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For A New Social Contract

By Sada Reddi

During her visit to Mauritius in 1956 princess Margaret travelled in an open vehicle.This wasriskyas the crowd tried to get a closer view of the princess. Malcolm de Chazal then wrote an open letter to the Governor suggesting that better security measures be taken to protect important visitors. The governor was furious that a civil servant had dared write to him an open letter and consequently it fell to the Colonial Secretary to formally instruct Malcolm de Chazal to retire six years prior to his normal retirement age. There is no better example of the authoritarian nature of the colonial state.

After independence the successor state was meant to be at least liberal, let alone democratic. But today the liberal regime suffers from a number of anomalies and one major explanation of these anomalies is the elitist control of our society and its pernicious influence thereon. Since it is the lower and working classes that bear the brunt of the various malpractices, they should seek and negotiate a new social contract with the elite to safeguard their interests and work together for a better society.

In seeking to explain why our democratization process has been so slow, the blame is more often laid at the door of the political class. This explanation is too simplistic for it overlooks the fact that while the political class has its share of blame in the way our society evolves, it must be recognized that the political system has also hadto adaptto the social structurewithin which thereisan elitist system whichcontrols most of the levers of power in our society.

At the Lancaster Conference, 1965, our political representatives did their best to craft a democratic state adapted to a plural society. But all they could achieve by consensus was simply a liberal state. A number of proposals were put forward; some were rejected, but on the whole consensus was reached on the establishment of a liberal state for Mauritius. After independence it has been extremely difficult to even implement a liberal regime successfully.

In trying to understand our political traditions, we should remember that our political system was not founded in 1968 after we had been given a new constitution. It had evolved over a long period of time going back to at least the nineteenth century, andwas marked by the ascendancy of the White elite, as well as contestation by the rising Coloured elite which was joined by the Indian elite in the first half of the twentieth century. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 10 March 2023

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