In an interview which appeared in the Mauritius Times of 30th December 2010, Mohamad Vayid (MV) painted a broad brush of the social, economic and political situation in Mauritius as he sees it. It is interesting inasmuch as it shows an appreciation of the situation which is different from a number of mainstream understandings and assumptions about public affairs. Opinions can however differ and certain facts may find altogether different interpretations, depending on personal choices and preferences. A careful analysis of the arguments put forward by MV, in the form of a ‘Socratic Dialogue’, allows one to put to the test some of his standpoints in his interview. We will accordingly put forward MV’s Propositions to Socrates and allow him to delve deeper into the assertions made.
MV Proposition 1: ‘Absence of meritocracy’
Despite a profusion of political statements being made about the respect for meritocracy, equality of opportunity and equality before the law, the reality is that all key positions in the country’s institutions are being held by representatives of a single ethnic group, corruption has spread out to all sectors of activity and institutions, predators have seized the apparatus of state and Mauritius is forced to accept a mode of conformist thinking.
Socrates: Is the Public Service Commission a key institution of Mauritius?
Socrates: Is it headed by a member of the same ethnic group which MV is referring to?
Socrates: Is the Supreme Court a key institution of Mauritius?
Socrates: Is the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court being held by a person belonging to the same ethnic group which MV is referring to?
Socrates: Is the position of Financial Secretary of the Ministry of Finance being held by a person belonging to the same ethnic group which MV is referring to?
Socrates: Does the Chief Electoral Commissioner of Mauritius belong to the same ethnic group which MV is referring to?
Socrates: Is the recently appointed Director of Prisons of Mauritius from the ethnic group MV is referring to?
Socrates: Have all such persons been appointed on merits or because of their ethnic belonging?
Answer: On merits, undoubtedly.
Socrates: Is there evidence to support MV’s view that all of those appointed from the specific ethnic group he has referred to, barring a couple of them, would not be having the merits or skills to execute efficiently the assignments given to them?
Answer: No evidence has been provided.
Socrates: Is there evidence that the persons MV has referred to as being appointed to key positions and belonging to the specific ethnic group would have indulged in acts of corruption or contrary to established principles and practices?
Answer: No evidence.
Socrates: Would appointment of persons belonging to other than the specific ethnic group to the key positions referred to, have served to avoid induced corruption, predators, conformist thinking, etc.?
Answer: There is no reason to think so.
Socrates: Are there systems in place to put down appointees who trespass the bounds of lawful behaviour?
Socrates: Is there evidence that political authorities have wilfully encouraged appointees to overstep into corrupt practices?
Socrates: Are people allowed to express views which are contrary to those held by the government?
MV Proposition 2: ‘Corruption is the most pernicious scourge affecting Mauritius’
Corruption is the most pernicious scourge affecting the Republic of Mauritius. It is rooted in the desire for quick gains, cupidity, power-seeking, communalism and immorality. Politics is at the centre of this scourge. It is necessary to end the current practice consisting of exclusively appointing political supporters in strategic positions. The latter can inflict considerable damage where they are mediocre or dishonest persons. It is necessary to appoint a new generation of technocrats as part of succession planning in public administration instead of going on extending contracts and sticking to outdated standards of administrative conduct at the risk of making Mauritius the temple of mismanagement.
Socrates: Is corruption a new phenomenon in Mauritius?
Answer: No. The Independent Commission against Corruption was established back in 2002, succeeding the Economic Crime Office which itself was disbanded when it set out to arrest and investigate a Minister of the then government.
Socrates: Was politics also at the centre of the scourge of corruption then as it is now, according to MV?
Answer: Logically, yes.
Socrates: Did political parties in the past appoint partisans/sympathisers to key administrative positions who did not have the competence and integrity to run the offices to which they were appointed?
Answer: Succeeding governments have been unable to override pernicious outside influences or personal political choices, something which has acted to prevent them from sticking to strict meritocracy and establish visionary succession planning in the public sector.
Socrates: Why can’t new governments get rid of such pernicious influences and take all decisions in the country’s best interests?
Answer: For fear of not being elected at the next turn if they do not compromise on standards.
Socrates: How can governments extricate themselves from this gridlock?
Answer: By producing path-breaking results when in power, shifting the stage higher and becoming trusted by the public to be able to work in the universal interest of one and all. When they carry conviction of this sort with voters, the usual appeal to communal sentiments for getting elected will not be necessary as facts will speak for themselves. Neither internal power-brokers seeking personal advancement nor external political rivals can thwart their re-election in that case except by producing alternative credible universal action plans for the better uplift of the country.
Socrates: By yielding for long to mediocrity and under-management of public administration, has not irreparable damage been done?
Answer: Yes, but the situation is not altogether beyond repair.
* Published in print edition on 14 January 2011