The roads are awash with wannabe leaders, pseudo leaders, genuine leaders trying to convince us that they are the ones who should be the ones to decide of our livelihoods for the coming five years. Men, women and their hangers-on have suddenly discovered the smallest lanes of constituencies and have suddenly found empathy within their hearts to take time to listen to what we, people who bear the brunt of their sometimes-dodgy decisions, have to say. Suddenly we have become the most important people in this country for a couple of weeks. Sadly, it’s only a question of time before we are thrown to the side and our voices will be considered as perpetual dissidents and discontents. Why such pessimism I hear you ask. Simply because in a fast-changing world, when everything is evolving beyond this little rock we call home, our politicians think that we have remained stuck in time like they have.
The leaders of two of the main coalitions, Navin Ramgoolam and the Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, have resorted to their archaic ways of campaigning. Between the two, it’s a mudslinging contest, sometimes on personal lives, other times based on each other’s performances as Prime Minister. With crowds of yes-men and women cheering on their mediocre speeches, or rather screeching diatribes, they are emboldened in wrongly thinking that they are “the kings of the world”. In fact, they are contributing to this country’s citizens remaining stuck in time, by not raising the level of doing politics, by not leading by example or in such a way that people start thinking about real issues. Instead, they lead by mediocrity. In this respect, they should take a leaf or two from the 2019 campaign of the MMM so far. For once, a “traditional” party is showing some initiative: no intention of coalition before elections, as any self-respecting party would in any self-respecting democracy; promising new faces who will hopefully bring this new trend the MMM seems to be adopting to greater heights; no mudslinging in each and every speech so far and a presentation of 20 priority fields to tackle. The MMM does score high marks for these initiatives but the rest of the campaign will determine whether it will keep on surfing this welcome shift.
While the Alliance Nationale and Alliance Morisien are throwing promises here and there, during their speeches, they are yet to come with their official electoral manifestos. Contrary to so-called “small” parties like Lalit or even the Reform Party and its volatile leader, the two Alliances are yet to set out concrete proposals, crucial for any informed voter to make his/her decision. With regard to what the discourses of Alliance Morisien have focused on so far, we do not want to hear how the Ramgoolam government performed or the amount of money found in his coffers. We want to know how far the manifesto presented for the last elections has been respected, and if not, why. We also want to know why some projects which were considered as a no-no, such as the implementation of the biometric card system and the “metro” project, have been fast-tracked to the detriment of other projects such as the setting up of a land court, which was the cause of the latest hunger strike of Mr. Harmon. If politicians want to be credible, they need to step up and explain their actions. If they want to be taken seriously, they should focus on the way forward, not by the presentation of cosmetic changes or promises such as monetary increases but by addressing challenges and issues as we enter another decade of the 2000s.
In a world which is developing by leaps and bounds, what is being proposed for the country to address the challenges that we face as a Small Island Developing State? What long-lasting proposals are being made to improve the education system, over and above the abolition of private tuition, which seems to be the go-to issue whenever the topic of education is addressed? How will the health system be brought on par with international standards? What measures would be initiated to see the country through climate change challenges? Other than the much touted carrot of old age pension, how will the issue of ageing population be tackled so that it does not represent a problem in the long run?
These are but a few topics which should have been on the top list of any politician who is worth his/her ilk. Unfortunately, since our politicians lack any sense of forward thinking and since their vision is limited to their adversaries, they insult our intellect by luring us with cosmetic changes and vapid promises. It is up to us, the citizens, to bring them to task and urge them to address matters which have become of utmost importance if they want to have a seat at the National Assembly and if we want to have ours on the international table.