Abuse of government apparatus?

Political Caricatures

By L.E. Pep

Readers will have read about meetings between Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and potential candidates being held out at Treasury Building. We would have thought that care would have been taken to ensure that the State’s premises and facilities are not be used for any political party’s activities and electoral purposes.

The PMO is not the property of any party whatsoever. Why then is the PM using the PMO’s resources including its offices for discussions with potential candidates? Does this not amount to an abuse of privilege?

The PM says he is a man of principles and speaks of good governance, etc., but isn’t this a clear case of the misuse of administrative resources for the electoral process that has already begun with the dissolution of the National Assembly. Such meetings should be taking place in the Sun Trust building.

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ReA: ‘We will contest the elections in court if our candidacy is rejected’

Technically, all the candidates will have to declare their community belonging so that their Nomination Papers are validated on Tuesday 22 October. Political parties and alliances have until Friday 11 to register with the Electoral Commission for the elections of 7 November.

The National Assembly has been dissolved while the constitutional case lodged by Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) against the obligation imposed on every candidate at general elections to declare the community to which he or she claims to belong. Everything seems to indicate that the Supreme Court will be called upon to settle this dispute, which has been undermining our political system for several years. For Stefan Gua, there is no question of ReA’s candidates declaring their community belonging. In the event that their application is rejected, the party plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Stefan Gua condemns the attitude of the government, which has not taken into account the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the forthcoming elections. He recalled that in 2014, there was a mini-amendment, which could have been renewed. ‘In any case, we will never accept that our application is rejected because of the communal classification. If this is the case, we plan to challenge the elections in court. Moreover, we have already begun to discuss with our lawyers about this.’

Kugan Parapen: ReA discusses alliance with ‘non-traditional’ parties

“If the MMM carries out its ‘mea culpa’ and returns to a leftist ideology, an alliance could be considered,” has said Kugan Parapen. But there is no indication that they will again be on the side of workers and will be defending their cause, added the spokesman of ReA. He also stated that the butterfly party has been approached by ‘traditional’ formations, but that’s not what would interest its members or its national committee.

If there is going to be any rapprochement, it will be with parties of the left. “Traditionnel nou pa le,” reaffirms Parapen. Not discouraged by results of the 2017 Belle-Rose/Quatre-Bornes by-election, he will be standing for election again in the same constituency

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Navin Ramgoolam’s hour of deliverance has come

The announcement of the dissolution of Parliament and the organization of elections on 7 November has been received ‘with much relief’ within the Labour Party. “The hour of deliverance has come,” said the leader of the party, Navin Ramgoolam. “It’s a relief for all Mauritians. The choice in the next election will be very clear: to give the country a fresh start where everyone will have the same rights and the same opportunities. The hour of deliverance has come. We are proposing a break with the past.”

For Arvind Boolell, “the Labour Party is the ally of the people and we are promoting an alliance of all the patriots. The LP leader and other party leaders are currently working on the list of candidates which will be finalized in consultation with our ally, the PMSD. We are also working on the electoral program. I hope that fairness and respect for political opponents and the electorate will prevail, and that without any disturbances whatsoever.”

As for the leader of the PMSD, Xavier-Luc Duval, he said: “The country is impatient. The Labour-PMSD-MP alliance is being finalized and we are ready for these elections.”

* * *

Land Court promise by the LP

The leader of the Labour Party made public his commitment to the media and the public to set up a Land Court if his party comes back to power. The necessary amendments will be brought, he said, so that the Land Court becomes a reality and justice is done. With this promise made in person during his visit on Monday 7 October to Clency Harmon, the latter put an end to his hunger strike initiated eleven days ago.

The spokesman of the association ‘Justice, Restitution et Reparation’ as well as his comrades Gervais St Lambert and Raoul Perichon stated at a press conference in the presence of their legal panel and the Affirmative Action group that « le gouvernement sortant a fait la sourde oreille. Navin Ramgoolam nous a déjà promis ce que nous attendions alors que le gouvernement sortant n’a rien pu faire. Puisque nous pensons que le PTr sera au pouvoir après les élections générales, nous allons le soutenir ».

