Political parties must above all be a democratic forum of healthy debate, ideas and initiatives for the betterment of the country and the people. This is far from being the case among the main parties in the country
Matters of the Moment
The letter of the deputy leader of the MMM, Pradeep Jeeha, sent to the leader of the MMM this week announcing his decision ‘to take leave of the Politburo meetings unless and until the climate of trust, respect and liberal democratic principles are established’ could act as a template for the members of the other main parties of the country. In a scathing indictment he also pilloried ‘the unhealthy state of affairs within the party’ and ‘the disdain showed towards Party members who dare express contradictory and constructive criticism independently in the Politburo and in the Central Committee’. He also expressed his shock as deputy leader at the MMM leader’s ‘unilateral decision of restricting important party affairs to a triumvirate… thus circumventing the Politburo and demeaning the collective intelligence of the other members of the Politburo.’ It must be said that dissidence has triggered a haemorrhage of members over time.
The appalling situation described in Pradeep Jeeha’s letter basically epitomizes the deplorable state of affairs within the main political parties of the country. The standard party model is characterized by an omnipotent leader who holds an iron grip over the party and its undemocratic party structure through the unstinted support of a coterie and subservient apparatchiks. Instead of a collegial approach which draws on the intellect and acumen of party members for the common good, it is the party leader who calls the shots on all party decisions and actions at all times.
“The appalling situation described in Pradeep Jeeha’s letter basically epitomizes the deplorable state of affairs within the main political parties of the country. The standard party model is characterized by an omnipotent leader who holds an iron grip over the party and its undemocratic party structure through the unstinted support of a coterie and subservient apparatchiks. Instead of a collegial approach which draws on the intellect and acumen of party members for the common good, it is the party leader who calls the shots…”
Political parties must above all be a democratic forum of healthy debate, ideas and initiatives for the betterment of the country and the people, within the parameters of established party rules and conventions. This is far from being the case among the main parties in the country. In a world which requires more and more pointed skills and pluri-disciplinary professional acumen, no leader, let alone one without the required qualifications and proven competence, can claim to know it all or decide for all and sundry.
A party system which thrives on a cohort of obsequious members docilely kowtowing to the diktats of all-powerful leaders is untenable and unacceptable in a democracy. The upshot is that unlike the norm in the best democracies of the world, the main parties in the country have been led by the same repeatedly disavowed leaders at the polls, for decades. What is worse for the country and the people is when such leaders and parties, as has been the case for too long in the country, are called upon to run the government. This unacceptable mode of governance has blunted the socio-economic development of the country. This cannot go on.
Sine qua non conditions
This deplorable situation also raises the topical question of the proposed funding of political parties from public funds. This proposal is anathema to the multitude in the present context of undemocratic party structure, modus operandi and unchanged leaders despite having been disavowed by the people at the polls. In short, under such circumstances the people cannot subscribe to the idea of financing political parties whose leaders consider them to be a family heirloom or their private property. On the basis of this criterion, none of the main parties will be eligible for public funding. A true democratization of party structure and a democratic procedure for the replacement of leaders defeated at the polls as well as a policy of openness towards the induction of a new breed of talented and altruistic new members must be sine qua non conditions for public financing of political parties. Political parties must be made accountable and showcase democratic procedures to elect office bearers and the party leader in a transparent manner through approved records, to be eligible for public funding.
Mauritius certainly deserves better. There is thus a rising clamour for the country to be run differently by a new young team comprising the best talents of the country driven by a collegial approach to define the required strategies and projet de société to realize our loftiest ambitions as a nation for all. It is therefore high time for us as a nation to make this happen by entrusting the future of the country to such a new team imbued with the highest code of ethics and commitment of service to the people. As a nation, are we not fed up with having to compose with the same discredited leaders and their political alliances contre nature cobbled only for the sake of holding on to or wresting power at any cost?
