Blog: Labour this Week
In the face of the Medpoint scandal and the turmoil caused by the MSM crossing the floor to join the opposition and Kalyanee Juggoo's public expression of her frustration in not being appointed minister, Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam and the Labour party, slowly but steadily not only controlled the damage but presented a larger view and a bigger picture of the situation.
I hope that the meeting with the PM and her visit to China will put some good sense in her. Many politicians forget that in spite of the personal merit and popularity they stand no chance without the party's support and ticket.
Kalyanee should understand that it was the PM's primary duty to consolidate his majority, to stabilise his government and his sole prerogative to appoint ministers. Political party leaders do not make a distinction between party members and party supporters. MSM left the governing alliance with its members. But the majority of its supporters did not approve the action and remain with the governing party. PM is those circumstances did the best thing possible: appoint Seetaram and Mireille Martin as ministers. The MSM supporters could easily identify themselves with them.
Kalyanee is not so stupid not to realise that in the post-MSM departure situation, PM had to reshuffle his cabinet, and consolidate his government by making Xavier Duval Finance Minister and promoting Anil Baichoo as Vice Prime Minister. She should learn from Lormesh Bundhoo to have patience, wait her turn and serve the PM loyally.
The Prime Minister inaugurated the Schoenfield bypass road recently. Massive road development is taking place throughout the country and cannot go unnoticed. Everybody is putting up with the inconvenience being caused. At this rate PM will have to inaugurate a road monthly for the coming four years. He is right when he says that development takes place by implementing a vision and not by palabres.
Can anybody tell me at what time Anil Baichoo reaches office daily and at what time he reaches home? He leaves home at 7 am, reaches office at eight and no fixed time to return home. Any wonder that he defeats his opponent by the largest margin? Any surprise that he was promoted Vice Prime Minister at the last reshuffle?
There will be other two celebrations this week. First, twenty years of Navin Ramgoolam's parliamentary life and SSR 111th birthday. It is important to mark and celebrate the parliamentary life of the PM. In the last five consecutive general elections he had participated in the same constituency, he was always elected on top. Twice he occupied the office of the Leader of the Opposition and three times the office of the Prime Minister including the current one.
Both Paul Berenger - leader of the MMM, Anerood Jugnauth and Pravind Jugnauth, leader of the MSM, had suffered personal defeat and had to change constituencies.
In the past many pundits had written off Labour and thrown it in the dustbin of history. It was at that time that Navin Ramgoolam took the leadership and defeated both MMM and MSM together in 2005. Is it a mean feat? Does he not deserve admiration for building the party and bringing it back to power? Some accuse him of poaching the players of other teams.
In our football crazy era, they must realise that winning teams like Manchester United and Barcelona are constituted by players from all parts of the world and from other teams. I hope that they know that Navin Ramgoolam's favorite sport is boxing - a sport in which our country excels both at regional and international level. They must always beware the knockout blow.
I also had the privilege of attending the memorial lecture on Sir Satcam Boolell by Kiran Ramsahaye, Editor in Chief of Le Matinal. We could say that we both had known Sir Satcam. He was a kind of mentor to us. Kiran revealed some interesting unknown facts of his life. Born in the village of New Grove, Sir Satcam did not have normal schooling. He was coached by the Bissoondoyal brothers for his matriculation exams, studied law and joined politics on his return from London. He was elected in 1953 as an independent candidate. In 1955, he joined Labour.
Sir Satcam was independent-minded. Together with Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo, Sir Harold Walter, Sir Guy Forget, he was a giant of his time, but always by the side of SSR. The country owes him a debt of gratitude for his role in concluding the Lomé Convention and the Sugar Protocol. The benefits derived from these agreements irrigated the economy of our country and contributed to the development we are enjoying today. Sir Satcam was also one of the main architects, under the guidance of SSR, for the post-independence reconciliation with Sir Gaetan Duval and the PMSD.
On assuming the office of Governor General, SSR made him leader of the party. In all humility Sir Satcam although representing the most powerful component of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge alliance since 1983 agreed to play a junior role to Sir Anerood Jugnauth in the larger interest of the community and the country.
He had the vision and wisdom to understand that Labour needed new and younger blood to bring it back into power. He handed over the leadership to Navin Ramgoolam. His son Arvind a pur sang Labour is today Minister of Foreign Affairs and serving the party and country loyally.
This week I went through the book Gems from SSR which my friend Bhismadev Seebaluck had compiled and I had the honor to publish in 2000. In his message on that occasion the Prime Minister wrote the following:
Born at the turn of the last century to an indentured Indian immigrant family, he had within a generation liberated Mauritius. He transformed what was described as "an overcrowded barracoon" into democratic, stable and modern state.
Sir Seewoosagur also cultivated the spirit of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence and laid the foundation of our unity so vital in our multi-cultural society.
Throughout his political career that spanned a period of four decades, Sir Seewoosagur was motivated by his deep conviction in the essential oneness of humanity irrespective of colour, creed or religion.
His vision for a fair and just society is enshrined in our constitution, a legacy for which the Mauritian nation shall forever be grateful to him.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his tribute said: "He fought singularly against all kinds of social evils and laid down the foundation for the healthy Mauritian society, which is an enviable example for emulation by all humanity".
Just imagine Belle Rive village in Flacq those days. No electricity, no telephone, no running water, schools miles away and SSR having the misfortune of losing his father at the age of seven, losing his left eye at the age of twelve in a serious accident. Nothing deterred him from continuing his studies.
He completed his Junior Cambridge at Royal College of Curepipe and at twenty-one he set sail to London to study medicine where he stayed fourteen years. He spent his time not only to study medicine but joined the freedom movement of India and met Gandhi, Nehru and Bose among others. In 1924 he became the president of the London branch of the Indian National Congress.
The British Labour Party had come into power under Ramsay Mcdonald as Prime Minister. The political climate encouraged him to join the Fabian society which was committed to gradual rather that revolutionary reforms. In the first pamphlet of the society the explanatory note declared "For the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did patiently, when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays, but when the time comes you must strike hard, as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain and fruitless".
Does this throw some light on the strategy of SSR and Navin Ramgoolam? SSR wanted for his people all the things free people enjoy: decent housing, electricity, running water and the opportunity to establish a democratic form of government so that they could exercise the power of making their own decisions.
He laid the foundation of modern Mauritius and gave us a welfare state with free education, free health service and social aid to the poor and needy and pensions on retirement to one and all. He made the workers "hold their heads high with the assurance that they and their ancestors have given the best to this little island. The past never belongs to them but the future smiles on them."
These celebrations must remind us of the journey yet uncovered to keep a smile on the faces of our countrymen. Labour should continuously work as they are doing this week.