The people and the country need a competent and credible alternative new team to challenge the established order. There is no place in politics for the dilettante bent on assuring a cushy career in politics
By Mrinal roy
One of the determinant qualities of a President, Prime Minister or political leader is sound judgement. History is littered with examples of forced resignations and convictions owing to errors of judgement by political leaders. In 1963, Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom resigned after the Profumo scandal. In 1974 Richard Nixon had to resign as President of the United States in the wake of the Watergate scandal and impeachment hearings. Francois Fillon who had served as Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted of fraud and misuse of funds in a case of ‘emplois fictifs’ and sentenced to five years in prison in 2020. He has appealed against the sentence.
“People are riled by the opacity surrounding the management and allocation of scarce state lands. They are appalled by the scale of unabated drug trafficking in the country epitomized, despite the government rhetoric, by Mauritius being ranked as the first among the countries of Southern Africa in terms of consumption of synthetic drugs and among the top three countries amongst the 53 African countries. The order of unusable ventilators has exposed the lack of commercial savviness and necessary precautions required in the case of orders of costly equipment…”
The sound judgment and mettle of a President, Prime Minister or political leader are gauged by the transparent, prompt and competent manner he deals with crises and serious allegations levelled against Ministers and the government. It is therefore disconcerting that despite having the counsel and ‘advice’ of a cohort of highly paid advisers at public expense, government and the Prime Minister have patently mishandled the rising outcry regarding grave allegations of wrongdoing surrounding emergency government procurement tenders to meet Covid-19 requirements and the purported links with the suspect deaths of a political activist and persons involved in the tender process.
If, as vehemently claimed, government has nothing to hide, why was the Minister of Commerce not asked to step down to enable a thorough investigation of the allegations levelled against emergency procurement tenders organized and allocated under his watch? In previous cases involving allegations of wrongdoing by Ministers, they were asked to step down. The latest example of this is the alleged case of corruption and bribery in the Rs 4.3 billion CEB Saint Louis Power Plant Redevelopment Project contract when the Minister of Public Utilities was revoked as Minister.
Why was this cardinal rule of good governance not applied in this case at a time when the people expected swift and decisive confidence building actions by government to quell the wildest speculations aired on social media and allay the apprehensions of the people? Such double standards and procrastination have triggered legitimate interrogations. Is there more to it than meets the eye?
This patent dilly-dallying has dented the standing of government in the eyes of the multitude. What the people are clamouring for is a thorough, competent and swift investigation to get to the bottom of the serious allegations made in respect of the modus operandi of government emergency procurement tenders and provide answers and justice to distressed widows seeking the truth on the suspect deaths of their husbands so that they can obtain emotional closure.
The reaction of the Prime Minister to the recent protest march of thousands of citizens in Port-Louis is yet another example of the dubious advice and misguided strategies concocted by the cohort of advisors. Unsubstantiated scaremongering about insidious forces bent on endangering peace, create communal division and mayhem in the country to wrest power cut no ice. Without validated proof, people are not taken in by such contrived shenanigans.
Up in arms
Government cannot bury its head in the sand. The blatant reality is that despite government being in power for slightly more than a year, people are already up in arms against so many aspects of its plummeting standard of governance.
Nepotism and rampant cronyism, lack of transparency and accountability of government spending, government procurement tenders and costly projects such as Safe City or the conditions under which public funds amounting to billions of Rupees are, for example, advanced by the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) to distressed companies to bail them out are some of decried hallmarks of its poor governance.
People are also riled by the opacity surrounding the management and allocation of scarce state lands. They are appalled by the scale of unabated drug trafficking in the country epitomized, despite the government rhetoric, by Mauritius being ranked as the first among the countries of Southern Africa in terms of consumption of synthetic drugs and among the top three countries amongst the 53 African countries. The order of unusable ventilators has exposed the lack of commercial savviness and necessary precautions required in the case of orders of costly equipment. The list is damning and long.
Such appalling and wasteful governance is anathema to the people. A growing majority of people strongly condemn government and are furious as they did not sign up for such a decried and costly brand of governance at the time of the last general elections. People also deplore such poor governance as it undermines the future of the young and their children.
MPs must realize that Vox Populi is Vox Dei. The people remain at all times the ultimate judge of those entrusted to ably and ethically run the affairs of the country. Their governance therefore remains under the constant scrutiny of the people. Government must therefore necessarily take on board the tenor of valid protests by the people. Not to do so is to face a backlash and reap the whirlwind. A handful of MPs cannot lord it over the will of the people which at all times remains paramount in a democracy.
No to dinosaurs
The protest marches of citizens are certainly not a proxy battle for the opposition parties or a comeback bandwagon for their leaders who have been repeatedly rejected by the people at the last two general elections. During the protests, citizens from all walks of life have clearly dissociated themselves from political dynasties and ageing political leaders uncharitably labelled as ‘dinosaurs’. These cannot be party to the establishment of a new beginning for the country. They must realize that their presence undermines the prospects of ushering fundamental changes in political culture and standard of ethics among a new political class for the good of people and country.
A majority of people therefore want to cut loose from a crippling political system which aided and abetted by a subservient political class has pandered to the interests of political leaders rather than those of people and the country. For this reason, large swathes of the silent majority thus preferred not to participate in the march called by the opposition parties.
A new beginning
Mauritius therefore stands at a critical juncture of its political history. The country has touched rock bottom in terms of appalling standard of governance. More than ever before, we need to make judicious choices to chart the way forward for a far better Mauritius. We cannot compose with the same political leaders and political class which have failed the countries over the past decades. The country needs a new beginning. The proposal to get civil society and the opposition parties together to define a new projet de société for the country is therefore a non-starter.
The people hanker for a new beginning cut off from the culture of dynastic politics and the subservience of the political class to omnipotent leaders. Above all, the people and the country need a competent and credible alternative new team to challenge the established order. In the new political configuration of tomorrow, there is no place in politics for the dilettante bent on assuring a cushy career in politics through the perks and trappings of power.
Instead, people want a new breed of young leaders chosen on the basis of their intellect, professional competence, track record, ethics and ethos of altruistic service to the people and willing to team up for a term of office to chart an innovative pathway towards inclusive prosperity and steer the country through the adverse fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic to realize our loftiest ambition as a nation. Commitment of service to the people, ethics and professional competence must be the drivers of their actions to establish a new and far better socio-economic order. All elected MPs must therefore first and foremost be vocal representatives of the people and citizens committed to uphold the people’s and public interest at all times.
The onus is therefore squarely on the bright and talented young of the country to team up and take up the challenge of designing and shaping the vibrant and innovative Mauritius we want as a nation for the benefit of the multitude.
* Published in print edition on 19 February 2021