left2721610research essayHistorical Research and Methodology
9410036300research essayHistorical Research and Methodology
center8571865EDOUARD ANNE MARIE EMMANUELLA
BA JOINT HUMANITIES
941000EDOUARD ANNE MARIE EMMANUELLA
BA JOINT HUMANITIES
CRITICALLY EXAMINE THE ORIGINS AND NATURE OF THE 1948 CONSTITUTION
A constitution is a set of basic principles or fix authority according to which a state or other organization is governed. When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to embody a written constitution; if they are written down in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a codified constitution. The Constitution of Mauritius “guarantees to the citizens, the fundamental rights: right to liberty and protection of the law, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, of movement and of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of creed and of religious belief as well as the right to private property”. There are different sources of a constitution, and its origins and nature varies from country to country. The constitution of 1948 have various roots due to socio-economic and political factors that were occurring during that time in Mauritius.
The first explanation to the 1948 constitution origin is that the previous constitution of 1885 that was in operation was no more effective and needed reform. In 1909, a British Officer of the Royal commission, considered that the 1885 Constitution was out dated, obsolete and needed huge political and democratic change. The 1948 constitution is also a revision of the 1885 constitution according to Laurent in the ‘Modern Mauritius’ book written by A. S. Simmons. For Laurent, it is a more liberal constitution that unite in the defence of the common interests of the island which is more appropriate for all the communities.
One reason for establishing the 1948 constitution was because of the cultural diversity and plural societies in Mauritius. As the island was divided into economic and social classes, by race and religions, it was important to bring a balance among the communities and the classes, to prevent any class and community domination. Moreover, it also resulted from the economic crisis and depression of the 1930s where Mauritians mostly those from the lower classes were affected and therefore started a revolt for economic rise and for political right. With this revolution, Mauritius gain a new governor 1945 named Mackenzie-kennedy. He was the one who proposed a new reform in the constitution in the island as for him there was political tensions, and he wanted to put an end to the Franco-Mauritian political hegemony.
The constitution of 1948 originate from Mackenzie-kennedy’s view that the island needed a new reform to progress economically, and a stable politics. For him the ideas of Mauritian was very important, he put forward two committees of consultative including all members of the cross section population to discuss about his idea of a new constitution. The representatives were the holigar, the finance, the coloured population, the Indian intellectuals, laborers, artisans, and the conservative die hard like Julius koeing, and the reformists with Ramgoolam, Emmanuel Anquetti among others. It begins when he went to England with his proposals of a new constitutional reform for Mauritius which was accepted in 1945.
The constitution of 1948 gained its origin from the fact that many groups’ communities in Mauritius thought that the constitution of 1885 did not satisfy Mauritius ideology. It is “an embarrassing anachronism” stated Ramgoolam and the Indian professionals. This statement to some extent has enable the colonial and the local government to bring social and economic reforms, therefore constitutional reforms.
The characteristics of the 1948 constitution is that for the first time in Mauritian history, women have the right to vote. Men and women who were age twenty one and above who were able to write in either French, Creole, English or any other languages spoken or written on the island could vote. It was also a turning point as out of 300 thousands, about 71 thousands of people were able to vote compared to eleven thousands who had the right to vote in the previous constitution. Furthermore, the nature of the constitution was that it gave “nineteen elected members from five multimember constituencies, twelve nominated members and three official members”.
Though it has brought changes in the island, the 1948 constitutional reform had not been welcomed by every community in Mauritius, namely the Franco-Mauritians who stated that “the new constitution was neither innovative nor imaginative”. They were against it as they lose their control over the new legislative Council, they could no longer dominate over the other ethnic groups in the island. There were also the views of the conservative diehards and the reformists. The reformists stated that the constitution reforms has not met the expectation of the people, it was anti- democratic. On the other hand, the diehard approved the new reform, for them it was very good, fairly organized.
The constitution of 1948 has been viewed as a drastic alteration to the politics of the island. It came up with a new political era charcaterised by a growing ethnic pressure. Despite the new reform, there were still issues such as ethnicity and minority rights which were prevailing due to the heterogeneity of the population. For example, the Franco- Mauritians were afraid of the Hindu’s, and Indo- Mauritian domination, who might remove the power from them.
There are several explanations to the origin of the 1948 constitution in Mauritius. Most of the reasons came from the same root that is a thirst to see changes and for freedom. The nature of the constitution is clearly seen through the change in the economic and social structure of the island, there is a more political balance in the island as well. Despite some political disagreement still it work for the educational and economic development of Mauritius Island.
Christopher, A. J. “Ethnicity, Community and the Census in Mauritius, 1830-1990.” The Geographical Journal 158.1 (1992): 57-64. Web.
Houbert, J., 1992. The Indian Ocean creole islands: geo-politics and decolonisation. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 30(03), pp.465-484.
http://www.govmu.org/English/Legislations/Pages/Constitution.aspxhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Mauritius_(1885)http://www.lemauricien.com/article/mauritius-independence-marginalism-and-political-controlAdele Smith Simmons, “The Politics of Decolonisation”, Modern Mauritius.
Chan Low, Laval Jocelyn, “Great Britain and the constitutional Evolution of Mauritius, 1954-1961