No leader can be more important than the party. When disavowed and defeated at the polls, a leader becomes a liability. He must have the grace to step down instead of undermining the Party’s future by holding on to the post. This is the presently the case for the main political parties. It is thus high time to rid the country of the rooted culture of ‘Après moi, moi’ which has been the bane of good governance and so detrimental to the interests of the people and the country for too long.
Mauritius is at a crossroads. There is more and more glaring evidence that the current system of governance based on an overbearing control over the government machinery and institutions by successive governments over past decades is hobbling the prospects of the country. It also carries potent risks of mishaps and missteps of all kinds. This is already happening. It cannot go on. There is therefore an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the calibre of leaders chosen to run the country and the way the country is managed for the betterment of the people and the country.
“The events of the past weeks have yet again revealed so many skeletons in the cupboard of the financial services sector. Despite the holier than thou rhetoric and the dogged refusal of government in the teeth of various allegations of wrongdoings made against Alvaro Sobrinho to revisit the questionable decisions of granting him various permits and authorizations to invest and operate in the financial services sector of the country, the cat now seems finally to be out of the bag…”
For example, the events of the past weeks have yet again revealed so many skeletons in the cupboard of the financial services sector. Despite the holier than thou rhetoric and the dogged refusal of government in the teeth of various allegations of wrongdoings made against Alvaro Sobrinho to revisit the questionable decisions of granting him various permits and authorizations to invest and operate in the financial services sector of the country, the cat now seems finally to be out of the bag. Growing allegations of misuse of Angola’s sovereign-wealth fund, Fundo Soberano De Angola (FSDEA) which again put the spotlight on Angolan investors operating in the country and the meeting of a representative of the new Angolan government with the Prime Minister last week have brought matters to a head.
Thus, all the 25 Mauritian bank accounts of another Angolan-Swiss national Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais holding billions of Rupees have been frozen and his seven operating permits in the country managed by his company Quantum Global have been suspended by the regulatory institutions. These events have once again exposed the failings of the system in place regarding the verification of the credentials and fit and proper eligibility of applicants wishing to operate in our financial services sector and the rigorous due diligence exercise to validate their sources of funds to prevent any risk of money laundering. This is the more so as Quantum Global Group and Alvaro Sobrinho have been granted permits to operate in Mauritius since May 2014 and November 2016 respectively. Have the authorities been caught napping?
Simply not on
Government has also not assumed its role of oversight as these permits and authorizations to operate in Mauritius have been granted under the watch of the last year of office of the previous government and the present government in place since December 2014. It must also be remembered that applications made by Alvaro Sobrinho for operating permits in the financial sector, which had been denied by the Bank of Mauritius, were subsequently granted by the Financial Services Commission (FSC) mandated to do so following amendments made to the Finance Bill by government in August 2016. Similarly, Alvaro Sobrinho was granted the authorization to acquire 12 upmarket villas by the Board of Investment (BOI) for some Rs 355 million despite the advice of caution not to do so recommended in the Reputational Review Report of Kroll and a private sector Senior Counsel in order to safeguard the standing and repute of the jurisdiction governing our financial services sector.
Have those entrusted to check and assure the irreproachable credentials and quality of new applicants who preferably plan to operate in innovative and upmarket segments of the financial services sector been cutting corners? Has there been pressure from government, desperate to showcase results? This is simply not on. The strengthening and growth of the financial services sector and of any other economic sector for that matter cannot be assured without making the right selection of innovative operators and adhering to the highest benchmarks and code of operating ethics.
The references to the Mauritian financial sector in the Panama and Paradise Papers and more recently in the context of the ongoing inquiry on the Libyan financing of the presidential campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 taint the repute of the country. No one including the government and the operators should be allowed to tinker or compromise with the paramount objective of preserving and consolidating the repute and standing of the country’s growing financial services sector. The regulators must be uncompromising in the choice of quality and innovative operators allowed to operate in Mauritius. It is therefore high time to urgently review and beef up the existing system of verification and approval of operators and their sources of funds in order to anchor the financial services sector on solid and clean bases so that it becomes a more robust and thriving pillar of the economy.
* Published in print edition on 13 April 2018