Corruption: pervasive and destructive

Common citizens must be wondering how does the country function at all when there are so many negative forces at work trying to undermine the smooth running of its affairs in so many spheres and at so many levels

Common citizens going about their daily routine trying to make an honest living and far removed from the goings-on in the occult spaces of the country have nevertheless to bear the brunt of seeing dark, dirty underworlds exposed as they scan the daily news. They must be wondering how does the country function at all when there are so many negative forces at work trying to undermine the smooth running of its affairs in so many spheres and at so many levels.

As last week’s editorial in this paper noted, about the Drug Commission Report, ‘What this Report has therefore exposed in the open are corruption and corrupt practices that do not spare the high and the mighty, vile crimes, money laundering, inappropriate pressures exerted on officers, illegal enrichment of a few to the detriment of the many behind facades of respectability, use of one’s position to exert influence so as to gain advantage for oneself and one’s accomplices, not to speak of lives irreparably damaged or lost and destroyed families.’

It went on observe, ‘Without pre-judging the conclusions of this new Commission, the citizen may well ask what else will it reveal but the same types of institutional and systemic irregularities uncovered by the Lam Shang Leen Commission mentioned above, except the issues specifically related to the drugs problem?’

While details of the implementation of the Drug Commission Report are still to emerge, ‘this new Commission’, i.e. the one about the Sobrinho-Presidency scandal chaired by Judge Caunhye started its work on Monday last.

Like it or not, for the past several months the common man has had to be mute witness to a lot of muck splattering in the open. This sends us back to an expression which gained currency many years ago but which has stuck, courtesy Harish Boodhoo during the time he was actively engaged in politics which went something like, ‘c..a la reste pareil, mouche verte la ki changer’ which translates as ‘the shit remains the same, it’s the flies that change!’. As multilingual Mauritians we know that ‘shit’ does not sound as offensive in English as ‘c…a’ stinks in Kreol. He must surely have known at firsthand what he was speaking about, an insider view.

Granted, all those who have been singled out in the Drug Commission report or earlier in press reports relating to the Sobrinho affair are presumed innocent until proved otherwise by hard and compelling evidence. But it is certainly no consolation to learn that we are not the only ones having to endure such dark times. Other countries also have their share, and some for very long. There have been lots of corruption scandals in countries whose systems we have adopted and adapted, and perhaps the biggest one in recent memory was the one that led to the financial crisis of 2008. Many learned analyses were made to try and unearth the root cause of this mega-scandal that hit the world with a cascading effect. I remember reading a lengthy article in either the Time or Newsweek magazine (both US publications), at the end of which the author magisterially concluded that what lay at the root of this catastrophe was GREED.

And under another circumstance nearly four decades ago, when a colleague of mine wanting a higher price for his second hand Renault 10 car accepted – unbeknown to him – a chèque sans provision from a crook listed in police records for a higher sum than the car was worth, I remember the words of the Police Superintendent who told him in perfect English, ‘Don’t you know, Doctor, that the lust for money is the bane of humankind!’ That Superintendent belonged to an era of distinguished gentleman officers which is forever gone, alas.

Just like the flies cliché from a seasoned politician was an indication of the rot in our society, whence we must but do not draw lessons – as subsequent events are showing locally, but elsewhere too – we must nevertheless be open and keep learning (the expression ‘eternal student’ comes to mind) from those who have more experience in such matters. This is especially the case when it comes to big countries, where the scale of corruption is much larger, though the types are practically the same. And of course, the impacts too are similar. However, because of their size, clout and resources, they are in a better position to cope than smaller countries like ours.

What a coincidence it is that just when the Sobrinho-Presidency Commission is under way, and within days of the Drug Commission report has been submitted, on August 3 there comes an article online from an American source, Patheos, titled ‘Why corruption matters’ by Tim Shuttle.

It starts by noting that ‘corruption is what we call it when someone surrenders their integrity – their sense of wholeness and moral character, their basic humanity – for the sake of money, sex, or power. Corruption is a dehumanizing force that renders human beings less than fully human. Corruption is the basic failure to keep faith with the human family by abusing one’s privilege, power, or position for personal gain — all at the cost of the group. That’s the overarching reason corruption matters.’ And then goes on to list under the following sub-headings:

  • Corruption in the Presidency is the Worst
  • Corruption Damages the Entire Group
  • Corruption Undermines Democracy
  • Corruption Erodes the Public Trust
  • Corruption Hurts the Poor More than the Rich
  • Corruption Snowballs
  • Corruption Gets Overlooked at the Ballot Box

The article underlines that ‘corruption matters because it damages not only the corrupt person, but also the community of which they are a part. Corruption undermines our sense of belonging and trust… Corruption matters because corrupt people corrupt other people, and all manner of things.’

And it advises that we must ‘care more about the survival of democracy than the success of our party. Christians, especially, need to resist identifying with a political party, and participating in party aligned tribal warfare.’

Here I would say, why Christians only, others too should do the same. In that perhaps lies some hope, especially in our own country. Remember the clergyman from overseas who sent a clear political message when he exhorted his audience to ‘vote with their hands on their heart’ – the heart being the emblem of the MMM – , accompanying his words with the equivalent gesture of placing his hand on his heart.

There’s a very British joke about someone asking about the whereabouts of a fellow who had had a lavish meal of baked beans, the latter known to produce a lot of gas in the belly that results in much loud farting. The answer to the question was, ‘he has not been heard since.’

Ditto for that clergyman! This, though, did not prevent him from being decorated in March 2018! Mauritian voters had a more informed view.

Let us hope that the eventual outcome of the reports of these two Commissions will be a genuine clearing of the stables. Amen.


* Published in print edition on 10 August 2018

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