Attending to Burning National Problems

Editorial

All over the world, common to all elected governments is that by the time they are in mid-term, their popularity dips in the polls. What happens next is that, since they cannot yet be voted out, the people express their frustration or anger when local or regional elections are held by voting for the opposition parties. The reason is simple: the ruling party is labouring to fulfil the promises that were part of the rhetoric at election time, and with only so much time remaining to complete the mandate, the people realise that all their expectations are unlikely to be met.

While it is a fact that citizens have some legitimate expectations, campaigning politicians add some more of their own to the citizens’ basket, which has an enhancing effect on their existing ones. And then the onus is on the incoming government to give effect to what has been promised, since it remains the ‘indispensable conduit of access to such state resources as taxation revenues, law-making powers and policing’.

In December 2014 we Mauritians decided to change from one political alliance to another, on the assumption that it was a shift to another kind of politics, implying an alternative, better way of doing things and of running the affairs of State for the benefit of its citizens. Initially, actions taken that were loudly and widely publicised gave the general impression that this in fact was the case. And we were confident enough that the same mindset would be sustained throughout the mandate. We had seen how in the past every incoming regime swept with a new broom, only for the old ways to surreptitiously make a comeback again – but surely, we told ourselves, this time it would be different?

Whether it is savvy spin-doctoring or people’s perception that things had changed for the better, the outgoing regime was re-elected in November 2019. Beefed up, it promised even more goodies, encountered head-on (as all other countries did too) the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic, and gained what it could claim as a measure of success in its control.

And then the worms started crawling out of the woodwork with procurement and other scandals being exposed. The latest is the Angus Road saga which seems to be so polarizing attention that the government risks being paralysed as regards more pressing national issues, and it is time that they became the focus of concern and action by government, and by civil society too.

Citizens require some assurance from both the public and private sectors, and civil society too on several counts, amongst others:

  • That there are adequate systems and structures to ensure the running of institutions in all transparency, objectivity and with accountability;
  • There will be absolutely no political interference in the running of these institutions, including threats that may silence officers into submission;
  • That awards of contracts will be made on the basis of objective criteria that will be strictly adhered to, and that there will be no arm-twisting to suit lobbies or cronies;
  • That banks will safeguard our money, and not siphon it elsewhere locally or abroad; that judicious use will be made of taxpayers’ money;
  • That the lawyer or attorney will not take us on a spin and truly and honestly fight our case and obtain justice, rather than compromise in tacit collusion with the counterparts;
  • That the civil servant that we face across the table or the window will not sabotage us through rigid procedures and delaying tactics;
  • That the media will not dabble in sensationalism and ‘fake news’ but instead provide us with the real news, will verify facts before presenting them as information written in stone, will not conduct trials and make judgements but instead leave that to the law courts, will not falsely accuse and tarnish a person’s good name and relegate any rectification to the smallest print in the most remote corner of a newspaper;
  • That the health professionals will look at us as human beings in distress who need support and due treatment, and not burden us with unnecessary and costly investigations. That they will not prescribe treatment that will be worse than the disease, and that they will inject compassion in the care which is our due;
  • That patients will not pressurize doctors to do unnecessary X-rays, scans, blood tests because their friends or relatives have had these done too;
  • That patients will await their turn and not jump the queue when they come to hospital or health centre, in the same manner as they follow the rules in other places, such as the bank or the post office;
  • That teachers will teach with passion and interest post-Zoom during confinement, that students and their parents will be respectful of their teachers and accept the need for discipline and order in the schools and colleges. That the ‘ministry’ will not tolerate indiscipline and side with pupils who have political connections?
  • That parents will fully assume their role and responsibility as regards the behaviour of their wards, and that they will not bully the teachers or principals – and that too in front of the unruly student – who are doing their level best to inculcate values and impart education that will prepare their wards for life;
  • That priests will not exploit the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of people who are seeking solace, and that they will refrain from paedophilia or sexual exploitation of women who come to seek succour in prayers;
  • That the law and order situation will change for the better.

The clock is ticking: Year 1 has just passed, and as the village election results have shown, the countdown has already begun! – for the people and their elected representatives. Will the latter provide the needed oversight and initiate the steps to meet the citizens’ just expectations as pledged? Let us hope that we will start getting the answers before it is too late.


* Published in print edition on 1 December 2020

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