Dear Pravind K Jugnauth
Congratulations on your decisive electoral victory. Many will say you deserved it. Some will accuse you artful electioneering (the premature launch of Metro Express, the pension bribe, the news leaks about your rivals and the manipulation of election rules). But there may have been another factor at play, rarely seen in Mauritian politics: your family. Your family brings you down to earth and makes you human. Without your loyal wife and beautiful daughters would you have attracted so many female and younger voters?
Will you be reelected in 5 years time? Will your government overcome the challenges of our time and improve the lives of our people, without becoming embroiled in new scandals? Will the opposition parties displace their dinosaurs and replace them with youthful faces as you cleverly did? You have a distinct advantage over your patriarchal predecessors in that you listen to others. Because of your close family and shrewd selection of candidates, femininity and youth can genuinely participate in leading our country for the first time in its history.
A United Nation
Every election divides. Now unite the country. You may have won decisively in the countryside, but what about the conurbations? You may have overwhelming appeal to Hindus but what about Muslims and Christians? India’s Prime Minister may be your friend but should he be your role model? Mauritius does not need a divisive strong man to rule us; we need an inclusive leader to guide us. Be a Mahatma Gandhi not a Narendra Modi.
Mauritius is a sovereign nation, not a vassal state. We are not Little India we are little Islanders (Zilwa in Kreol and Illois in Chagossian). We expect you to represent the interests of all our islanders and all our islands. Demand decolonisation of Chagos and justice for Chagossians. Do not be a hypocrite and sell out Agalegans. And continue to give Rodriguan’s their autonomy to be a sandbox for sustainability.
An Ocean of Peace
We are a few small islands dispersed in a vast ocean. In the tussle of military might between the USA, China and India, don’t we risk becoming unnoticed collateral damage? The nonaligned nations of ASEAN could become our greatest allies in preventing further escalation. As they look south west to protect their trading routes, we should look north east to see potential partners, who share our goals and values. We house the headquarters of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. Let us leverage our position to make sure that our ocean remains an oasis of peace.
Yes we need security but shouldn’t we forge this through defence partnerships, not have it forced upon us through military occupations? Insist that our SMF joins the Indians on Agalega, the French on Tromelin and the Americans on Diego Garcia. And let us do our share. Strengthen our coastguard and invest in drones to patrol our waters to prevent drug smuggling, illegal fishing and unlawful exploitation of our EEZ.
Are we really a homogenous fusion of humanity with an average shade of brown? Or are we a somewhat crazy confusion of diversity with a kaleidoscope of colourful communities and characters? Isn’t this what makes us different and delightful? Can we be reduced to a single identity or defined by a simple language? We are multicultural and multilingual. We are not a village of idiots living in our own world. We are part of an interconnected global community. To play our part we must be intelligent and eloquent.
Why force our children to parrot the languages of the past? Encourage them to excel at the languages of the future. French and Hindi give us a competitive advantage but without English and Mandarin can we play in the premier league? Isn’t this where we should aspire to be? Or are we content to be trapped with middle incomes and zero influence? We used to be regional leaders in the arts and education, in research and innovation and we can reach those heights again. Isn’t our ex-President an international icon? Let us make her a national hero, role model and follow her example.
Kreol is part of our history and our identity, but should it define us? It has its place in theatre, poetry and song, but should it become the medium of education, Parliament and legislation as well? That would return us to the agricultural age and isolate us from the rest of the world. If some struggle to communicate in English, shouldn’t we struggle to help them master it? Let us raise them to our level, not be dragged down to theirs. Our aim must remain: international excellence.
Diversity not Division
Our cultural confusion is fragile, shouldn’t we protect it? We must promote diversity and celebrate our past, but can we afford to let it divide our present and determine our future? We must stop politicising our differences, with each tribe trampling on others to reach the top. It breeds resentment that could explode into communal conflict. We have seen it twice in the past. Do we want to fan its flames in the future? We must prosecute social division. If political groups won’t become parties and participate in the democratic process then put their leaders in jail.
Shouldn’t we make a clear distinction between companies (for profit), associations (for people and planet) and parties (for politics)? Can we allow political parties to run for-profit businesses masquerading as trusts? They should be funded by transparent donations from Mauritian citizens and Mauritian businesses with the permission of their shareholders. And associations should neither make money for their members nor participate in politics.
Light and Vision
Do we really need draconian libel and defamation laws? They can be easily used by to silence critics and avoid accountability. Why not repeal them? To appear whiter than white simply walk in the light. Why do people suspect you walk in the dark, hand-in-hand with drug barons? If you know who they are, don’t just jail them; reveal them, revile them and exile them. What need is there for electoral bribes if the people respect and trust you?
Why are the salaries and benefits of our parliamentarians so excessive compared to international norms, especially for a country as small as ours? Representing the people should be an honour and solemn responsibility, not a get rich quick scheme. Why are you increasingly concealing public procurement from public scrutiny by hiding it within private subsidiaries of parastatal bodies? How can we trust you when you are creating new opportunities for foul play?
Walk in the light and light our way with a clear vision of our future. Do we really want a modern Mauritius? Isn’t modernity responsible for our climate crisis? Let us recall the wisdom of the past, innovate for the future and create sustainable islands. Otherwise we will have to pack our bags and move elsewhere. The targets in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be moved if we miss them. They must be achieved if we want a fair society to survive and prosper on this planet. Let us prioritise them and make investments and sacrifices to realise them. Let us be their champions and a light to the world.
For the sake of their children, ours and yours.
We Love Mauritius.