L'Express Weekly (Port Louis)

22 March 2013

Mauritius: We Are the Children

opinion

"The opposition should be busy talking about the main issues the country is grappling with - Unemployment, education, governance, the use of State resources, Law and Order - and offering alternatives."

"A sad and sorry state," was the leader of the opposition's reaction to the kids who were locked up in Brown Sequard mental hospital. A bunch of the republic's kids whom the authorities could not or were not trained to cope with, were left to their own devices and forgotten about in a place least suitable for them. Some well-meaning or limelight-seeking individuals - it is difficult to make the difference these days -with no known training, started demanding daily visits to these kids as if they were a tourist attraction.

Perhaps the bright light in this very sorry state indeed is the fact that, for the fi rst time in a long time, we have heard a member of the opposition trying to suggest a solution. The suggestion of mid-way accommodation is no rocket science, of course. After all, mid-way houses have existed for a long time and have done a lot of good by channelling the energy of children whose parents could not cope with into some training. We have, in some cases, seen some success stories of children coming away with professional skills which gave them a leg up in life. But the fact that Alan Ganoo did not seek to gain political mileage out of the misery of the least vulnerable of our society and instead focused on how to deal with the problem is highly commendable.

What happens to these kids, and others like them, will not only refl ect the way we are as a society but will also determine what we become in the future. The children we nurture today, depending on the quality of care we invest in them, can either elevate our society or come back to bite us. Whether we nurture responsible citizens or criminals depends largely on those who take the longest holidays in the world and sit in our national assembly once a week.

The minister of gender equality, child development and family welfare, Mireille Martin, has to get her priorities right. So far, she has not shone for her competence. She has entered history as the minister who has used the media the most to bargain her way onto a ministerial seat. There has since been some chest beating and blowing of one's own trumpet and, as soon as problems cropped up, she was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps members of our national assembly forget at times that with responsibility comes accountability! When the chickens come home to roost, silence radio!

But who is to hold our honourable members to account? The opposition has turned into a weekly expression of the most tendentious and spurious argumentation by the leader of the remake, some of which seem, at best, to drive the opposition members themselves to sleep, at worst, embarrass them. Maybe our eminent politicians and lawyers need to be told that the role of the opposition is not to denounce alleged scandals at the rate of one a week, keeping some for the next show and promising more. Irregularities should be denounced to the police to allow our courts to deal with them because we deserve the truth. The opposition should be busy talking about the main issues the country is grappling with - unemployment, education, governance, the use of state resources, law and order - offering alternatives and working on a plausible programme for the people of this country to gather around. That has not happened. So, if every country gets the government it deserves, it also gets the opposition it deserves. "A sad and sorry state". That applies to us as a country too.

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