The president of the Labor Party (PTr) takes stock of the actions of the parliamentary opposition, identifying both its weaknesses and its strengths. He also expressed his disappointment with the budget presented by the Minister of Finance, Renganaden Padayachy, saying that it did not meet the expectations of the population. Patrick Assirvaden promises that the parliamentary opposition will propose social measures to compensate for these shortcomings.

What assessment do you make of the opposition's journey during this end-of-term period?
I must say that the opposition has demonstrated consistency and harmony for almost five years. We managed to work in good harmony, including with the PMSD when it was in alliance with us. This allowed us to push and move forward on many issues. I am extremely satisfied, because we have understood that the top priority is to rid the country of MSM. Sanzman pe vini.

Now is not the time to divide, but to come together.”

There were also a series of actions carried out by the opposition, including citizen marches in the streets of Port Louis, as well as legal actions aimed at hastening the departure of the MSM from power. But five years later, the MSM still seems well and truly entrenched, and some observers agree that the MSM and its allies still seem to hold all the cards. What do you think of this situation?
First, I have to explain why the opposition had to take to the streets and make themselves heard: with the current Speaker, the opposition has had no say. The opposition must be able to speak and the government must govern, but we have not had this opportunity. This Speaker prevented us from working, and all the opposition leaders – Xavier-Luc Duval, Shakeel Mohamed, Arvin Boolell – can attest to this. Xavier-Luc Duval himself declared that it is not easy to continue with such a Speaker. This is why the opposition, both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary, participated in demonstrations.

But with this government, it had the dilo lor bred sonz effect. Despite everything we have seen, notably the sinking of the Wakashio, the contracts awarded during the Covid-19 pandemic, the scandal surrounding the acquisition of respirators from Pack and Blister, the government and Pravind Jugnauth have continued to make the deaf ears. And we must not forget that, with the sole aim of preventing the people from deciding, Pravind Jugnauth postponed the municipal elections.

The fact remains that today, despite all the actions we have taken and for good reasons, Pravind Jugnauth and the MSM have the majority in Parliament and the Speaker on their side. All this gives the impression that Pravind Jugnauth is firmly established and unshakeable, but this is only a misleading illusion, which does not reflect reality. Pravind Jugnauth should have followed the example of Emmanuel Macron, who decided to dissolve Parliament and return power to the people. Fortunately, Pravind Jugnauth and the MSM cannot postpone the general elections.

As for the PMSD, it has suddenly decided to see things differently and is starting to believe that the budget is good and that we have “enn husband minis de finances”

The opposition's efforts to bring together the different forces led to several configurations after various “kase ranze” exercises. This year, the reunification project ended with the departure of the PMSD from the alliance. Don't you think that this harms the credibility of the parliamentary opposition?
I'll tell you one thing: each opposition party has its own specificities, its history, with members and personalities of its own. But what unites us is the future of our country. It is this common concern that makes us put our egos aside to focus on what is important to Mauritius. Of course, we don't always look in the same direction, we don't all necessarily have the same philosophy.

However, we have the advantage of having a unifier in the person of Navin Ramgoolam, who unites the opposition, because he is a true unifier. He is the only politician capable of transcending all communities, without a policy of segregation, separation or division. If the PTr and the MMM manage to face the government and run in the elections, it is thanks to Ramgoolam.

As for the PMSD, it has suddenly decided to see things differently and is starting to believe that the budget is good and that we have “enn husband minis de finances”. Of course, when the time comes to negotiate positions of responsibility, this could cause feelings of discontent, because each party has its specificities. But above all it demonstrates that, despite our differences of opinion, we focus on the best interests of the country and we put our egos aside.

Today, the sad reality is that many Mauritians do not know what to expect.

The parliamentary opposition also failed to unite extra-parliamentary forces. On the eve of the general elections, can we expect the adhesion of certain parties or personalities of the extra-parliamentary opposition within the PTr-MMM-ND alliance?
Throughout this process, Navin Ramgoolam has been clear: all people who think that the MSM and its leader, Pravind Jugnauth, are destroying the country are welcome in our alliance. Now is not the time to divide, but to come together. It's not about talking about tickets or responsibilities, but about uniting against a common danger.

Today, the sad reality is that many Mauritians are still struggling. Given the direction the country is taking, all people of good will must come together behind this alliance. I would like to appreciate the position taken by certain individuals. People like Gérard Sanspeur, the trade unionist Gopee, who is an independent spirit like Tengur, or Malen Oodiah, who have nothing to do with the PTr or the MMM, but who take a position openly. Another example is Nishal Joyram, who risked his life by going on hunger strike. These people, among many others, have nothing to do with politics, but they are taking a stand because they realize that the situation is serious and that the country must be saved from the decay of institutions.

