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Cablegate: Mauritius: Emerging Creole Movement Surprises Traditional

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHPL #0164/01 1420733
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210733Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3993
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PORT LOUIS 000164

AF/E FOR MARIA BEYZEROV

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM MP
SUBJECT: MAURITIUS: EMERGING CREOLE MOVEMENT SURPRISES TRADITIONAL
POLITICAL PARTIES

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SUMMARY
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1. The May 1 Labor Day political rallies not only confirmed Paul
Berenger's Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM) party's rise in
popularity, but it also brought the Creole Community under the
spotlight. Father Jocelyn Gregoire's Federation of Mauritian
Creoles (FMC) rally drew a larger crowd than all three main
political parties, thereby taking them by surprise and heightening
public interest. Meanwhile, the courtesy that the Labor Party and
the MSM showed towards each other during their respective rallies
points to an alliance in the making; even as the rise of FMC could
change party strategies.

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FMC STEALS THUNDER
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2. On May 1, the Creole Roman Catholic Priest and President of the
Federation of Mauritian Creoles (FMC), Father Jocelyn Gregoire,
gathered 20,000 people in the MMM bastion of Rose Hill, dwarfing the
numbers of all three main political parties. The crowd, comprised
mostly of Creoles from all walks of life, gathered to listen to
Gregoire's message of hope and empowerment According to media
reports, the MMM drew the biggest crowd among the political parties
(10,000), followed by the Social Alliance (8,000) and the Mouvement
Socialiste Mauricien, or MSM, (4,500).

3. FMC's Labor Day rally is a follow up to the October 2007 meeting
where 30,000 people gathered to mark International Creole Day, and
to show support for the federation's work: Gregoire exhorted Creoles
to stop blaming the State, the private sector, or the Catholic
Church for their current situation, and urged them to take
responsibility for their own wellbeing.

4. The FMC intends to be a lobby group for Creoles' rights and will
lobby any government in power, said Gregoire. The federation claims
that among its members, there are Creole and Franco-Mauritian
politicians from the MMM, MSM, Labor Party, Parti Mauricien Social
Democrate (PMSD), and Union Nationale. In an April 27 interview
Gregoire insisted that "the federation's voice will be heard in all
possible political instances."

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FMC OBJECTIVES DENOUNCED AS DISCRIMINATORY
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5. The FMC has a number of goals, including that the Constitution be
amended to recognize Creoles as such, vice the current generic term
of "General Population;" that the Creole language is recognized as a
language and is taught in schools, just as English, French and
Hindi; that the government establish night schools, opened to all
communities, for school drop-outs and adults; and that 35 percent of
public service employment be reserved for Creoles. In his April 27
interview, Gregoire said that FMC aims to redress the injustices
sustained by Creoles since independence and that it does not intend
to deprive the other communities of their rights.

6. Senior journalists like Raj Meeterbhan and Ministers such as
Minister of Information Technology, Etienne Sinatambou, commended
Gregoire in local press reports for bringing together Creoles from
all walks of life. Ironically, other religious lobby groups who
operate under the cover of socio-religious organizations denounced
Gregoire's actions and the federation's objectives as
discriminatory. For example, in his political rally, Cehl Meeah,
Leader of Mauritian Solidarity Front (MSF) (which was once named
"Hezbollah"), accused FCM of being communalists (L'Express, Friday
May 2, 2008) and Sumduth Dulthumun, President of the Mauritius
Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation (MSDF), said on a private radio
interview that FMC's objectives were anti-patriotic and that the
FMC's action could fragment Mauritian society (Radio Plus, Friday,
May 2, 2008).

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MMM'S REGAIN OF POPULARITY CONFIRMED
------------------------------------

7. As expected, the Labor Day rally confirmed the MMM's rise in
popularity. On April 2, a London-based global market research and
information group, TNS-SOFRES, published a survey which revealed
that 27 percent of Mauritians interviewed would prefer to have
Berenger as Prime Minister. For the first time since the last
published survey six months ago, Berenger is ahead of Prime Minister
Navin Ramgoolam (26 percent).

8. Meanwhile, the courtesy shown by the Labor Party and the MSM
towards each other implied an alliance in the making. Both
Ramgoolam and Pravind Jugnauth, MSM's leader, centered their attacks

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on the MMM and Paul Berenger. According to local press, during his
speech Jugnauth hinted that his father, the current President of the
Republic, may make a political come-back at the end of his
presidential mandate. There have been rumblings about President
Jugnauth's return to the political arena for months. In April 2008,
for example, President Jugnauth's wife mentioned his possible return
to the political forum in a radio interview.

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COMMENT
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9. The rise of FMC underlines the potential for Creole influence;
Creoles have claimed for a long time that they are taken for granted
by the MMM. There have been other notable Creole movements, but the
FMC differs from them in two distinct ways. First, the FMC clearly
identifies specific and concrete demands on behalf of the Creole
community. Second, the FMC comes at a time when, for the first time
since independence, the Creoles stand as a more clearly defined
political force. With the FMC's growing influence, the Creole bloc
may become a viable voting bloc in the next elections. The April 2
TNS-SOFRES survey shows that a strong majority of the 31 percent of
Mauritians in favor of an MMM-MSM alliance come from Creole and
Muslim communities. The survey suggested, on the other hand, that a
potential Labor Party-MSM alliance would garner its majority support
from the Hindu community. Given that FMC has widespread influence
and a membership that spans all of the major political parties,
however, their movement could be a game-changer. Creole voters may
be an active voting bloc in the next elections, and political
coalitions may court them more than before.

BLASER

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