In 1863, Abraham Lincoln in the Getty Address during the American Civil War stood up and provided one of the greatest optimistic statement about democracy: he said, “Democracy is “government of, by and for the people”.
International Day of Democracy which is celebrated on the 15th of September every year allows us the opportunity to appreciate our democratic society. Today, let’s reflect on the history of democracy around the world including in Mauritius, thank those who influenced the development of our government, and look for opportunities to promote and protect our own democracy. According to section 1 our Constitution, Mauritius is said to be a democratic State. This sacrosanct section espouses the principles of rule of law and separation of powers.
At heart, democracy is about people.
It is built on inclusion, equal treatment and participation and it is a fundamental building block for peace, sustainable development and human rights. These values and aspirations cannot be seen as tokens and lip service. They must be real in people’s lives. Yet, the International Day of Democracy this year takes place at a time when trust is low and anxiety is high. The Mauritian population is frustrated by growing inequalities and unsettled by sweeping changes. We faced over the last months a series of bewildering setbacks whereby the State did not deliver the instrumental benefits that people hoped for. We have seen conflicts going unresolved, an ecological emergency going unanswered, injustice going unsettled, and civic space shrinking. What the history of Mauritius has lived on the 29th of August 2020 was undoubtedly a wake up call from the nation of its right to democracy. The reason why we still fight for democracy in our country is because we believe fundamentally in the equality and dignity of our citizens.
Democracy, though not like any important moral consideration, is not a state or an activity, it is instead a way of behaving and a form of active contract between politicians and the citizens. It therefore needs to be fundamentally based on a contract of honesty.
As a Mauritian, I personally feel that there are many things wrong in our society especially the way in which we rule. When I open a door and see somebody who is mentally ill behind a door who isn’t receiving the support that they need, when we see nominations not being based on meritocracy, when we see the violation of section 12 of our constitution where it is stated that freedom of expression should prevail in our country, it seems that our democracy is being robbed in broad daylight.
As an end note, I wish to express my pride as a Mauritian; above all we are grateful for the fact that we are blessed to live in a peaceful country where we have undoubtedly overcome huge political challenges and perform them peacefully over the years. However what we want is that democracy should not be only about elections and great political speeches. In fact our democracy should not only stop in parliament, our democracy should be our media, our democracy should be our civil society, our democracy should be our citizens, and it is on that I want to conclude. If the International Day of Democracy is about all these things and we still see Mauritius far from being called a democratic State then I think it is high time for us to discover a mutual trust; a trust of Mauritians and their politicians and perhaps most difficult of all, a trust from politicians in their citizens.
“Vox populi vox dei”
By L.H (18 years old)