May Due Process Prevail

There is a very thin line between what might be perceived as an act of justice and an act of political vendetta against a political opponent. With his known forthrightness, during the recent electoral campaign Sir Anerood Jugnauth made no bones about his determination to have a new inquiry initiated into a case of the reported burglary in the bungalow of the former Prime Minister at Roches Noires around 01.30 hours on Sunday 3 July 2011, as also the death of late Anand Kumar Ramdhony. He had passed away whilst in police custody on 30 July 2011, at the Rivière du Rempart Police Station.

The case has been reopened, and the conduct of the inquiry since has been carefully and methodically managed to avoid the perception of any bias. Seasoned political leaders know that such bias can prove to be counter-productive, and may indeed trigger some form of backlash.

The press for its part has no such scruple: a case involving a former Prime Minister and a number of high police officers who, as has been suggested in their reports, would have allegedly conspired to obstruct justice or to carry out an unlawful act, sells copies – notwithstanding any other agenda that that part of the same press might be entertaining vis-à-vis the former PM. It has diligently echoed the hints contained in the trails of the special investigating CCID team assigned for these investigations. It has, besides, nearly closed in on the main target, that is the former PM, as being the one who, it has been hinted, would have allegedly ordered a cover-up of the incidents in his bungalow on that fateful night, and of the death in suspicious circumstances of late A.K. Ramdhony during police custody less than a month later.

We shall not go into the details of these two cases. What is today being drawn up as a case containing allegedly all the elements of abuse of power, breach of the law and of public morality had earlier been the subject of a judicial inquiry. It concluded that that there was no foul play in connection with the death of Anand Kumar Ramdhony. Further, an application for leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision of the Senior Magistrate of Mapou Court was set aside by Senior Puisne Judge E. Balancy in January 2014. That being said, all law-abiding citizens will concur that any new element that comes up and that could help to shed light into these cases should be conclusively pursued, and thus lay to rest once for all any doubt whatsoever.

We have a judicial system that has always ensured that every citizen is treated as equal before the law, and is innocent until proved guilty. In high profile cases such as the one under reference, the heightened public interest might lead to a temptation to indulge in a trial by the media, and for its own credibility as an institution this must be avoided at all costs by the press.

One will not fail to notice as well the zeal which investigating teams suddenly seem to be possessed of whenever a new regime is installed and cases related to the past regime are brought up. There is no doubt a fine dividing line that separates this perception from the assumed professionalism imputed to the investigators, and again in the interest of credibility and consistency, nothing must be done by the officers concerned to give the impression that their methodology varies according to who is in power. In other words, the rigorousness and strict professionalism must remain their hallmark – both for the sake of individual reputations as well as for institutional credibility and long-term robustness.

The people are mature enough to sift the wheat from the chaff. They soon tire of and see through cases that drag on or titillate. What they look forward in a new government is that it will not repeat mistakes of past political parties in power, They want to see actions being undertaken having a positive bearing on their overall social and economic prospects and that of their future generations. In this perspective, there must not be any perception that settling political scores is being done at the expense of meeting the more urgent expectations of the people, the impending issues which called forth their vote for a change.

It is to be hoped therefore that due process will be adhered to and that no stone will be left unturned, and with promptitude and diligence, to bring to a determination these pending cases should new elements have surfaced, so that the government’s energies are not diverted from the more crucial agenda that awaits it, namely the enormous developmental challenges that the country is facing.

* Published in print edition on 16 January  2015

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