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Focus on labour day celebrations

7 mai 2024, 20:49


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Focus on labour day celebrations

The First of May was celebrated for the first time as a public holiday in Mauritius in May 1950, thanks largely to the efforts of Guy Rozemont, Dr Maurice Curé, Pandit Sahadeo and Emmanuel Anquetil, amongst others, who founded the Labour Party. Therefore, Labour Day is of special significance for Mauritian workers who have struggled for their social, political and economic rights. However, over the years, it has been associated with important crowd gatherings at political meetings, especially during pre-electoral campaigns.

Politics. Battle of crowds

In the context of general elections that are due by the end of the year, the climate of anticipation and excitement was a thousandfold this year for the two major political blocs. The Labour Party-Mouvement Militant Mauricien-Nouveaux Démocrates (LP-MMM-ND) opposition alliance led by Navin Ramgoolam is geared to “regain power” after ten years of a dry period while the Mouvement Socialiste Militant-Muvman Liberater-Linite Militant (MSM-ML-LM) led by Prime minister Pravind Jugnauth is determined by all means to “remain in power”. Both leaders have thus been engaging in a show of force and a “war to the death”.

So, attracting the biggest crowd was highest on their agenda and by all means – even ‘the meanest ones’, like monopolizing the largest number of buses and preventing Metro Express from operating until after the meetings while the use of drones for filming the crowds was prohibited without a special permit, granted to only one company for the government meeting in Vacoas…

However, according to political and other civil society observers, this did not deter those who wanted to attend the opposition meeting in Port-Louis from doing so. We will not delve in the numbers each camp achieved, but will rather sum up what the two major and the two minor potential contenders delivered in their messages to the population that could fortunately, thanks to private radios broadcasting live on social media, attend all the meetings in the comfort of their homes… and make their own opinions.

MSM- ML-LM in Vacoas

Pravind Jugnauth, the Prime minister (PM) and leader of the MSM-ML-LM alliance, had two main lines of thought in his speech – attacking his nemesis Navin Ramgoolam and advocating the positive results of his government. The leader of the LP-MMM-ND alliance was once again his privileged target. He attacked his campaign against the Covid-19 vaccine that nearly cost him his life, recalled the case of Navin Ramgoolam’s safes with millions of unused banknotes and accused the Labour Party in power of having helped the industry of corruption flourish and harboured drug traffickers. He also mentioned opposition politicians of hiding bank accounts and property abroad before naming Labour MPs Shakeel Mohamed and Ehsan Juman as “poisons”. He also accused his ex-good friend Sherry Singh of trying to harm him and his family… through fake videos.

The big crowd in his meeting in Vacoas, according to Pravind Jugnauth, means that the majority of Mauritians trust him for his promotion of social justice and a fair sharing of the cake. Thanks to the good management of his government, the country recovered well during the Covid-19 pandemic, and he prided himself with the unprecedented development in the country, including the Côte-d'Or sports complex, the SAJ Bridge, etc. He reiterated his government’s intention to present the Budget and avoided completely the issue of the by-election in constituency No 9. In a nutshell, since he did not announce anything new in what was expected to be a big showdown, the population will have to bear with him for a few more weeks or months…

LP-MMM-ND Alliance in Port-Louis

Navin Ramgoolam, leader of the LP-MMM-ND alliance, announced 20 flagship measures of his eventual government to fight inflation with the rupee having devalued by 48%, to combat the scourge of drugs, insecurity, the catastrophic educational situation and the effects of global warming. He also announced lower gas prices, free internet and public transport for all, the maintenance of all pensions and a thorough tax reform, the revision of the Financial Crimes Commission Act to return all his powers to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the setting up of a powerful institution to fight corruption. Ramgoolam also warned against any attempt at electoral fraud and insisted on a “meaningful vote”. The remaining question is how will he finance all these reforms? This is where he will have to convince prospective voters… beyond the crowd of converts present in Port-Louis.

Linion Moris in Rose-Hill

A group of small extra-parliamentary parties that have assembled under the umbrella of Linion Moris was at Edouard VII Square in Rose-Hill, where they attracted a fair crowd of activists, who want a thorough change in government. Having already put forward its list of candidates and shadow cabinet with Nando Bodha and Rama Valayden presented as future PMs on a 3-2-year basis, around ten speakers followed each other for two hours focusing mostly on its programme, which features, amongst others, guaranteed work for each graduate, the restructuring of the agricultural sector to achieve food self-sufficiency, lower prices and an allowance for housewives, among others. The other focus was on the fight against corruption and the need for a reshuffling of the legal system to protect and ensure equal justice for all citizens.

Reform Party E-Meeting

The leader, Roshi Bhadain, a former MSM MP and minister, innovated with an e-meeting, saying that his party would not prepared invest money in fighting the battle of crowds. It had chosen to use social media to address the population and would go to the elections alone. Thus, 50 of its aspiring 60 candidates for the forthcoming elections were given one minute on screen to elaborate on one of its 80 promised reforms. The recurring themes were the proliferation of drugs among young people, the waste of public funds, and the exodus of workers and professionals; they also addressed a dysfunctional Parliament which sits only six months out of 12 and just once a week. Another reform this party advocates will be the right for the people to recall their MP, if necessary, and the election by the people of the President of the Republic. It also plans to reduce the number of parastatal bodies and state companies while merging some of them; to introduce a public debt ceiling and a tax liability law; and to protect and reward whistleblowers.

Honouring the departed. Nothing spectacular

Labour Day is usually a day when all former freedom fighters and political leaders are remembered, and it can be quite an elaborate show. This year in the special context where the focus was on the meetings, the usual laying of wreaths by the major blocks was not very impressive. The only notable feature was the presence at different moments on Tuesday of the leaders of the LP-MMM-ND opposition alliance, those of the MSM-ML-LM ruling alliance and of the PMSD caught on film laying wreaths on Sir Gaëtan Duval’s tombstone at St-Jean Cemetery.

Trade unions. Bereft of their role

Trade unions have always voiced their disagreement with the hijacking over the years of that day dedicated to workers by political parties. However, this year, many workers responded to the call from several labour organizations to participate in a peaceful march, which started beside Saint-Jean church in Quatre-Bornes and proceeded to the recreational park in Ebene. Their leaders voiced their demands in the hope that they will be taken into account for the next general election. Among the points raised, the minimum wage raised recently Rs18 500 and the disruption it has caused in salary scales. Moreover, they maintain that this raise has been absorbed by raging inflation and the absence of a real control of prices, so that a majority of workers find themselves in debt and struggling to support themselves. They also called for a legislative review to prevent the dismissal of staff after elections, particularly in parastatal institutions, highlighting the excessive politicization of these entities.

Folklore and creativity

On the sidelines of the long speeches by various orators and the leaders, Labour Day events are characterised by colourful flags, T-shirts, creative displays and musical accompaniments… And last, but not least, the free trips to the beach, with lunch and drinks provided…