24 October 2014
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Friday, 25 January 2013 10:01

It can’t be business as usual!

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What will come out of the Soornack mess, where politics, the judiciary and the press find themselves entangled in a wild whirlwind?
Last Saturday, the president of the Labour party, during a press conference, raised the case of a relative of one opposition figurehead, formerly in power, who has apparently benefited from a number of contracts at the airport; seemingly to justify the present contracts awarded to the Gooljaury / Nandanee tandem. For his part, the Opposition Leader spoke of what could be a "new scandal" involving Gooljaury.

At this rate, if the cupboards are opened, perhaps we shall be overwhelmed by the number of scandals, real or imaginary, involving members of the government, and not surprisingly, even those of the opposition. It is a fact that, as we have written previously, two or three political groups make arrangements to objectively  succeed one another in turn, in a closed circuit.

However, as we saw on Saturday, some try to justify evil by another evil. Others enjoy at unearthing new scandals, while waiting for their turn to be in power. That’s how the gravy train goes! As if the “admirable nation” should simply "eat nuts and watch the film", while their money, collected from direct and indirect taxes, is literally diverted to the protected ones through friendly contracts or outright privileges. In truth, people are tired of being constantly duped. With the exception of diehards who by all means support their respective parties and leaders, not withstanding their shortcomings, the majority of people are tired of these repeated scams.

The rate of participation at the last regional elections amply demonstrates this fact, despite seven years devoid of elections and the efforts made by both sides to persuade the electorate for a massive vote. Ramgoolam is wrong to believe that having been elected for five years, he is not accountable to public opinion during his tenure in office. However, he is right, in his capacity as Prime Minister, to worry about preserving the integrity of our institutions. As Bérenger, the leader of the Opposition, did in his own style during his press conference.

But both, as well as heads of institutions concerned, should be asking themselves questions when a common citizen reacts on the defimedia.info site in these words: “(When you yourself) you do not respect anything, why are you asking us to do so? We do respect all laws and rules but when you take us for granted then we cannot remain silent!” In other words, on what moral values do you base yourself when the perception is that you are the first to tread institutions under your responsibility?

It is clear that after the recent judgment of the Privy Council, the controversy over the practice of private arbitration and the appointment of certain members of the judiciary on the boards of parastatal bodies, the Chief Justice is faced with a huge task. An independent judiciary is the pride of Mauritius and the guarantor of the rule of law. Without this independence, democracy will only be a namesake.

Ramgoolam has the right to criticise the press, but he cannot use it as a scapegoat to hide the mess of his entourage and failures of his regime. The press only drums the saga; it did not invent it. Learned opinion is not fooled when some members of the press are infected by the politicians they meet; overall, the press is pluralistic in Mauritius. And this is good for our democracy. The most serious censors of journalists are not politicians, but public opinion as expressed both in the street and on the net. This explains why journalists also have, from time to time, to make their introspection if they want to maintain their credibility.

We need to ask the real questions: how to end once for all the scandals under the current government as well as under any future government? What are the commitments it takes to bring reforms, that is, consolidate institutions and stir a culture so that the scum does not repeat itself from government to government. Hurling mutual accusations is either diversion or entertainment, to avoid substantive debate or to refrain from attacking the problem at its source. Or to continue to perpetuate the system. For whose benefit?

Mao Zedong (Tse-tung), a refined dialectician and poet, loved to say: "Every bad weather brings with it the seeds of a good spring." History will tell how long and what damage the country will have to suffer from the Soornack mess before a new equilibrium is found. This catharsis will however make sense if only the main actors understand that in a world where people demand more and more accountability from those who assume even an ounce of power (political, legal, press), it cannot be business as usual!




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