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Mauritius Media at a glance: 29 Oct. 2008: L'Estrac, Oodiah and Lee Kwan Yew


A political cartoon in Le Defi Weekly paper of 25 October: the title: "A National Unity Alliance". Paul Berenger, Navin Ramgoolam, and Pravin Jugnauth with their arms round one another. Berenger saying: "Very good idea". Navin Ramgoolam saying: "Working together in the interest of the country". Pravin Jugnauth, as to be expected, asking: "But there is a problem; who will be the Prime Minister?"

In the cartoon, Jean Claude de L'Estrac replies: "No problem. I've thought of everything: three Prime Ministers, nine Vice-Prime Ministers (three from each party), three Vice-Presidents (one from each party), and of course ME as President."

What inspired the cartoon was de L'Estrac's proposition that the Labour Party, MMM, and MSM should get together to form a "Government for National Salvation"; as according to him, those three parties have more or less the same politics. Such a government would avoid the oppositional demagogy from the parliamentary opposition parties: the press, trade unions and social organisations providing the necessary checks and balances to the authority of this kind of one party state.

De L'Estrac's proposition was made in a Radio One programme on Friday 17 October, a radio station run by de L'Estrac himself. The next day, on Saturday 18 October, at the weekly press conference of Berenger and the MMM, a journalist from the L'Express newspaper (also run by the same de L'Estrac) asked Berenger what he thought of the proposition. This is what Berenger replied: " Je ne suis pas etonne de cette connerie de plus de de L'Estrac". But Berenger did not however criticise the dictatorial and downright facist thinking behind such a proposition. Those of us who knew de L'Estrac in the MMM of the seventies, were already aware that de L'Estrac had this particular ideological inclination: for example, he was dead against the idea of having different political tendencies within the MMM; he was a great follower of the stalinist regime in the Kremlin. Recently his newspaper L'Express has been a staunch defender of Sithanen's ultraliberal, and therefore undemocratic, economic policies.

Apart from Berenger's crude dismissal, the proposition for a "Government of National Salvation" did not spark off a national debate. So Malenn Oodiah, the L'Estrac- Sithanen hatchet man, tried to provoke a debate in his truly remarkable column "modestly" (and wrongly) called "Bon Sens": the suggestive title of this particular column is : " Pour un projet de sauvetage", and his interpretation of de L'Estrac's proposition is that it is inspired by Lee Kwan Yew's Singapore. Clearly Oodiah believes that Lee Kwan Yew's authoritarian style could be usefully applied to solve problems like communalism, corruption, criminality, drugs and AIDS.

Perhaps the best way to expose Oodiah is to quote the sort of questions he poses, and points he raises:
" ... dans l'environnement economique actuel, les maitres mots sont et seront la competitivite et la productitivite...."
" A Singapour, on sait faire respecter les lois."
" ... la democratie favorise-t-elle ou gene-t-elle le development."
"... ce n'est pas l'autoritarisme qui determine les resultats economiques, mais la qualite du chef autoritaire..."

Oodiah's prose around de L'Estrac's proposition makes it absolutely clear that faced with the financial and economic crisis which we in LALIT have been exposing for quite a long time, Sithanen's "resilient but not immunised" slogan is gradually being replaced by the concept of "development through dictatorship". In the logic of their views on democracy and the economic crisis, soon Sithanen, de L'Estrac, and Oodiah will be denouncing any political opposition to their pro-capitalist and ultra-liberal policies as "unpatriotic".

What is truly mind blowing is that we should be subjected to this kind of garbage, at a time when there is growing general concensus that the kind of ultraliberal and deregulated economic policy that Friedman and Hayek proposed, and that Reagan and Thatcher imposed, and that Sithanen truly believes in, has finally exposed its historical bancruptcy. More and more people throughout the world are putting into question capitalism itself, and here we have people trying to introduce Lee Kwan Yew-ism.

29 October 2008