If the Prime Minister’s argument that there is a political motivation behind the recent events is true, there should be cause for concern and worry. We expect our political leaders as well as those aspiring to lead to possess certain qualities and to embrace behaviour/s which are aligned to national unifying principles rather than having recourse to divisive acts/discourses. We take great pride in the fact that we are often cited as a model of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence but the reality is that we continue to sit on kegs of powder especially more so now that people’s livelihoods are increasingly threatened.  Effective diversity management can only be built on genuine equal opportunities, justice for all. And for this we need ethical, competent, exemplary and selfless leadership. Without these, the quest for peace will remain elusive.
The present conjuncture demands some further analysis of the Mauritian social fabric’s fragility.  In the late 1990s, I led the Mauritius Social Fabric Study Phase 2 initiated by the Mauritius Research Council. The study made a number of policy recommendations to which little attention, if at all, has been paid. This resonates with the plight of the findings and recommendations of the Truth and Justice Commission. And yet the findings and recommendations of both these studies are fundamental to the healing of our people’s wounds and to the reconciling of the nation.
In the foreword to the social fabric study in the aftermath of the February 1999 riots, Mohamed  Vayid wrote:
‘Mauritius faces many challenges on the threshold of the new millenium. The social unrest that the country has experienced recently emphasises the difficulties of living in a congested, pluriethnic and pluricultural society and the urgent need to offer equality of opportunity for all citizens and introduce genuine meritocracy….I hope that the findings of this research project will be useful to our policy makers and guide them in their policy options. The right policy mix would certainly assist the establishment of peace….’.
But sadly politicians have gone into the habit of formulating and implementing policies totally oblivious of realities on the ground. Sada Reddi’s excellent piece on the need for furthering social science research in a recent edition of Mauritius Times highlights the pertinence of social science knowledge production but the social sciences remain terribly underfunded and continue to be marginalised – an aspect that those leading the current educational reforms and investments in R and D should perhaps consider.
 What threatens peace today is not so much the inter ethnic and inter religious tensions (albeit they should not be ignored) but rather the growing polarisation and inequalisation of Mauritian society as well as the arrogance prevailing in certain government quarters. The deficit of humility, humanity, communication, transparency, trust and empathy prevailing amongst the political leaders contribute to threatening social stability.
The Country Diagnosis of the World Bank (2015) draws our attention to the growing inequality, poverty and thinning of the middle class. The latter is a portender of the country’s increased fragility and unless we channel our energies towards addressing poverty in a coherent manner and creating opportunities for the voiceless, powerless and the assetless; prosperity and social cohesion will remain threatened. If the political class is sincere about peace and stability, the following may provide them with food for thought and action. There is a need for:
1. A new social contract built on an alternative development model – not one where we are simply chasing growth and ‘miracles’ but rather one which is truly compatible with job creation, food security, the dignity of the human being, reasonable consumption levels and ecological sustainability.
2.  Ethical governance and leadership – It is well established that there is a strong linkage between corruption and poverty and that one major source/cause  of corruption is the opaque funding of political parties. A regulatory framework and appropriate legislation for political party funding is a priority.
3. The promotion of meritocracy – Responses such as  ‘we are government – we decide’  and ‘ we can only trust “OUR” people do not constitute any form of good governance whatsoever.  Worse still – we have a minister telling us that he would be forever grateful to his colleague minster for assisting in keeping his son in the position he occupies. The question that comes to mind is whether the position was ever advertised and did all the young people with similar qualifications have the same chance of being recruited?.
4. The quick introduction and implementation of the Declaration of Assets Act – As Nelson Mandela rightly pointed out: Poverty like many other forms of oppression are man made. The enrichment of some at the expense of others cannot and should not be tolerated.
5. A secular state where there is no room for the politicisation of ethnicity and religion. What if pilgrims wishing to go to Gangotri, Haridwar and Rishikesh or to Lourdes start asking for state support and intervention. What if all the ministries begin to open special ethnic desks?
6. Policy making especially in such sensitive fields such as education should be informed by evidence based research and genuine consultations with all stakeholders. Policies cannot be made in a vacuum and/or in a piecemeal manner.
7. Teacher training should include modules on minority rights and working with disadvantaged children and ensure that schools are not sites for racial stereotyping and prejudice.
8. Courses such as  ‘interfaith dialogue and peace’ offered jointly by the UOM and the Council of Religions should be encouraged. However, the course content should not be restricted to the understanding and appreciation of the diverse religions. The question of minority rights, governance, conflict resolution  and diversity management should be central to such a course.
9. Mauritians  should get rid of the  culture of ‘tolerating the intolerable’ and the intolerable here refers to the hundreds of families living in abysmal conditions, often without electricity, water, toilets and adequate food.
10. A Minority Act and relevant affirmative action as well as more powers granted to the Equal Opportunities Commission will go a long way in consolidating our social fabric.
Inter ethnic harmony and sustainable peace requires a holistic approach to development and justice for all. Retaliating to the recent events at our places of worship by a state of emergency will not necessarily help. As Martin Luther king once said: ‘Peace is not about the absence of conflicts but the presence of justice.’