All this was democratic, they say!

If we want a Republic of Mauritius instead of a Republic of a single political party or family or monopolised gambling, then we can trust the people to make the right choice

By R. Laxman

In their programme of 2014, the outgoing government promised democratic good governance and respect for the rule of law. They won the elections and they are now, at the time of judgment day, promising the same policy. Whether this mantra should make us angry, giggle or feel ticklish is a difficult choice. For sure this mantra on the part of the outgoing government is as ridiculous as it is a vain promise.

Democracy is a much-prostituted concept. Any official dictatorship calls itself democratic. Many dictatorial regimes add the word democratic to the name of their states. Many leaders attain political power through the ballot box and make an abuse of the concept of democracy. Tzvetan Todorov in his book ‘The Inner Enemies of Democracy’ argues that certain democratic values have been distorted and pushed to an extreme that serves the interests of dominant states and powerful individuals.

A demagogue is a tyrant who owes his initial rise to the democratic support of the masses. History is replete with examples of so many politicians who presented themselves at election time as clean, honest democrats (who would have nothing else at heart, except the interest of society and the high values that should guide individuals) but who morph into demagogues following their accession to positions of responsibility and power. The latest decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council illustrates vividly how the irresponsible action of the outgoing government will cost the Mauritius Shipping Corporation over 30 million rupees. This is so on account of the brutal, political and unjustified dismissal of several employees of the Corporation following the results of the 2014 elections. Rule of law and democracy, they say!

They brutally and for reasons not known up to now dismantled the British American Insurance (BAI) and revoked the Bramer Bank licence after the then leader of the outgoing government and some former ministers had withdrawn their money from that bank. As they were in the know of events unfolding, they surely were complicit to insider dealing. But who cares?

All those who invested their lifelong savings or gratuity in a scheme at the BAI are still waiting to be refunded. Flamboyant promises were made. What’s happened to them? Government spokespersons came on the MBC that they have monopolised to accuse BAI of engineering a Ponzi scheme. No whisper of evidence has been established that to this day. A “Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for early investors by acquiring new investors. This is similar to a pyramid scheme in that both are based on using new investors’ funds to pay the earlier backers. Both Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes eventually bottom out when the flood of new investors dries up and there isn’t enough money to go around. At that point, the schemes unravel.” Why have not the Independent Commission Against Corruption or the Financial Intelligence Unit or the police come up with evidence to establish a Ponzi scheme? Another example is the contract of Betamax, which was abruptly revoked; this has dragged the outgoing government in a long legal battle that might cost the State hundreds of millions of rupees.

People were sacked on account of alleged political allegiance or affinity. The promise of ending nepotism and upholding meritocracy just vanished into thin air with relatives, friends, political supporters and agents, girlfriends and mistresses being recruited, with perks and high salaries. No accountability on those recruitments was ever perceptible. A highly respected professional was sacked as CEO of our national airline to make way for close friends or relatives.

Attempts were also made to have all public prosecutions controlled by the government through the Prosecution Commission Bill, whose avowed objective as set out in the explanatory memorandum was to make provision the issue of directions by the Prosecution Commission to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Prosecutions would have been decided and directed either in the cabinet or at Government House. And that Commission would have had as members all political nominees. All this was democratic, they say!

The use being made of the MBC during an electoral campaign is unprecedented in our history. Air time is being decided in an arbitrary manner when it comes to the main challenger of the outgoing government. The coverage of all political activities of the outgoing government is being done on a regular basis without any respect for the principles of impartiality and objectivity as provided in the Mauritius Broadcasting Act. The MBC acted in a most illegal manner by broadcasting the bank accounts of a leader of a party knowing full well it was illegal to do so and in total breach of the law. If this is not openly campaigning for the outgoing government, what is? This mirrors the situation in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe who monopolised the state media to the detriment of the opposition. Democracy it is they say!

People were arbitrarily arrested on flimsy or no charges. Had it not been for the independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions the arrestees would still have been grovelling in jail. Bank accounts have been released to the public in total breach of the law on banking secrecy. Gambling has become the monopoly of a single person who is financing the campaign of the caretaker government. The law was recently amended to give monopoly on off-race course gambling to that person. The Lam Sham Leen drug commission report that pinpointed many members of the caretaker government is lying dormant in the corridors of power. One lawyer who was pinpointed is at the forefront of the electoral campaign of the caretaker government. A former vice-Prime Minister who made serious racial remarks against a community is being promised high responsibilities notwithstanding the fact that he still has a case in court. All this is democratic, they say!

Whatever the people decide is their choice. If we want to perpetuate the hijacking of the rule of law, of democratic principles, of controlling vital institutions by the appointment of political supporters, let the outgoing government come back. But if we want a Republic of Mauritius instead of a Republic of a single political party or family or monopolised gambling, then we can trust the people to make the right choice.

* Published in print edition on 31 October 2019

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