This petition, which anyone can and should sign (please do sign if you haven’t), has been circulating for months. There are over 1.2 million inhabitants on the island, activists and conscious citizens are few, and one activist is putting his life on the line to get the Government to show responsibility towards the people who put them in charge. Other actions around this issue including a case in the Supreme Court since 2003 has failed to stop the government from issuing a building permit to a Malaysian company to start building coal power plants in Albion, a coastal village last week. Update: there has been 18,300 signatures collected counting the physical petition as well.
Jeff Lingaya, in spite of other activists trying to dissuade him, started a hunger strike in front of the Ministry of Environment and 3 basic requests regarding transparency and democratic process had to be submitted repeatedly, on several days by other activists, finally the Minister only addressed 2 of those yesterday, on day 8. While Jeff accepted medical treatment and a drip, he threatened to refuse treatment as he carries on with the strike [Update, Jeff has now refused treatment and said he’s prepared to fight to the end (in video)]. According to the conditions in the act, the government can withdraw the permit but they maintain that they can’t and the PM has tried to turn this into a racial issue. I’ll try my best to sum that up in another post, you’ll find more details below* although much of it in French and Creole (this video of his speech at the vigil and others).
Jeff has rightly criticised both the Government and the Opposition party, none of them are benefitting from his strike (his choice but he had no choice, and emphasizes that it’s “our strike”) as he has stressed a few times, this is for the sake of everyone, human and non-human, by a concerned citizen who has had enough. Jeff is the kindest social and environmental justice activist I have come across, brave, determined, visionary, analytical, caring and dedicated. I remain honoured to know him as a friend and while I don’t wish to see him to continue with the strike, it is hardly him sacrificing his life, it is our government risking his life or Jeff about to lose it to show us how much the Government doesn’t care. I’ve never voted for them or the Opposition, never will and was never asked what form of governance I would like, or how land should be unfairly distributed, or how resources are to be exploited. No citizen of the country agreed to that, just like no one agreed to sell the land and the environment to a coal power project, and pay taxes as investment, suffer from the pollution and pay with our health.
People may see a strike having some consequences and many have gone to show their support to Jeff in Port-Louis especially last night (photos and video of the event linked above), and people may see some organisations of activists or citizens like CARES, Rezistans ek Alternativ and Say NO to Coal mobilizing, but these are citizens like you and I, organisations or collectives are not magical entities that can miraculously overcome oppressive regimes or fight the good fight for everyone else, everyone needs to get involved in social and other struggles, and help as they can, every voice and every bit adds up. People may see that the struggle seems to be moving forward right now, but please do realise that it is after 10 years, and more urgently it is costing our friend HIS LIFE!!
Update: Jeff survived 13 days of a hunger strike, and the artivism and protests continue.