We’ll be hearing a ton from the myriads of political parties on the island to participate in their respective assemblies on the 1st of May, a widely observed political tradition here in Mauritius. These ‘meetings’ as they’re called, help the public distinguish between the various messages and campaign promises that may shape upcoming elections and in that regard, they’re very important for the parties. MSM-ML will be in Vacoas on that day, MMM in Rose Hill whilst the Labour Party isn’t participating this year. The annual congress of PMSD will be on April, 30 at Ecole Hoteliere Charle Gaetan Duval in Ebene.
Labour Day is observed the world over and in some countries, like ours for instance; it’s a national holiday to commemorate the achievements of workers and to honour the fruits of labour. However, here in Mauritius, the message has been warped by the political parties who have co-opted this remembrance for workers and have turned it into a political fest, which is utterly disrespectful and narcissistic. Historically speaking, the holiday meant a great deal to the working class of the 1940s who were struggling day in day out. It was first celebrated as a public holiday in 1950 thanks to Guy Rozemont, Dr. Maurice Curé, Pandit Sahadeo and Emmanuel Anquetil. Back then, the gist of the national holiday was very much about workers’ rights, as our country was dealing with the lack of a skilled labour force, a sickly population and lamentable working conditions.
Fast forward 80 years from then, Labour Day has lost its pristine message. Politicians are more interested in their petty skirmishes and narcissistic talks rather than the sustainability of a skilled labour force. The ad-hominem attacks and the stupid jokes at the expense of their rivals are more important to them than the consolidation of a united workforce. Needless to say, the country is divided and there are still many people who live below the poverty line according to a report that exposed the dire reality that 20 000 people were making less than Rs3500 a month. Despite attempts to promulgate a decent minimum wage regulation, things never really take off in this country. We hear ad nauseam about politicians and their aides raking in hundreds of thousands of rupees without any scrutiny or follow-up questions but they still cannot figure out a way to cater to our unemployed youth.
Labour Day will be more a celebration of utter buffoonery than workers’ rights because to be honest, Mauritians themselves are oblivious to the significance of this public holiday. Everywhere else, workers will be celebrated and elevated but in Mauritius, the petty digs at ‘Soornack and the cotomili business’ or the jokes about ‘Alvaro’ will monopolize the content of their speeches. Political discourse is at an all-time low and it’s very discursive; our population is being misled and conned by people whose only merit is related to their birth or lineage. Let us remember Labour Day for what it used to be, a united celebration, a solemn recognition of the sacrifices millions undertake every day to have a decent life. It is not about political adherence.