Base Politics


The Labour Party leader has decided not to respond to the reply made by the PM to what appears to be a “planted” Parliamentary Question put by MSM MP Hon Doolub, last Tuesday, during the course of which precise details of “items of illegal nature” other than bank notes were secured from a black suitcase at the residence of the former Prime Minister and seized by the police on 6/7 February 2015. We have thus learned that the illegal products are “not commercialized in Mauritius” and that the “Ministry of Health and Quality of Life had not issued any authorisation for its sale in Mauritius” nor “authorisation been given for their importation”.

In light of what had been leaked out earlier regarding the seized items, other than bank notes, secured by the police at Navin Ramgoolam’s residence, the intent behind this week’s PQ could be perceived as meant to cast a direct attack against the personal mores and character of the Labour Party leader — a first in Mauritian politics — and provides an inkling of what is to be expected in terms of base politics in the run-up to the next general elections.

Although Navin Ramgoolam is diminished by the fact that he doesn’t have a seat in Parliament, he remains a “big beast” in the eyes of his political adversaries – one that is perceived to stand in the way of their re-election next time round. All manner of attacks on his character as well as the visuals of the monies secured in his coffers by the police in full view of the MBC’s television cameras, will undoubtedly be on the cards to finish him off. Though it remains to be seen whether most people would be too interested in the details of how he came by so many dollars and other foreign and local currencies, etc., in his private safe and whether it was “legitimate” party donations or otherwise, he would do well to come clean about this matter.

On the other hand, nobody is spared from the prying eyes of the multitudes of voyeurs keen to have a peep into the private lives of public men. Politicians on either side of the political divide would do well to remember that with social media platforms having emerged today as a more powerful communication medium than traditional media due to its ease of access and its reach, posts with salacious content, meant to shame public men point to the dramatic change that is taking place in the dissemination of trash. The good name and reputation of all those involved in discrete affairs get bruised, but that is not a matter of concern or remorse for those who circulate such stuff – for their baser instincts or for political reasons or simply to drive the conversation away from more important matters.

A recurrent question that has come up for debate time and again in all democratic societies is: does a politician’s private life matter? Tony Blair is reported to have said, ‘Politicians are entitled to private lives the same as anyone else.’ Blair’s opinion does not seem to carry much weight today. In the US, many sex scandals have involved politicians, as well as persons appointed with the consent of the Senate. Former President Trump has been recently condemned to pay $5 million in a civil lawsuit in a sexual aggression case and we all had heard of the Clinton-Monica scandal. While the Republicans raised fury about the latter, they have largely kept an embarrassed silence over candidate Trump’s mores. Francois Fillon’s campaign for the French presidency was utterly derailed when it came out that he was employing his wife and kid(s) for what appeared as fake jobs. Wikipedia informs us that ‘sometimes, the officials have denied the accusations, have apologized, or have lost their office in consequence of the scandal (e.g., by resigning, being defeated, or deciding not to run again)’.

We have for long adopted the same approach as the French who are usually less inclined to criticize or condemn what their leaders do in private, but the times are changing. With little attention paid nowadays to the political ideologies and the electoral programmes of parties, it is possible that the character and behaviour of politicians whilst in office are what could likely become the focus of the people’s attention. It is also probable that the dissemination of information of a politician’s behaviour in power and his comportment and character in private may have a bearing on how people vote.

As Nik Antovich of Oregon Daily Emeraldputs it, the decisions politicians make in their private lives best reflect the ones they will make while serving in public office. ‘Politicians ask us to entrust them with sweeping powers, and so we have a right to know as much as necessary about their morality. It is a valuable resource voters can use to determine if a person is someone, we want to represent us in office.’ Politicians keen on casting aspersion on their adversaries would do well to keep in mind that it’s a double-edged sword – what’s sauce for the goose goes equally for the gander. Too bad for the country, though, if politicians, in office or in the opposition, were to drag the country down into the mud.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 19 May 2023

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