Like many others, I was horrified and revolted by the “propos” of the Minister of Social Security when he said that the cyclone refugees had to content themselves with “2 paké biskuit ek dilo” each. In most cases, the “refugees” come from very poor and deprived families and for whom the “circle of opportunities” provided by “lallians Lepep” has hardly opened up. A decent home remains central to poverty eradication.
Soodhun’s recent comments highlighting the subtle discriminations and discriminatory processes of the Mauritian society are still fresh in our minds! Without a proper roof for those living on the margins of society, the images of cyclone refugees, particularly children in want of food, that we just saw, are bound to recur and to rise in this era of rapidly growing climate change.
The “Doublement laureate Minister”, who recommended “délo ek biskui” is the same one who, on visiting the inhabitants of Barkly when their houses were being bulldozed in the context of preparations for the Metro Express, told the inhabitants that they had to be grateful to him and his colleagues since they made time to pay them a visit. He is also the one who said that he was unaware of the trauma children face on seeing their houses being demolished. “Doublement Lauréat”? For what?
What we carry in our subconscious sometimes gets reflected in our discourses. All this goes to show that our education system has a lot to do to instil values such as caring, sharing, solidarity, respect, treating others in and with dignity, particularly in those of similar predisposition as the minister. The ones who usually tell us: “We are government, we decide” would easily fall in this category!
In his attempt to defend the minister, the PM used the lame excuse of acting in accordance with some “international refugee protocol”. Also, there were concerns that meals prepared under cyclonic conditions could contribute to disease, etc. He then goes on to point out that the refugees did, despite these concerns, get proper packed meals in some instances.
Does this mean that the authorities were within less than 24 hours no longer concerned about diseases, hygienic and sanitary conditions, etc.? Or is all this simply a reflection of some poor reasoning, poor planning highlighting the contradictions and sheer incompetence of some?
To make matters worse, the PM describes those raising their voices against the lack of humanism of the Senior Minister as “en train de faire lipoupoule”. In other words, defending the rights of the people, upholding the dignity of fellow citizens, denouncing arrogance and indifference with a view to protecting the poor and the disadvantaged is seen as “faire lipoupoule”, as insignificant by the PM. Shame on ALL those who think alike!
50 years of independence very soon: if we truly want a cohesive society, a unified nation; mindsets should change. There is a need for politicians to engage in progressive, radical and innovative thinking impregnated with compassion and humanism. The racist/ ethnic undertones of some should be addressed since these can lead to very serious challenges in pluriethnic Mauritius.
More than ever before, Mauritian civil society should press on the authorities to review the constitution so that at least the socioeconomic rights of citizens be urgently instituted. More immediately, civil society and the opposition should join forces to demand that food served to Parliamentarians with tax payers’ money be stopped outright and these resources be reallocated to a special fund that we may call “Climate Change/Disaster Crisis Fund”. There are many ways of consolidating such a fund: (1) Ensuring that the entertainment allowance of all ministers be stopped and directed to the fund; (2) Reducing the number of unnecessary trips and per diems in accordance with international norms and allocate them to this fund; (3) Reduce car allowances of ministers and have a rethink about the purchase of the many very costly and unnecessary cars for the political elite now that we shall have the Metro Express!
To some, the above may sound like drops of water in the ocean and may be subject to ridicule but it will surely help to get the poor and the disadvantaged more than E’s biscuits and water! However, we should be grateful and comforted that “voices” and “social consciences” such as those of Father Labour, ex-President Uteem and many others inclusive of the diaspora, refuse to fall in the trap of greed and indifference, and are still willing to make themselves heard.
This is a ray of hope for the Republic of Mauritius. This government will perhaps one day learn to make the difference between ‘‘humanism’’ and “Lipoupoul- ism” but meanwhile it can perhaps tell us how much money exists in the Prime Minister’s Cyclone Relief Fund, who manages it and how does it function. This is not “faire lipoupoul”- this is simply accountability. I have no doubt that the private sector to whom the PM has made a plea, inviting them to channel resources in this relief fund, would also be keen to have answers to these questions!