Blog: Michëal Sik Yuen’s Best Loser nomination - Should the « sino-Mauritian » category be scrapped?
Given that European first-past-the-post democracy leads to various anomalies and injustices, in the context of multi cultural Mauritius, the Best Loser System was introduced in 1966 to protect minority rights, but this does not mean that the nominated candidate will only represent the community he/she belongs to as opponents of the BLS system wrongly want us to believe through propaganda : « In order to ensure a fair and adequate representation of each community, there shall be 8 seats in the Assembly, additional to the 62 seats for members representing constituencies », First Schedule, Section 3(2), Part 5.
The Mauritian Constitution recognises four « communities ». The background of that recognition is that Hindus, Muslims and Chinese demanded that they should be separately recognised in the Constitution, namely, Hindus and Muslims identified by their religions and Mauritian Chinese recognised by their origin, that is, as Sino-Mauritians. Neither Christians nor Mauritians of African origin made a case for separate recognition. Hence, non Hindus, non Muslims and non Sino-Mauritians are included in the « General Population » residual category, which, for administrative purposes, is regarded as a « fourth community », given that General Population is not strictly a community. Atheists, Sikhs, Bahaïs, Ahmadiya/Qadianiyya, Mauritian Jews, would also form part of this residue.
When registering as a candidate at elections, the Electoral Commission does not require ‘proof’ of religion or ethnicity or « way of life ». A candidate who does not wish to be identified by religion or ethnicity is perfectly free to choose to be identified as part of the General Population : « each candidate at an election shall be regarded as belonging to the community to which he declared he belonged at his nomination », First Schedule, Section 3(2), Part 3(3). However, if an elector is not happy with the candidate « as to the correctness of the declaration relating to his community », he should apply to the courts within seven days of his nomination [Part 3(2)].
Michëal Sik Yuen is a sino-Mauritian of Christian faith. He was a candidate at the last general elections under the banner of the LP-MSM-PMSD alliance. But when he registered his candidacy with the Electoral Commission, he declared that he belonged to the “General Population”, and this was not challenged within seven days. However, since « Christians » is not a recognised constitutional community, one would reasonably expect that Mr Sik Yuen should have declared himself as a sino-Mauritian by his « way of life » as this is a category fought for by sino-Mauritians. Any Best Loser nominated from the General Population would normally be a Christian because a sino-Mauritian would benefit from the BLS under his own constitutional category. For the purposes of community representation in the legislature, can Mr Sik Yuen be regarded as belonging to the « sino-Mauritian » community by his « way of life » or the « General Population » residual community? It appears that Mr Sik Yuen may have misled the Electoral Commission on his « way of life ». If he were a franco-Mauritian of Christian faith, this would not have posed any problem because there is no ‘franco-Mauritian’ « way of life » head which could have benefited a franco-Mauritian candidate under the BLS.
It is accepted that every one knows that Michëal Sik Yuen is a sino-Mauritian. The hands of the electoral Commission were tied because they have no power to prevent any candidate from being identified as part of the General Population. Two categories are based on religion (Hindus and Muslims) while one is based on Chinese ethnicity where the member of the ethnic group may belong to any religion or even be an atheist. What if Mr Sik Yuen were a Hindu and chose to be identified under General Population? Or, what if a non indo-Mauritian Hindu chose to select General Population? It appears that they are free to do so. It would be impossible to manage otherwise.
But was Mr Sik Yuen’s selection of “General Population” designed to increase his chances of being nominated under BLS at the expense of another candidate should he not be elected? If not, why did he do so since he is so visibly « sino-Mauritian »? There is clearly a lacuna in the categorisation of communities within the Constitution. To prevent such abuse of the BLS system, the government should either make it compulsory for any sino-Mauritian candidate to select his/her relevant « community » or scrap the sino-Mauritian category altogether and create a separate Christian category, leaving any residue in the « General Population ». To avert any further abuse, a candidate should be required to swear an affidavit as to his/her way of life under pain of sanction. Those who argue that the nomination of Mr Sik Yuen as Best Loser should have gone to an Afro Mauritian of Christian faith (who they refer to as ‘Creole’) do not know what they are talking about. First of all, « General Population » is not synonymous with African Mauritians of Christian faith. Secondly, such approach is discriminatory against Afro-Mauritians of non-Christian faiths and even racist against non afro-Mauritian Christians.