Public opinion often expresses the feeling that the opposition lacks visibility on the political field and social networks. Apart from press conferences and political meetings, the alliance seems to have little presence on social networks. Is this a criticism that you take into consideration?
The fact is that the opposition does not have the same means as the MSM, which limits our resources, including on social networks. However, where we can improve, we will and will structure this in the future. But as far as our presence is concerned, we are there. I must say that the May 1st meetings and the one on the theme of democracy in Vacoas clearly demonstrate this. We also take positions during press conferences and we will soon organize a series of activities.

As soon as we are in power, we will lower the price of diesel, electricity and gasoline.

The parliamentary opposition has just undergone a reconfiguration with the appointment of Arvin Boolell as opposition leader, replacing Shakeel Mohamed, whose performance was well received by part of the population. What do you think of Arvin Boolell's performance during the last PNQ?
When we had to appoint an opposition leader, I made it clear that the appointment of Shakeel Mohamed was intended to cover the period when Arvin Boolell was recovering from his illness.

Arvin Boolell being the PTr member with the highest seniority, the position fell to him. Thus, once he was reinstated, Shakeel Mohamed elegantly presented his resignation as planned and passed the torch.

Arvin Boolell has extensive experience as a parliamentarian, having been elected numerous times. There is no doubt that he is a very successful opposition leader. His recent question about “notary minister”, highlighted that Kavi Ramano worked as both a minister and a notary. The documents and checks produced clearly demonstrate this.

There was also his question on games of chance, which once again highlighted the MSM – SMS Pariaz axis. It is because of his questions and his performance that he was suspended from Parliament, as he is embarrassing the government.

Arvin Boolell has been suspended from Parliament because he embarrasses the government”

Now let's come to the 2024-2025 Budget. There was great public expectation for measures such as lowering fuel prices and announcing the 14th month payment. The leader of the PTr has, on several occasions, declared that the reduction in fuel prices would be implemented as soon as you come to power. What about the 14th month payment? Is this an option considered within the alliance?
The Minister of Finance does not present a budget without the approval of Pravind Jugnauth. There was a wait and a cry of despair from the population which was not heard by Jugnauth and Padayachy. The reality is that many people cannot meet their basic needs. They can't buy their medicine or even go into a hardware store to buy equipment. In this budget, there is absolutely nothing to increase purchasing power. They take the population for fools. They think that an increase of Rs 500 for retirees will be enough! In shops, the price of corned mutton today is Rs 210. A gourd costs Rs 180. With an increase of Rs 500, the Minister of Finance thinks he will annoy the population. No measures are being taken to stop the depreciation of the rupee or to help Mauritians breathe when shopping at the supermarket. Each Mauritian, including children, has a debt of Rs 450,000.

As soon as we come to power, we will lower the price of diesel, electricity and gasoline. We also plan to abolish the Rs 150 fee at MBC and immediately reduce prices of 20-25 essential items. Additionally, we plan to introduce parallel importation of medicines to reduce the costs of cholesterol and diabetes treatments. We are listening to the concerns of the population. Regarding the 14th month, this issue is currently being studied by the PTr-MMM-ND alliance committee, and we will provide information on this in due time.

On the eve of the elections, energy policy is a total failure”

Now let's look at the energy sector. After the budget presentation, Minister Joe Lesjongard said that the renewable energy sector finally seems to be taking off. What is your opinion in light of the latest Statistics Mauritius report which indicates the opposite?
Still happy that ridicule doesn't kill. Figures from Statistics Mauritius, which is an independent institution under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance, clearly show that we have regressed by 2% compared to last year instead of progressing in the energy transition. This, despite the assertions of Minister Lesjongard. It's stunning! For years, the PTr has been emphasizing that this government's biggest mistake was the dismantling of Maurice Île Durable, a central project for the energy transition. Lesjongard ended the Collendavelloo policy, delaying our advance for five years. We have already failed in our energy transition and it is now too late, while other countries like Reunion are fully succeeding in their transition.

We are still at 17% electricity production based on renewable energies, while we were promised 35% next year and 60% in five years. Joe Lesjongard risks going down in history as the Minister of Zero Megawatt. On the eve of the elections, energy policy is a total failure: we continue to burn coal, the contracts in this regard with Terra and Alteo are renewed… The government is bluffing!

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