THIS WEEK the entire country celebrates Indian Arrival Day. Indian Arrival Day is a moment when we look back collectively at our society’s history, at the role of East Indian indentureship in shaping that history, and at the trials and achievements of members of the East Indian community who have contributed to the richness of our nation.
It is fit and proper that we take a moment to reflect on these matters together, especially considering the fact that our history is an interlocked one in which myriad groups have come together to share a common destiny.
It is not proper, however, for this time of celebration to be overshadowed by fearmongering, speculation, and divisiveness. Nor is it right that we ignore genuine advancements that have occurred toward improving our society in favour of political rhetoric that has the potential to undermine confidence in systems of law and order in the country.
The proliferation of speculation surrounding Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj has only served to distract the focus of this year’s commemoration. Instead of addressing policy issues relevant to the East Indian community and beyond, such as the successful abolition of child marriage, we have reduced the focus to personalities.
Maharaj, in addressing the speculation, has set the wrong tone by stridently stating he is beyond reproach. He is entitled to freedom of expression and to seeking legal redress for actions by the police which he deems inappropriate. Equally, members of the population are entitled to take issue with his words and the stances he has taken.
In this regard, it is for the lawful authorities to determine what action, if any, they take in response to any issues that may have arisen stemming from Maharaj’s controversial remarks earlier this year. It is not for any person to unilaterally judge whether an issue has arisen or not and to then state an intention to subvert legal processes. That is the wrong example. The law should always apply equally to all.
At the same time, law enforcement authorities would do well to adopt policies designed to limit wastage of scarce resources, especially in the context of high crime rates and an influx of migrants. They should also balance public interest and follow precedent consistently and zealously avoid the appearance of bias and abuse.
In a small society such as ours it is dangerous for legal processes to become tainted with politics, whether through inflammatory rhetoric, abuse of power or murky political influence.
All stakeholders should exercise caution, including Government and Opposition politicians who continue to litigate matters before the courts on political platforms in a way that conveys the impression that the law is just another plaything being used to pursue party agendas.
This Indian Arrival Day we should be focusing on building our bonds, not tearing down the very fabric of order and peace in our society.