I’ve always loved this poem by Irish poet William Butler Yeats: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer Things fall apart the centre cannot hold Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”.
The concept of anarchy has always intrigued me I suppose because I’ve never experienced anything like it.
I grew up in the prison quarters where order and smooth discipline prevailed. But even in those gentle times, the tale of the riots in the prisons in 1977 were never far away- my father had broken his leg, jumping from the Beau Bassin prison roof while running away from a group of rebels- he was subsequently saved by another group of detainees, who wrestled a prison van from defenceless prison officers and took him to hospital for treatment.
That was anarchy, I was told. Add a series of political interferences to government’s chronic inability to take decision coupled with the subversive influence of political detainees and this is exactly what happens. Now compare this situation with what’s happening at the municipality of Port Louis. On Thursday, the Lord Mayor was taken hostage by 200 hawkers for five hours. Six or seven policemen stood by and did nothing. The Lord Mayor - whose dwindling legitimacy didn’t give him any moral high ground - finally capitulated and agreed to proclaim a couple of streets in Port Louis “special hawkers’ zone”. Satisfied, the hawkers let the mayor go.
If that’s not anarchy, I don’t know what it is. There were 200 aggrieved hawkers who had done an illegal act by taking the Lord Mayor hostage. There were about six or seven policemen at the municipality and they did nothing to try and free the Lord Mayor and break up the crowd. I heard the police were helpless because they were outnumbered. Reinforcement?
Against hawkers who live and vote in Port Louis? Banish the thought! You know why the police were helpless?
The same reason the hawkers thought they could get away with taking the Lord Mayor hostage politicians. This government has been unable to deal with hawkers because they fear a backlash come election time. So the hawkers have never been dealt with. At the same time, there are some arsonists in the opposition who take out their frustration by encouraging people to rebel.
The police are so scared of Rashid Beebeejaun that they didn’t dare take the hawkers to task because they feared a telling off from government. And the commissioner of police, forgetting himself, bows down to the dictate of politicians. I have absolutely no problem with hawkers - I save money buying from them. At the same time, allowing them to operate wherever and whenever they want is unfair to other law abiding traders.
The very fact that government hasn’t been able to sort this situation out - for lack of courage and vision- and has in the process disabled the police force is a recipe for disaster for anarchy.
And it has only just started.