Rodrigues Collides With Reality

From Trou-D’argent to Trou-aux-Biches; from Trou-Loulou to Trou-aux-Cerfs, tom-tom drums say, it’s true! It’s true! The Labour party in Mauritius and Labour-lite in Rodrigues (Mouvement Rodriguais) have fallen out big time – over a little motion. And old cohorts too! At the risk of trivializing, I suspect this has more to do with cheeky lads comparing the size of their, let’s say, powers, than it does with a motion to pay Rodriguan fishermen a paltry Inclement Weather Allowance.

On the one hand, MR, a Rodriguan party founded on the backs of poverty-stricken fishermen, wants to be seen to be supporting their interests, hence last Tuesday’s contentious motion; on the other, Labour enforcers want to show their Rodriguan cousins who the boss is (Nou! Nou ki Capitan.) To that end, the attorney general and even a permanent secretary too, pressured Rodriguan representatives to drop the inconvenient motion, earlier ruled admissible by the regional assembly’s speaker. And, for those still labouring under the illusion of self-government, that was the elephant in the room no one could ignore. With its back to the wall, and facing the prospect of losing the bulk of its party’s supporters (fishermen) over this niggling affair, MR listed and passed the motion, sparking a bizarre walk-out by an enfeebled Rodriguan opposition party (Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais.)

Given the kafuffle, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Rodrigues was motioning to buy a nuclear submarine, instead of trying to feed the poor for Christmas. Ahh, before I forget, Merry Christmas to you too Mister Prime Minister, enjoy a lovely White-Christmas in London.

Win, lose or draw, this thorny motion has crystallized a harsh reality in the minds of many Rodriguans: External vetting and censoring of their motions effectively neuters the Rodriguan speaker’s discretion, and undermines the roles of their representatives to the point of meaninglessness. Moreover, it makes of their assembly a ventriloquist dummy that speaks – only – its puppeteer’s voice.

True to form, Latin-quoting mini-Lord Actons are now quibbling over the academic quirks of demarcation and jurisdiction. No need. Mauritian laws reign supreme. Expensive, convoluted, make-it-up-along-the-way legal interpretations, when applied to Rodrigues are like gloves – tailored to fit the hands. The verdict always precedes the trial. Why you ask? Well, because when one people make the laws that govern the lives of another people, without that other’s consent – there is no appeal. That’s it.

While the battle of wills rages, the will of the Rodriguan people, constitutionally chained, in post-colonial inertia to Mauritius, stands or falls on the whims of others.

Alain Leveque

December 23, 2007