Touria Prayag's Blog

Weekly editorial (September 13 2012)

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 23, 2012

The good, the bad and the can of worms

In a news-rich environment such as ours where bad news always jostles the good news aside, it is difficult to classify the recent events surrounding the Best Loser System (BLS) as one or the other. It is good news and bad news at the same time, with a can of worms as a bonus. Hence the confusion surrounding the debate.

The good news is that Ashok Subron and his block 104 – who had challenged their exclusion from eligibility for standing as candidates without having to declare their ethnic background – have succeeded in proving that preventing them from standing for election was an act of discrimination from the point of view of human rights. Admittedly, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations did not challenge the existence of the BLS. But again, they were not asked to. Resistans ek Alternativ’s struggle was never about the eradication of the system as a whole.

It was almost about allowing a fifth category for those who decide not to declare their ethnic background. The bad news is that this was not a “ruling”. It is a pronouncement which, other than the debate it has generated, will not make a dent in our system. Though an aura of sacredness has always surrounded the UN, those who are familiar with its workings have long coined the expression “as useless as a United Nations sanction”. The number of resolutions passed by the UN and blatantly contravened by Israel in every respect, including that of the Arab refugees, the delimitation of its territorial boundaries and the question of Jerusalem is just a case in point. There are countless other breaches of UN resolutions. And we are talking about resolutions, here, not just “pronouncements”.

In other words, if you are waiting for change, don’t hold your breath. The can of worms is that considering this pronouncement is accepting all the trappings which come with it. It is accepting that some of our compatriots continue to be classifi ed according to their religion, some according to the country of origin of their ancestors and others put together in a catch-all category. Worse, it is accepting that a new census is carried out where we are counted, not as Mauritians but as belonging to one of these categories. No amount of cultural relativism can justify that.

But, if the Mauritian constitution should be brought into line with the European Convention on Human Rights by removing discriminatory provisions such as any legal obligation to declare one’s ethnic affi liation, though this does not directly challenge the system, it may create a window of opportunity. In Bosnia, for example, candidates have to by law declare whether they are Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats or “others”. This catch-all category has created a new breed of militants: “others-by-choice” Bosnians. The latter challenge the system by classifying themselves as “others”.

So, if here we had a fifth category, it would be easier to challenge the system simply by insisting on being in that category by choice and voting for those who do the same. Someone suggested that that category be called “population mauricienne”. I wholeheartedly second the motion.

What we end up doing with the good news, the bad news and the can of worms is what will determine our maturity as a nation.

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