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Web on the Stakes in the Byelection

02.04.2009

This article, which was also distributed as a leaflet during the bye-election, missed its place in the web queue because we were still suffering the "hackers' attack" at the time it was written i.e. in mid February. The article was also sent to Le Mauricien, which did not publish it. Here it is for visitors to read, for the record, and as a hommage to those who did vote LALIT.



The Immense Value of Voting LALIT in the Bye-Election



For the first time in Mauritian history the electorate is being called upon to replace a Member of Parliament who has had his election annulled for electoral fraud. As everyone knows, Ashock Jugnauth has been found by the Supreme Court and, after his appeal, by the Privy Council, to have indulged in electoral fraud in the 2005 General Elections. So, it's his seat that's been put up for election. This means that the bye-election is partly about electoral fraud. This issue is even more compelling because Ashock Jugnauth is standing for re-election, and thus needs to be sanctioned by the electorate for his electoral fraud. Despite his fraud, he is benefitting from total support from his ally in the form of the main opposition, Paul Berenger's MMM and the rump of the old party of the sugar oligarchy, the PMSD.



And this is where it becomes interesting. Ashock Jugnauth did not commit the electoral fraud all by himself, but as part of a Cabinet of Ministers. And who was in the Cabinet with him? Not just his present ally, Paul Berenger, who was Prime Minister. Remember who was Vice-Prime Minister at the time the frauds were concocted in the Cabinet? None other than Ashock Jugnauth's main rival in the bye-election, and nephew, Pravind Jugnauth, leader of the MSM, the other half of the Parliamentary Opposition after the MSM-MMM alliance broke up in the wake of their lost General Election. Pravind Jugnauth is the other candidate from the mainstream pro-bourgeois parties, which turns the bye-election into a bad soap opera, egged on by rather mindless media. Pravind Jugnauth has the tacit support of the Government party, Labour and its Social Alliance, headed by Navin Ramgoolam who carefully criticizes only Ashock Jugnauth. So the choice the electorate has is very narrow indeed for people who think they are obliged to choose between these two candidates from the same dynasty, both of whom have been found to have been involved in electoral fraud.



A vote for LALIT's candidate, Rada Kistnasamy, is a way of expressing your disapproval of all electoral fraud. It is also a way of supporting LALIT's program for limiting electoral fraud, and for opposing gross funding by big capitalists. LALIT stands for a tightening up of the existing law whereby candidates cannot spend more than Rs250,000. All party expenses must be included as well as individual candidates' expenditure, and the onus must be on the candidate to prove that expenses made in his name were not made with his authorization, in cases where this is put as defense. It is easy to legislate to stop up these holes in the existing law.



Economic crisis

Equally important for this election is the economic crisis. The effects of the crisis are already beginning to be felt, and this has contributed clearly to preventing Navin Ramgoolam fielding his own Social Alliance candidate. Everyone knows his policies and his Finance Minister, Rama Sithanen's policies, are responsible for opening the economy so wide that the effects of the economic crisis will be monstrous. After making wild claims that the number of tourists per year would reach two million before they had reached one, the projections for this year are 200,000 below 2008. The Ramgoolam employment strategy has broken down. As for the MMM opposition, it has no different economic strategy to propose. So, both political forces support capitalist liberalism, the very politics responsible for the present crisis. Both candidates do, too.



So, here too LALIT's candidate, Rada Kistnasamy, allows you to express, by means of your vote, a desire for a kind of politics that aims to bring in a different kind of economy. In particular, LALIT stands for an economy that creates jobs. We are in favour of an economy that is under peoples' democratic control. The vast majority of Mauritians, all of whom work to stay alive, can't just sit around and watch the sugar industry and textiles collapsing without having a say in what kind of produce to plant instead of cane, what kind of factories to set up in the place of the mills. Nor can we sit around watching employment being destroyed by Pravind Jugnauth, Paul Berenger and Navin Ramgoolam in quick succession, without insisting that investment aim, first and foremost to create work for people. LALIT stands for an economy that eventually outlaws wage slavery, which is the left-over bit of slavery and indenture, the commercialization of other human beings' labour, part of themselves, for private profit. That is what LALIT stands for.



And we do not just put forward "dreams" and illusions like the liberal pro-capitalists do when they "free capital", hoping piously that the bosses will create jobs. We criticize existing economic policies and propose precise ways to get to where we want to go. For example, long before the present financial and economic crisis, we had started to campaign about the systemic crisis that is hitting Mauritius independently of the global crisis: the systemic crisis that comes with the end of sugar and cane production. Sugar and cane were the raison-d'etre of Mauritius. The colony was set up from scratch in order to produce this commodity, and social formation has been around this production. The sugar bosses later diversified into textiles and hotels and services, true, but the end of sugar and cane will cause a major dislocation that will affect not only economic life but all human life in the country. This is why we are running this campaign to force Government to force the sugar bosses to diversify within agriculture (to begin with by planting all interlines with food crops) for export and for local consumption, and to make use of all the infra-structure around closing sugar mills for new food-processing plants, instead of just abjectly letting them close them as past MMM, MSM and Labour Governments have all done.



This LALIT campaign pre-dated the beginnings of the world food crisis that is pedicted to be one that will stretch over the next 10 or 20 years. Had Government begun to recognize the clairvoyance of our campaign, this would have put Mauritius in a better position than what it is now, having responded to the crisis in sugar by relying increasingly heavily on the tourist industry, the most fragile of all industries. First the hotels were gravely hit by an epidemic of chikungunya, and now the global economic crisis is hitting them even harder. People are being laid off left, right and centre. Some hotels are on the verge of closure. Those laid off from sugar (it will evantually reach some 40,000 jobs closed) are not "counted" in the unemployment figures. But it doesn't mean they have a job. The fact that half the centres where people put their names down as unemployed have closed, doesn't mean people have got jobs.



Education

The third issue in this bye-election is education. This Government has worsened the ongoing crisis in Mauritian education. It has willfully increased the already pathological competition in the system by setting up so-called "Star Schools". It continues to ban the peoples' languages, Kreol and Bhojpuri from schools, and does not even issue text books in basic subjects like Mathematics, Science, Geography and History in the peoples' languages. These two questions are the real often unconscious background to the continued unrest in secondary schools.



A vote for LALIT's candidate, Rada Kistnasamy, is a vote for education to be equalized at the highest level. We propose setting in place easily understandable "dynamics" that bring about equalization, and that bring competition under control: quotas for first choice and for scholarships at the level of each school and each college. LALIT also stands for the introduction as medium of the mother tongues: our natural spoken languages are much more than the cliché which says "language is a means of communication". Our mother tongues are our spontaneous means of understanding the world, as we receive input from our five senses, from our own emotions and as we order our cognition.



Every single additional vote for LALIT means a signal that there are people of integrity who vote on issues.



Lindsey Collen

For LALIT, 17 February