Why was there such a shortage of April’s Fool Jokes this year in Mauritius? Who’s the culprit?
Answer: The Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam.
He chose to announce dissolution of the national assembly on 31st March so that all the media people (and everyone interested even remotely about local news) were intent on covering and discussing the upcoming general elections.
Surprise Number 1: Elections are scheduled for 5th May, i.e. one day before the UK elections. On 3rd March, the PM had stated that the elections would take place after the UK elections (see articles in L’express and in Le Défi Plus).
Surprise Number 2: The Labour Party is partnering with the ‘loyal’ opposition party MSM and keeping PMSD (already in its governing Social Alliance). Only a few weeks before, the possibility of an alliance of the Labour Party with the ‘momentarily loyal’ opposition party MMM, was still making the news (see L’express and Le Mauricien)
Spinning the communication
The first announcement was made around 7.30 p.m. by Ramgoolam at the Treasury Building. It was initially scheduled for 7 p.m. but started later, officially because the Camp Thorel inauguration was delayed (by the organisation of photo shoots with Pravind Jugnauth?). Admittedly, it looks like this was done deliberately to keep the journalists on their toes and especially to coincide with the peak news bulletin on the MBC TV. The TV station’s director, Dan Callikhan, is also the communication mastermind for the PM (he was formerly communication adviser at PMO).
I could personally sense that the speech had been written and formatted by a communication person. Although the PM delivered quite well, he did not re-appropriate the speech to make it his own as he repeatedly looked at his paper to deliver. The key words ‘Unité’, ‘Egalité’ and ‘Modernité’ are apparently taken from his previous campaign, yet their utterance did not quite sound convincing enough for me but I can imagine that people were impressed by the simplicity and strength of the concepts. To his credit, the PM appeared quiet, calm and serene during the address.
Obviously, one would have to adopt a comparative approach. If other contenders are similar or less good, Ramgoolam is likely to come through as a great communicator and leader. Staunch partisans will celebrate the wonderful communication skills of the PM whereas staunch opponents will have a completely opposite reading. As did the MMM leader Paul Bérenger who interpreted the PM’s body language as utter panic and used foul language to describe the situation.
Duval’s face reveals discontent
As for the second announcement, it was made at around 8.30 p.m. at the Labourdonnais Hotel. Navin Ramgoolam spoke first, followed by DPM Rashid Beebeejaun, VPM Xavier Luc Duval and finally MSM leader Pravind Jugnauth. Again, the PM kept reading from his prepared speech but did reasonably well. Beebeejaun was obviously happy and delivered naturally his speech but Duval pulled a long face during his speech. There was a shot during Jugnauth’s speech which was quite telling: Duval was looking very glum and seemed to force himself to nod at each emphatic declaration of Jugnauth. The ticket allocation did not seem to make him happy of course (8 for his party). Jugnauth, who had never struck me as a very charismatic speaker, was the most comfortable and natural of all in his speech delivery, presumably as he was feeling elated at having secured 18 tickets in the alliance.
Of course, none of them said anything significant beyond the to-be-expected simplistic rationales for the alliance. You wouldn’t expect that, would you?