Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly 6th August 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on August 6, 2010

EditorialClick here to read L’express Weekly

Looking at the big picture

I hereby claim this land and all its riches in the name of His Majesty King James the First and do name this settlement Jamestown….no further ado. The land becomes yours. If you think this language is outdated, think again.

Naturally, no one is insensitive to the predicament and precariousness of the poor, wherever they are. Human hardship should and does touch every one of us and the number of our compatriots left out of the development of this country and who now live in abject poverty is a blemish on our conscience. Our guests in “Straight Talk” today express such feelings. But one should not confuse poverty with opportunism and lawlessness.

The plight of the squatters is of course heart-breaking. The images of parents in Dubreuil leaving demolished make-shift homes, carrying their most precious cargo, their children, on their backs will forever haunt us. A closer look, however, reveals a reality equally disturbing but one which it is not politically correct to mention.

One of our journalists, Aline Groême-Harmon, visited these squatters and took time to talk to them at length. Her verdict is very clear. To the question of how they crossed the barrier into illegality, the answers are similar: in 2003, they saw the situation of other squatters in Dubreuil being legalised. “Lerla nou dir less nou tant enn sans kitfoi nou ousi nou pou pass pareil” (So we thought why not try our luck to see if we too manage to get the same treatment). Some of these squatters are cripplingly poor and, at times, too infirm to work. Many, on the other hand, reportedly have no intention of making any effort beyond the opportunism of asking for hand-outs from the government.  Others have fallen prey to big-time opportunists as these settlements always increase specifically during the run up to each general election.

We are all relieved that the minister of Housing and Land has found a temporary solution which has at least quieted critics. But this peace will be short-lived as the reaction of other compatriots will be just about as automatic as the reaction to a doctor’s reflex hammer. You hardly need a scientific study to bear out the theory that the way to produce more squatters is to give them rights which other more deserving people do not have simply because the latter did not take the law into their own hands. If these squatters pull it off, they will leapfrog those who are working hard, paying rent out of their meagre earnings and contributing to their PEL account while standing in the housing queue. And the reason will be that those more deserving citizens who are working hard will not get what they have paid for just because they did not dare break the law. A terrible message in unfairness to send to the population.

Mr. Kasenally should not give in to the pressure of the self-proclaimed spokespersons who are seeking the limelight.  He has the duty to look at the big picture and help those who are in need of help. Law-abiding citizens should not be pushed to the bottom rung of the ladder of priorities. Also, to empower people, you need to help them help themselves if they are willing to do so. Shakeel Mohamed talks in this edition of the Weekly of  20 000 vacancies available in the private sector. Our journalist talks about young and healthy squatters who “tras trassé”.  It is incongruous! Before Abu Kasenally appeals to Xavier Duval for help, his first stop should be the Ministry of Labour. If the solution is not there, it is unlikely to be anywhere else.

weekly@lexpress.mu

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