One of the hallmarks of a fascist State is when uniformed men are employed by the State to do illegal acts. And then the police don’t act against them – even though it is clearly stated on the Statute Books that the act they are doing is illegal. This time we are not referring to violence by the police. We refer to a more intellectual form of State violence and impunity. The Tourism Authority employs uniformed men to paint dark blue crosses on both public and private buildings. Here is the law on so-called “defacing of building” – Criminal Code (Supplementary) Act Sec. 4:
“(1) Any person who –
(a) paints, draws or affixes a writing –

(ii) without the permission of the owner, on a building or structure,
in a manner that renders the writing capable of being seen by the public shall commit an offence.”
There is up to one year’s prison upon conviction. The offense is arrestable. Note that it does not say “Any person, except one given orders by, say, Minister X, commits an offence …”
Now, in Mauritius, prior to these bands of uniformed men painting crosses on public and private buildings, there was a lot of propaganda (another hallmark of fascism) against ordinary people putting up posters freely. So, the tradition of beautiful posters off wooden-block printing-presses advertising a football tournament in a village or a Fancy Fair in a town, were gradually “defamed” by well-meaning do-gooders until posters were generally seen as “an eyesore”. Never mind that this tradition was one of the most democratic means of communication, or “media”, in the country. Never mind that it was through these posters that villages and neighbourhoods in towns became integrated societies. Never mind that the posters were often beautiful. Just because the tradition was abused by the likes of parties like the PMSD, itself, and other mainstream parties, does not justify stifling free expression.
The stifling of this democratic mass media began precisely when the private sector was busy for the first time setting up big billboards to advertise their goods and services. So, rich capitalists can advertise their wares, that they sell unashamedly for profit alone, without it being an eyesore. They can sell real estate, for example, to rich people from abroad. They can insult women, en passant. They can employ children as actors in this manipulation. They can peddle insurance and banking. They can make wildly untrue statements – resting assured that they will never be charged with “spreading false news”. And, none of this is an eyesore? Even the BAI, for example, under Minister of Finance Xavier Duval, was quite busy using such billboards to advertise its products to working people. Even its ads were not seen as an eyesore. Never mind that they, like all billboards, block the view of the mountains, the green countryside, rivers, the sky or the sea. The BAI message was not even seen as an eyesore, though it is now exposed as having been rather more serious than an eyesore. No crosses were painted on those billboards.
All this to say:
Is it an eye-sore to see posters denouncing slavery?
Or is it an eye-sore to see a huge cross on them? (Picture numbers 1 and 2.)
Is it an eye-sore to see a poster calling for the use of our daily language in Parliament?
Or is it an eye-sore to see big dark blue crosses on them? (Picture numbers 3 and 4.)
And what does the State provide, in exchange for turning public space into commercial space? In exchange for defacing perfectly sensible messages?
1. A very small number of billboards. In some areas, none at all.
2. These billboards are not reserved for non-profit events, but are hogged by the commercial cinemas, circuses and supermarkets.
3. Almost all these billboards are paralell to the road, in any case, and thus fairly useless.
4. Many of them are no longer operational, but act like a mockery of the State. (Picture number 5)
It is high time that the Tourism Authority stopped defacing Mauritius with these appalling, disturbing crosses.
If the PMSD “mank lokipasyon” for their activists, they could pay them to wash the bus stops and Telecom structures, for example, instead of painting blue crosses on them – and, with the permission of the owners, even paint them anew.
That would allow free expression, and also keep the background to new posters nice and spruce.
And then, perhaps the big billboards could be banned as not just eye-sores, but as sores upon the intelligence of the people.