“He who,…does not stop, nor lie in wait for wealth, honors, or for a worldly state…
who with a toward or untoward lot,…plays in the many games of life,
whom neither shape or danger can dismay.”
William Wordsworth, Character of the Happy Warrior
As we commemorate the 83rd anniversary of the Labour Party this 23rd February, I write to honor leaders as well as the many unsung heroes who have carried forward the Labour legacy across the years; who have lived by Labour values; and who have created change in their own unique ways. In 83 years, the Labour Party has known a multitude of ups and downs, but it has stood the test of time. This Labour resilience finds its roots in the profound staunchness of Labourites who, over and above believing in Labour values, know what the Party stands for. Their allegiance is not to any one person, but to the Labour spirit.
When I ran in the elections in 2014, the one question that many parents asked me was, “will you help my child secure a government job?” My answer was always the same: “That’s not what I am here for. What I can promise though, is that I will ensure we create more jobs, and that we have a system in place that gives your child an equal opportunity to pursue their dreams and allows them to thrive.” I could sense the frustration in the eyes of those parents who felt that I had let them down. But I believed then, as I do now, that no parent should have to beg for a job from a politician, and no politician should be allowed to use the “government job card” to be elected. As much as I often despair with this vicious circle that is so deeply ingrained in our socio-political system, one woman taught me that there is hope and that change is always possible. Pratima, a Labour warrior we unfortunately lost last year, told me, “Our kids deserve better than our pity and sympathy. If we empower them through education, they should know that they are entitled to be choosers, and not beggars.” Pratima made me realize that women like her, the pillars of the Labour Party, are the hope we are seeking; they are the silent agents of change that, above and beyond policies, help recreate a more just and equitable society through their sheer wisdom.
The narrative that politics is dirty and infested with unscrupulous people who seek nothing but their own self-interest above the interest of the people is rife. However, as a young person who jumped into the political arena despite this narrative, I want the brighter side of politics to be known. Yes, there are some wonderful souls too in politics. We may not hear them or see them as often, but they are here, bearing the torch of true politics, navigating political mines day in day out, with the sole aim of making society better. Labourites like Guy Narainsamy, Comra, and late Mr Bhoyroo, and many others who I haven’t got the chance to know, are the selfless warriors who sustain the Labour structure, and enhance it. Full of conviction, and absolutely fearless, even in the face of danger, these Labourites have stood up for the Party in its worst moments of defeat, working tirelessly to rally support, and to uplift this Labour spirit to which they so passionately adhere.
The policy space we have today is not to be taken for granted. It took years of struggle to break from the cycle of colonial oppression. We can never say it enough – the right to vote, access to education irrespective of social status, free healthcare, and old age pension, amongst others, are all outcomes of Labour vision. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Renganaden Seeneevassen, Emmanuel Anquetil, Guy Rozemont, and others laid the foundation for a prosperous nation. Moving forward, under the leadership of Navin Ramgoolam, we witnessed the creation of the Equal Opportunities Commission, the setting up of an economic structure to redistribute resources more equitably, increased access to education, and upliftment of those who are caught in the poverty trap. No Government can ever pretend to achieve perfection. But we should not shy from giving credit to leaders who made a difference in people’s lives, irrespective of our differences in political opinion.
Laws or policies alone do not make a society better; it takes people who are capable and willing to devote time and effort towards a bigger vision to allow for nation growth. And this is an ongoing process. That is why the Labor spirit has to live on, and imparted across generations.