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It is a slap in the face of all communalist politicians and a real triumph over the breath-taking act of petty politics, humbug and hypocrisy, which surrounded the announcement of the nomination of Vidya Narayen as vice-president of the republic. Her ‘no, thanks’ to a position which – though devoid of any power – has scrumptious benefi ts attached to it, is an act of courage, selflessness and a lesson in patriotism.

First, the post of vice-president is a money-guzzling machine which, we have always argued, should have been abolished a long time ago. It brings nothing to the country and has been used time and again as a reward for those close to power. I dare hope that the prime minister rises to the occasion and takes this opportunity, of a useless and unbecoming polemic, to ban the post once and for all.

Secondly and more horrifyingly perhaps is the notion of reducing people to their ethnic background. The Alliance Lepep’s electoral promise of appointing a Muslim president and a Tamil vice-president is in itself an aberration. As if this were not enough, Anerood Jugnauth’s statement at a sociocultural gathering – hadn’t he promised NEVER to talk at religious functions?! – seemed to come from a different era: “Narayen is a Telegu,” he said explicitly, “but I really thought she would be acceptable to the Tamil community because she married into a Tamil family!” (Which by the way is not even true).

“Yes, there were other choices of people [read Tamils] who could have been appointed as vice-presidents,” the prime minister continued, “but they were opposed to us and some even campaigned against us at the last election!” For how long is the country going to be in election mode, punishing and chastising anyone who is on the wrong side? Where is the statesmanship, the breadth of vision and the generosity of spirit that governments have, once they start governing a country?

To drive the nail in the coffin of the person he did not want to appoint, Jugnauth looked his audience straight in the eye and said, “You know I found out that Murday was an attendant! If I appointed him, the international community would laugh at me!”

The situation was made worse by the base and equally communal arguments coming from the other side. A bunch of guys from another era, hiding behind a sociocultural organisation started campaigning, threatening and giving ultimatums to the government to appoint ‘one of ours’, using a tribal language that sits very badly with the intelligent and educated community they claim to represent!

So Narayen’s rejection of the post they are using such petty arguments to get is a heroic act. It is a way of saying first that as a professional, she does not need to be appointed to a position of vase-à-fleurs to feel that she has achieved something in her life. Others probably do. The second message is even more powerful: as an educated Mauritian, she cannot be reduced to her ethnic background or that of the family she has married into, even if that was true.

Having said that, we do not in any way condone the derogatory comments publicly made by the prime minister against Menon Murday or his occupation. This guy contested the last general election on the ticket of the prime minister’s own party, the MSM! If he had been elected, he would probably have been writing and voting laws into our constitution as many of his colleagues in the national assembly are doing today. And he would probably not have been the worst MP sitting there today!

As for being the laughing stock of the international community, I sincerely wonder whether we need Murday for that! Aren’t Soodhun’s princely stories enough? Or perhaps we have forgotten the letters sent to Narendra Modi and François Hollande. The international community must be choking with laughter already. It can’t even breathe anymore, let alone laugh!

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