As declared a month ago, We Love Mauritius joined Kalipso and George Ah Yan in the fight to end the progressive privatisation of the public domain. The first battle was to stop a restaurant being built on Mont Choisy Public Beach.
Today that battle has been decisively won with the State Law Office deciding that such private businesses can only operate on land that has been “de-proclaimed”, i.e. removed from the public domain, in other words privatised. Three cheers for Dr Abu Kasenally, Minister of Housing and Lands, who announced to us last week that de-proclaiming pubic beaches is out of the question.
The next battle, to liberate Flat Island and Ilot Gabriel from the “ti copains”, has begun with an email to the Ministry of Agro Industry. But what launched this new wave of privatisation? On has to look no further than the Ministry of Tourism. The Hotel Development Strategy authorised by ex-Minister of Tourism, Xavier “kid Kreol” Duval contains the following paragraphs:
The importance of striking the right equilibrium between the exigencies of the tourism sector and the recreational needs of the Mauritians is recognised. Applications for annexure of part of public beaches to existing hotel sites will be examined with utmost care and regionwise, taking into consideration the community needs and the availability of recreational facilities in the area.
It is reckoned that the main island is severely constrained in terms of coastal land resources especially prime hotel sites. Consideration will be given to making an optimal use of those islets which are not classified as strict nature reserves and have a touristic potential. The development of very low density, luxurious hide-aways for the jet-set and the top-end segments will certainly induce a move upmarket and propel Mauritius as an icon of quality tourism. Stringent regulations will however, have to be worked out with all authorities concerned in conformity with the carrying capacity of each islet.
In other words, it was Xavier’s plan to privatise whatever he could get away with. While he gave lip-service to the principles of concern for the Mauritian people and the environment, they never seemed to figure in his calculations of how much commission he would get from giving away our national assets. What did he do for the public apart from throw parties to win votes? What liaison has he made with the Ministry of Environment to determine the carrying capacity of our most fragile ecosystems? Should we be surprised at how often it was that political agents were the beneficiaries? Xavier has gone, his policy will be rolled back and hopefully common sense for the benefit of the common good will prevail. If not, the fight will continue…