later, on 25 March, in the National Assembly, in reply to a leading question from Ganoo of the MMM as to whether political parties not represented in the National Assembly will participate in the consultations, the PM replied that in the initial stage, only major parties would participate. His preoccupation was that he had found out that same morning that they were as many as 64 political parties already registered, and that with the start of the process of electoral reforms, other new parties would get registered, and this would lead to the risk that the consultations would become interminable.

This was enough, and understandably so, for the LExpress editorialist to write, on Wednesday 26 March, that it was a reasonable move to exclude smaller parties, to avoid the "forum de consultation de se convertir en foire". So R. Meetarbhan thinks that smaller parties have no valuable contribution to make as to the necessary reforms in the electoral system. But this could be just another stupid little statement, if it were not for the howler that immediately follows in the same editorial. When he refers to the Best Loser System that imposes on all candidates in General Elections to declare which community they belong to, he writes: "C'est precisement le rejet de cet etiquetage communal qui pousse les grands partis a vouloir reformer rapidement."

But all the "grands partis" continue to declare that the reforms need to be such that all "communities" are adequately represented in the National Assembly. If that is not the ultimate "etiquetage", we do not know what is.

Perhaps R.Meetarbhan needs to be reminded that it is precisely "small parties" like LALIT that have waged a relentless struggle against communal classification as from the 1983 General Elections, and consistently after that. Perhaps R.Meetarbhan has forgotten that for the 2000 General Elections, LALIT candidates were summoned to the Supreme Court because the "messenger" in the Youssouf Mohamed Chambers estimated that our names did not correspond to the "community" we had inscribed in our Nomination Paper, after a drawing of lots. In his judgment, Justice Seetulsing decided that a Judge "sitting" in the courtroom was not in a position to decide on the "community" of different citizens, a disgusting duty that the Constitution imposes on Supreme Court Judges. But Justice Seetulsing considered that he had no other choice than to lump the whole lot of us into the "General Population", which is precisely the function of such a community, to make sure that nobody can escape classification as prescribed by the Schedule to the Constitution.

R. Meetarbhan should also be reminded that the previous MMM-MSM (large parties) government specifically briefed the Sachs Committee not to make any recommendation as to the elimination of the Best Loser System. That was precisely the reason why LALIT refused to depose before that Commission. In the coming consultations, if the Sachs Report is to be used as a baseline document, there will not be any recommendation regarding the elimination of the Best Loser System. On the other hand, if there is a comprehensive publication on the subject of "Communal Classification and the "Best Loser System", it is precisely a "smaller party" like LALIT that has brought it out.

But the Prime Minister's Office must have realized all that, because they went to considerable trouble to contact LALIT urgently on Wednesday 26 March, to inform us that parties like LALIT would not be excluded from the consultations, once Parliamentary Parties had had preliminary consultations. The fact that the Prime Minister himself found time to be involved in that rectification operation is perhaps an indication that the Government parties feel politically insecure.
RS