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Friday, 28 December 2012 10:53

Radhakrisna Sadien : “Mauritius has a lot of challenges ahead; we need to promote social dialogue, a real participative democracy, and a decent work agenda”

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Radhakrishna Sadien is the president of the Government Servants Association, one of the most ancient trade unions of the island. Since late 70s until now he has been serving various trade unions and federations of state employees.
He possesses a vast experience in industrial relations matters both locally and overseas. In the performance of his duties and responsibilities he has demonstrated negotiations and communication skills as well as leadership qualities. One of his greatest achievements is his success at the banning of advertisement on alcohol. Radhakrishna Sadien has recently been elected as the chairman of the National Economic and Social Council. News on Sunday met him to discuss the relevance of the NESC which celebrates this year its10th anniversary and how the council is serving the Nation.

You have been nominated president of the NESC. What are you mission and vision for the NESC?
Allow me to correct you on the first part of this question- The Chairperson is elected by the 24 Councillors of the NESC, as provided in the law, and not appointed by the Government. The NESC is an independent consultative body set up under the Act no 29 of 2001 to undertake studies on socio economic issues of national importance, build consensus through a permanent and sustained social dialogue for a greater participation of civil society in the democratic process to ensure that social harmony keeps pace with economic development as well as to formulate its opinions and make recommendations to government regarding economic and social policies. It comprises government representatives, business organisations representatives, workers organisations representatives as well as civil society organisations.

The Council is supported by three Commissions and a Secretariat. As for our mission and vision, we want to address the lack of visibility of the NESC. We have just produced a Video Clip as well as a Flyer. Besides having an aggressive campaign on the importance of the NESC for the population we shall make it an endeavour to encourage a greater participation of the population in the development of the country.

We have produced very interesting reports. Resources need also to be put at the disposal of NGOs to take over the implementation aspect of these reports.

You are known in public as chairman of the GSA. Now you are at the head of the NESC. As a trade unionist your main objective is to promote the economic and welfare of government servants. As chairman of the NESC you are at the service of government. How do you fare in such a double allegiance?
All Economic and Social Councils throughout the world are multipartite in nature. Several of these institutions have a trade unionist as Vice Chair. In Mauritius Benydin Toolsiraj and myself have served as Vice Chairperson of the NESC after having been a councillor since its creation in 2002. Having a trade union background especially at national level helps you to better understand the challenges facing the country. Serving the NESC puts you in a privileged position to influence policies while being in your union doesn’t give you enough space for manoeuvres. The NESC is at the service of the country and I am at the service of the NESC and by extension of the population of the Republic of Mauritius.  

I have been elected by the Councillors and I bear allegiance to them while adhering strictly to the provisions of the NESC Act 2001.

One must not forget that as a trade unionist I have always been thinking globally when acting locally all throughout my 30 years of career as a union leader while at the same time being loyal to workers.  As a trade unionist I have always been showing interest in the promotion of Quality Service,  Global warming, the Environment, Equal Opportunity for all, Healthy Living, the inculcation of moral values  and Ethics among others.

The role of unions should go beyond bread and butter issues which my union has always been doing - the reason why I feel very much at ease in the position I am occupying now. May I recall that I am a founder member of the NESC, having been part of the three- member team who worked on the NESC Bill in the year 2000. Our focus is promoting participative democracy at all levels and our final objective is the eradication of poverty and the empowerment of our people. In Sept 2012 Mr Guy Ryder, previously General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, has taken over as Director of the International Labour Organisation, and Dan Cunniah, former Secretary General of  the MLC, is now the Director of ACTRAV at the ILO. My election as Chairperson of the NESC should not be considered therefore as a surprise.

The NESC has for years published yearly reports on economic and social issues which finally end up on shelves. What should be done so that these reports are studied and its recommendations if possible implemented?
Although implementation of our  recommendations is not in our mandate we are conscious that several of our recommendations have been implemented - exchange of syringes, recommendations on maintaining  the green cover for Mauritius, legal aid in Mauritius, are but examples of which we are aware having recommended and implemented. We will be conducting an exercise to know the extent to which our recommendations have been implemented by the authorities, the private sector or civil society organisations. We do agree that there is need to publicise our report in an aggressive manner and be kept informed of actions taken.

What is your vision for the year 2013 in relation to the economic and social development of Mauritius?
Although this country has done fairly well being a small island developing state with no natural resources yet we should not rest on our laurels. Mauritius has a lot of challenges ahead, we need to promote social dialogue, a real participative democracy, the decent work agenda of the ILO, and ensure that the fruits of progress benefit all segments of our society. Equal opportunity should be seen to be given, else we will lose our best brains seeking greener pastures.

Our education system does no longer respond to the needs of the market and is too academic. It does not prepare our new generation properly to face life; there has been an erosion of moral values that has become a danger for our own security. The report on violence at schools has depicted to what extent even parents have abdicated to their responsibility.

The films children view nowadays are full of violence; access to internet and mobile phones, if not well controlled, can prove to be dangerous. Too much emphasis is laid on rights instead of duties and responsibilities nowadays. Too many laws and less sensitisation on civism and moral values do not help at all and spoil our society. As we said violence at schools is the fault of our education system as well as educators, parents, the children themselves, the media as well as society at large. We therefore need a multi-pronged approach involving everybody.

The NESC recently held its annual summit. What were the main resolutions taken for the coming year?
The Summit which met on 13 December 2012 has adopted a series of topics for study and depending on availability of resources we will try to produce a maximum of opinion statements and reports.
We recommended to the Summit a series of topics such as Management of Water Resources and water scarcity, land use development, the quality of street foods and its health implications, factors impeding the employment of the disabled, the high birth rate among families facing poverty, problem of alcoholism in the country, our social protection system, the mismatch between demand and supply of labour and lessons to be drawn as well as a study on the wages policy in Mauritius which would also consider the system of profit sharing as well as the issue of a minimum wage and income policy.

As we are aware, a few days ago, village and town council elections took place. While these events are democratic landmarks, I think that we are all conscious of the relatively low election participation turn out. Should we not be concerned with this low participation rate at the NESC? Why is it that despite our hard earned rights for democratic rule our town and village people do not find motivated to accomplish their democratic rights?  In many countries, people are waging wars to acquire the right to vote. Here, we find ourselves in a situation whereby we need to motivate the voters to the polls. Perhaps this is one study that the NESC ought to address. How to get Mauritians to assume their civic duties and to be politically engaged!
Indradev Curpen

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