Call for a bipartisan approach

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Last year I wrote an article in your paper when we were hit by the first wave of the coronavirus. We all realized how we and indeed the whole world were vulnerable and how it was important for us as a nation to pool our resources and act in full solidarity to fight the invisible enemy. 

The pandemic caused havoc worldwide, abruptly changed our way of living and dealt severe blows to the global economy. Our country was not spared and vital economic sectors like tourism were shaken beyond recognition. The morale of our population fell low and the most pessimistic people even predicted the end of human civilization. In my article, I made a strong plea to the Prime Minister to put aside temporarily party politics, create space for the opposition to work together in the search of consensual actions to relieve the suffering of the population and reactivate the economic engine. 

Having worked in the Public Service for many years and witnessed numerous natural and man made calamities and participated in the handling of the different crises, I saw the merit of concerted efforts of the government, the opposition and the private sector to grapple with the frightful flow of problems. Strong leadership commanded that, in the national interest, there should be commonality of purpose. 

Parliament has become a battleground, not against Covid-19, but among the MPs themselves in a time when consensual actions are most needed…

My plea for joint action was followed by a number of articles written by likeminded citizens and open letters to the Prime Minister by eminent personalities, but unfortunately the government decided to manage on its own. It is true that Mauritius became ‘Covid-safe’ for several months and of course the government wanted to take full credit for that. 

Now we have to face the return of Covid 19.Since the 10th March 2021,the situation has become more complex with the increasing number of casualties, contaminated persons in clusters and other parts of the island, the controversy over the vaccination programme, the proclamation of red zones and the slowdown of economic activities. The government has again decided to go it alone. Parliament has become a battleground, not against Covid-19, but among the MPs themselves under the eyes of an unwise Speaker. The population is disillusioned, frustrated and apprehensive of the future. 

History has taught us that in times of crisis of an unprecedented nature, the government and the opposition should put the national interest above the interest of individual political parties. Concerted actions instead of dissent on almost every issue help to boost the morale of the population. 

At the time of writing this article, I have almost finished reading the book of Barack Obama The Promised Land, given to me for my birthday by my son Dhiren and my daughter-in-law Sejal. Obama describes vividly the many dreadful crises he faced during his Presidency. One of the recurrent problems concerned the systematic opposition of the Republican Party to major pieces of legislation proposed by the Democratic Party. In the case of the Affordable Care Bill, Obama would spend long hours with the top Republican Senators and Congressmen, addressing their concerns and making compromises to ensure the safe passage of the Bill. His leadership skills enabled him to promote the national interest at all times. It is in the tradition of US politics to deal with a restricted number of vital issues in a bipartisan manner. It has paid dividends. 

Can we in Mauritius too adopt a bipartisan approach on specific issues? Covid-19 is certainly an issue requiring Parliamentarians to work on a broad consensus. Will the Prime Minister and the Leader of the opposition consider the immediate setting up of a bipartisan Committee on Covid-19 before the situation gets out of control? Let common sense prevail.

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