Another tumultuous year and more to come


By Jan Arden

In this as other Christmas seasons when our spirits are joyful, overlooking the beasts within and the angels outside, the shepherds of the skies above and the stars beyond the commonplace, we all can share some thoughts for those in sorrow or grief, those who have been battered by events beyond their control, those with health afflictions or those struggling to earn their living, as we join the collective prayers for a more just, humane and brotherly world.

By all standards, 2022, which the Chinese lunar zodiac foresaw as the Year of the Tiger, was indeed a brash, unpredictable and eventful year, which will fade away on 21st January 2023, leaving many of us dazed on personal fronts and the country stranded on rocky reefs.

Another wakashio beaching

In July 2020, neither the National Coast Guard and its fleet of surveillance aircraft nor our radar systems, nor our maritime and port authorities could prevent the MV Wakashio vessel to run aground a few hundred metres from Pointe d’Esny and stay beached there on our reefs for twelve long days without any emergency response, until it finally broke apart and spilled its murky oils onto our most pristine waters. Since then we seem to have recorded other beachings of Taiwanese fishing vessels near the harbour.

Now we learnt on Dec 9th of a Taiwanese trawler Yu-Feng that has run aground in Saint-Brandon, with 70+ tonnes of diesel and fuel oil on board and after twelve days, we seem to have drawn no lessons from those repeated beachings nor made sure the NCG has the means and operational independence for emergency action to prevent such occurrences nor even published for general and expert input the recommendations of the maritime court set up following the Wakashio disaster.

A crisis committee has now been set up and a South African salvage team appointed to avoid an oil-spill disaster in an archipelago that experts reckon is vital to the resources of our marine economic zone. Instead of haughty political defensiveness, DPM Obeegadoo should train his erstwhile guns on the repeated failures of our maritime authorities and the cohort of bungling busybodies that allow such events to happen in the first place.

Hunger strike and electricity rates hike

The end of year was not the most propitious time for citizen Nishal Joyram’s brave and costly attempt through a hunger-strike to force the authorities to scale down the exorbitant taxes and VAT that keep our fuel prices at the pump disproportionately high, but it certainly brought home a total lack of empathy of the authorities in defusing the fuel pricing and associated cost of living crisis. The latter was attributed to depleted reserves at the State Trading Corporation after the huge costs of the Betamax debacle and the Ministry of Finance’s clean sweep last year of any reserves at all parastatals and State-owned entities, a combination leaving consumers and taxpayers to bear the brunt of those decisions.

If anybody thought some relief might be forthcoming towards the end of the year, last week’s announcement by Public Utilities Minister Joe Lesjongard that a massive 20-30% hike in electricity rates would take effect from 1st of February 2023, again because reserves of several billion rupees a couple of years ago had been transferred to the recurrent funds managed by the Ministry of Finance. Ultimately everybody will pay for the cascading prices expected in transport, bakeries, shops, snacks and supermarkets, and that look set to be passed on to already fleeced consumers and in particular the old age pensioners who have not even received the Rs 1000 dished out to working folk.

Why choose the festive season to wield the big stick is anybody’s guess, but it might avoid the future budget announcing anything other than positive news, pumping up a feel-good factor. As for the Minister’s other leg, drinking water with reservoirs running dry, unrepaired and unreplaced pipes, with non-revenue water still hovering at the 60% it was ten years ago, we all have to pray for heavy rains or cyclonic storms to keep us afloat in the 24/7hrs fantasy.

Electoral loopholes and Dayal’s petition

On a more sobering note, the main Opposition parties and Resistans ek Alternativ are getting their thinking hats on to identify what loopholes in our electoral processes were evidenced in 2019 and that under no circumstances should be allowed a repetition in 2024. While the IBA is busy toying with such new concepts as “impartiality” applied selectively to private radio and media broadcasters, it is not known what measures they want to see at the MBC, which, despite public funding and its charter, has become recognised as government’s private soap-box over the past seven years. We want free and fair elections and not cavemen stealing the show.

In that regard, Suren Dayal’s challenge of the electoral outcome in No.8 to the Supreme Court that had been set aside by Judges David Chan and Karuna Devi Gunesh-Balaghee, will be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, presumably in the latter’s first or second sitting in early 2023, ending in April and May respectively. Nobody in the legal fraternity and in political spheres will remain indifferent to the possible ruling of the Law Lords to any of the multiple appellate points even if any predictions would be foolhardy.

Many observers predict that the PM, whose seat and those of colleagues Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun and Yogida Sawmynaden are at stake in constituency No 8, may avoid any risk of an unfavourable judgement by dissolving the National Assembly before or around April, after passing, one assumes, a budgetful of goodies and freebies at an early session. In that scenario, general elections are predicted for the July-August period in 2023.Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 December 2022

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