School for Scandals


The political game goes on

Events this week show that the power game launched with SAJ’s resignation from the presidency is proceeding fit and fine.

On the one hand, the MMM-MSM have announced that they will carry on with a series of ‘pilgrimages’ into the constituencies. This should be no less than selling their new alliance to voters with a view to seeking greater adherence than what their gathering of May 1st in Port Louis would have indicated. Now that both sides have given away the “secrets” which they had held in reserve for the May Day meeting, it will be interesting to know what else they have on offer for the voters.

On the other hand, Parliament has become the arena for airing out those very issues that were given out by both sides of the House during their 1st May meeting. Obviously, each one is out to embarrass the other on matters such as seeking information about what actually happened in a bungalow at Roches Noires, the ins and outs of the MedPoint scandal, potential involvement of a sitting member of the House in an unlawful transaction surrounding trade in ‘Bois de rose’ from Madagascar and the bad habit of taking possession of others’ lands by having recourse to prescription.

It is important to note that several of these issues have been dragging on for quite some time. They are obviously being paraded out with a view to getting the public to stand as a judge as to who exactly, between the two sides, would have been guilty of the bigger misdemeanour. Feeling flattered to be put in a position to judge who is actually guilty of the greater crime among those who hold the highest offices of the land, the public has been happily dispensing its diverse views, depending on who it sides with. Radio airwaves have been full of comments from interested members of the public as to where the guilt lies, each according to his own parameters. Bloggers are also busy, contradicting each other on both sides of the fence. If these represent a fair sample of the population, another division of the population appears to be working its way up, this time along the lines of the “school for scandals”.

The free flow of discussions and partisan exchanges is part of democracy, no doubt. The level of the debate is however setting a floor which begs the question. Our political leaders should not have been seen smearing each other with scandals of the sort. The perception should have been one of a higher level, notably with setting out more fully the broader agenda of the country than splashing each other with misconduct in which they might or might not have been involved. This situation offers interested members of the public too good a chance to exorcise themselves of their own failings by commenting ceaselessly on the failings rather of political leaders. As if they were better, all of them.

That said, we cannot avoid addressing the truth behind all those allegations. All those matters have to be sorted out by the appropriate authorities well in time before speculation of all sorts keep adding unsuspected dimensions to them beyond the actual factual position. Had they been dealt with by the appropriate authorities in a timely manner, it would have been established that not only we have appropriate institutions to deal with them but that those institutions are functional as well. Finality of processes would have avoided all the spilling around that is taking place in public gatherings and in Parliament.

Take the case of prescription of lands. It is a deeply inflicted wound from which past generations have suffered. This issue goes deep enough in the popular psyche to the point that the recent Commission on Justice and Truth set up to look into the scars left behind by slavery and indentured labour, had it among its terms of reference. It may be a receding target when past generations are concerned in view of multiple changes of hands the lands in question would have gone through, making it unfair on innocent present-day owners to pay for the transgressions of past accaparators. However, the issue should be live enough to deal with when it comes to more recent incidents of the sort. All that is legal is not necessarily moral and facts need to be sorted out to act as deterrent in future.

While there is no guarantee that further scandalous cases involving politicians may not get unearthed with time, there is a need to give good credentials to politics. This can best be done by putting to rest suspicions of wrongdoing that have been levelled by honourable members against each other since more than one year now with the breakout of the MedPoint affair. It is not in the country’s interest that our political class should keep playing on the same chord and be seen as being tainted with possible inroads they would have made to pervert the ordinary course of justice. Inferences of the sort, entertained over long stretches of time, weaken the political class as a whole and act to prevent it from delivering on its real mandate.

As matters drag on in scandalous matters of the sort, there is a risk that some form of sham puritanism will take form in the country. This comes at a cost. When no solutions are handed down, people come to assume at some stage that it is normal for holders of political power to abuse their power and position. This kind of sustained mutual undermining has continued for so long in some neighbouring countries that the worst types of misbehaviours from certain countries’ political class have been condoned as if they were in accordance with established norms. If we want to avoid drifting into this direction, the best thing would be to nip the worm in the bud. Then, the main agenda of the country will also become the principal concern of one and all.

Just to remind: Rebecca Brooks, former Chief Executive Officer of News International from 2009 to 2011, having previously served as the youngest editor of a British national newspaper as editor of the News of the World and six others have already been charged with obstructing the course of justice by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the UK, in the wake of information coming out from the Leveson Inquiry in the phone-hacking scandal involving the newspaper. Rupert Murdoch, owner of the news media, has been asked whether he considers himself worthy of trust for holding a public office in the media field in view of his sloppy control over the media he has been in charge of. This shows that results are actually delivered in some places and in good time.

* Published in print edition on 18 May 2012

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