The panel of lawyers supporting the group will send a letter to all the political leaders to request them to take a public commitment in this direction. That’s what Rama Valayden announced. In addition to the Labour Party, there is also the Mouvement Militant Mauricien and the Parti Mauricien Social-Democrate which have also indicated their intention to establish a Land Court once in power.

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Cote d’Or Smart City: Allegations of favouritism/cronyism

Some 2000 acres of land for the first phase of Cote d’Or Smart City will be allocated to two developers among the30 others which bid for the project. It has been alleged that these two developers would not be abiding by all the criteria established in the bid invitation. This has been denied by the Chief Executive Officer of Landscope, Naila Hanoomanjee.

Last week, the State Law Office recommended that the board of directors do not proceed with the selection made. The bid exercise will therefore have to be started anew.

Everything started with a 12-page long document sent by Landscope President Gérard Sanspeur last month to the members of the board of directors, warning them of the potential risks they would incur and the problems that would result if they signed the letters of intent, that have been endorsed by the CEO herself.

Gerard Sanspeur explains that the choice of the promoters, namely Côte-d’Or Smart City JV and Ergoma Consortium, which caused all the controversy is that it goes against the regulations prescribed in the Expression of Interest (EOI) launched by Landscope in December 2017.

EOI was looking for investors to develop some 2000 acres of land for the first phase of the Côte-d’Or Smart City project. 59 applications were received by Landscope and 32 promoters preselected. However, on May 17, 2019, a letter from the Ministry of Finance, addressed to the CEO recommends considering the two promoters mentioned above. In the letter in question, a copy of which has been sent to the press, it is explicitly stated that it was the Council of Ministers which had recommended these two promoters.

However, this directive is far from being welcomed by Gérard Sanspeur. One of the worrying reasons he mentions in the paper is that the two promoters did not submit their proposed investment program that is meant to indicate the beginning and the deadline of their respective projects – an aspect which constitutes one of the conditions of the EOI.

Here’s a regime that till the very last minute continues to be marred by cronyism. Now that it has become evident that the edifice is showing too many cracks, a fresh coat of paint alone won’t suffice.

* * *

Raiding the Central Bank’s Special Reserve Fund!

According to regulations in force, the BoM can fulfil its obligation only four months after the close of its accounts for the present financial year, that is, at the end of this month. Thus, the transfer of Rs 18 billion from the Bank’s Special Reserve Fund for debt repayment has not been carried out yet.

Readers will recall that this proposal raised considerable opposition from different quarters. Many of our top economists had argued that markets value independent central banks that can and will stand up to populist demands from governments and that the erosion of such independence will at some point lead to disaster. They also argued that, like in India, Mauritius, free from government pressures, should set a minimum economic capital reserves requirement too and should also forbid the distribution of unrealized valuation reserves to government. 

Xavier Duval, leader of the opposition, who was planning to come forward with another Private Notice Question on the issue before the dissolution of the National Assembly, seems to have taken the commitment in a recent interview that he will not be carrying out such transfers if he is designated as the next Minister of Finance. He qualifies this non-payment as “une victoire contre un abus de pouvoir par un PM dangereux pour la santé économique du pays.”

Moreover, he blames the PM for leaving a legacy of a huge public debt to Mauritians to be paid for by future generations. The public debt is in the order of Rs321 billion, 65% of GDP or Rs 267,000 per inhabitant, including newly-born babies. “It’s huge. And this without the tens of billions that have not been included to date. The country is crumbling under the weight of such elevated public sector debt,” he said.

* * *

Quote: Jocelyn Chan Low

‘The lamda citizen must “nudge” for an alternative discourse.’

* Published in print edition on 11 October 2019

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