Building a cohesive Society of Equals

Time to look ahead and to move forward. On the dawn of the fiftieth anniversary of Independence there is a rallying call to revisit mixed policies and rebuild the image of Mauritius. Since 2015 the decline of institutions is largely due to greed and our quick surrender to democracy of the market. Democracy at any level depends on democracy at all levels. Putting people before profit is relevant unless we don't want to move from procedural democracy of globalisation -"which restricts itself to voting while societies are polarized between a tiny wealthy oligarchy and a huge poor majority toward the social democracy that can attack global corporate power at its roots."
The tendency towards concentration of power is real and no one can remain insensitive or indifferent. What can we do?
We can do a lot to ensure that the cure is not worse than the disease.

Is it a long, long way to Tipperary?

To embark on a journey of constructive destruction for the building of a cohesive society of equals, a team of Constitutional experts has to be appointed to frame a new Constitution. Much ground has been already covered in the two volumes of the report of the Commission on Constitutional and Electoral Reform. The Constitutional Law of Mauritius, a book recently written by Dr Milan Meetarbhan, is an awakening call: "After half a century the time may be right for the people of Mauritius to give themselves a Constitution of their own". And why not the setting up of a Constituent assembly to make the process inclusive?

The new Commission should comprise of persons who are pragmatic and practical who will voice out for example on the definition of Protection from Discrimination in Section 16 of our Constitution where there is no recourse to language. When oriental languages were brought at par with core subjects for CPE ranking purposes, it generated a lot of heat within the Mauritian Community. Besides, how many of the international covenants or treaties to which we are parties have been entrenched in our Constitution? We signed the UN Charter on the Economic and Social Council but there is no provision in our Constitution on poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
The solid foundation of any Constitution rests upon the wide demarcation line of separation of power between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Parliament is supreme as long as Mauritius remains a Democratic Sovereign State. In one word trespassing the demarcation line is forbidden.
                                
Role of Parliament

As Edmund Burke in his famous speech to the electors of Bristol on November 3rd 1774 explained, "…Government and Legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?" His final point is the jewel in the crown: “Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole, where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”
"If Parliament is the "temple of democracy" it has to be a chamber where the representatives of the Indian people assemble to express their considered opinions and thoughtful disagreements, before coming to an outcome in the interests not of a party but of a country as a whole" as rightly pointed out by Sashi Tharoor. On Constitutional matters or routine and non-controversial bills, members of parliament cannot always parrot party lines. Should an MP subordinate his conscience to the party whip on all bills? In India, pertinent questions are put and remain unanswered? Mr Sashi Tharoor asked whether the schedule in the anti defection clause could override the main provisions of the Constitution. The reply is not forthcoming.
                                                     
Constitution is sacrosanct
 
The issues to be raised are so fundamental that we have erred on the principle of caution to protect the sacrosanctity of our Constitution. It has to be the ownership of the people and as the supreme law of the Land it remains the backbone of the structure of our Society.

The reform has to be the subject of wide discussion at the bar of public opinion. The majority of the population feel the pressing need to build upon the legacy of Late Professor De Smith, framer of our Constitution, whose ashes were scattered upon our soil. There is therefore a clarion call for a society of Equals.

Notwithstanding the review of our Constitution, which is the backbone of our society, this paper contains some ideas and suggestions which aim to support the building of a cohesive society of equals in Mauritius.  It uses the following categorisation throughout, in seeking to appeal to young Mauritians to engage in the democratic processes of government and state:
 
Generation 1:  Those who were alive at the time of Mauritian independence.
Generation 2:  The young adults in today’s Mauritius.
Generation 3:  The children of today’s young adults – the next generation.

Fifty years Since Independence: Just One Generation
 
• Since independence, ‘Generation 1’ has invested in the economy - agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and financial services and IT. However the most important investment the Republic of Mauritius ever made was in the education of our children and young adults. This was an investment, not just on the part of successive governments. It was a personal investment of time and effort, on the part of parents and children in homes all across Mauritius.  It was within our homes, first and foremost, that education was so highly valued, because of its transformative power: the power of education to change our thinking, our lives, our communities, our society and our world for the better. Education brings with it the power of ideas and the power of dreams. It is dynamic and needs to adapt to changing landscape. Under the Labour Government free education and transport have been provided to all students.
 
• Generation 2: You may criticise the policies of the past and how they were implemented.  You may even criticise the political system of the day.  That is your right and your privilege. Remember that these rights and privileges do not exist in every part of the world.
 
• When you have finished criticising the status quo, what will you do then?  Will you go back to your virtual world - your Facebook and Instagram - and distance yourself from the real problems around you? If you do that, what will you leave for Generation 3?  This is your greatest challenge today.  You must now take a lead in deciding the policies, be they political, economic or social, which will shape the Mauritius of tomorrow. 
 
• Mauritius is in a state of transition, from Generation 1 to Generation 2.  If you criticise the legacy of the past, step forward now and make the future different.  Otherwise you will be answerable, in another fifty years’ time to your own children and grandchildren, as to why Mauritius is still afflicted by its darker shadows. 
 
• You do not need to commute to Hermitage, or even Ebène, to avail of technology. You have already arrived at the global technological village, and your phones and your laptops have taken you there.  Right now, the global village extends to almost every home in Mauritius. You know this village much better than your parents or I ever will, and that is why only you can take Mauritius forward now. Only you have the knowledge and skills to take us to that place, where Generation 3 can proudly take its place on the world stage. 
 
• Generation 3:  In the future, there will be a unified Republic of Mauritius which will include the Chagos Archipelago. It is only then that our nation will truly come of age.  However, along with our sovereign right to that territory, we must also take responsibility for ensuring that human rights abuses are respected throughout the Chagos Archipelago. We must also ensure that our Chagossian brothers and sisters can take their rightful place in the Mauritian community, and that they have a viable future.
 
The Global Village
 
• In an age of divisiveness, Mauritians are a shining example of how different traditions can peacefully co-exist. This is precious in the world today, and it is something which must be cherished, above all else. There are narratives of hatred afoot in the world. Our words matter, just as much as what it is that we carry in our heart. Take care with the messages you send, because they make a difference in the lives of others. Your messages will shape the future. Mauritius must build on its unique history of inclusiveness. In today’s troubled world, this is your most precious legacy which you are now inheriting from Generation 1. 
 
• Generation 2:  You have come of age.  What will you do with your legacy? What will you leave for Generation 3? I know you have the capacity to deliver.