Will reason prevail over emotion?

The BAI Saga

 The BAI saga of the two past weeks has proved extremely disturbing.

Customers of the Bramer Bank and the British American Insurance Company have been living under great stress despite assurances given by the government. As of today, uncertainty still clouds the air.

The urgency of the moment was to straighten matters quickly and get the financial sector going smoothly again as it was doing before. The gap in the numbers and the amount of alleged misappropriations by those to whom the public had entrusted their hard-earned savings – all this is no doubt important to address. The critical issue was to give back the confidence and restore normalcy in the financial sector as soon as possible. A herculean task but not insuperable.

As if to add insult to injury, another problem has cropped up instead, this time at the level of a cooperative society in Vacoas whose members are also being denied access to their savings and services. Fortunately, this one is on a far less limited scale than the BAI. Hopefully, this will be quickly sorted out if only to restore the serenity that has been disrupted in past weeks. We cannot afford to travel down this road.

In the case of the BAI, it was important to get the numerous activities going back to normal. The appointment by the BAI Group of its Administrator the week before could have been used to reconcile differences between the Conservators appointed by the financial regulator and the owners. The way forward would have been to preserve as much as possible the integrity of the connected businesses of the BAI Group. To this end, the two sides should have been made to cooperate as the way forward to an acceptable quick solution for clients and employees.

The court system, although an important adjunct, is not the best way to reach quick tangible solutions to problems like these. Retracing as many assets as possible and giving them their optimal values could have helped in this reconciliation and the necessary reconstruction of all that has not been surreptitiously whisked away. At the moment, we are not there. There was a semblance of a coming-together of the two sides as of Wednesday last which appeared to be coming closer to a solution.

The authorities may not want those who might been involved in financial misdemeanor to get away or to leave a void to be filled up by the taxpayer. And, they are right. But it will take some time to establish rock-solid evidence for the alleged misdoings. The country however cannot afford to wait for all this to be sorted out at slow pace and live through the resulting uncertainty in the meantime.

This is why the more imperative task of putting together the bits and pieces and make them operational again assumes greater importance. A daggers’ drawn position on the two sides will not be conducive to an acceptable solution in the country’s superior interests. Great skill and expeditious work are needed to achieve the compromise to reconstruct the edifice that would otherwise crumble down.

* * *

The MMM’s De-construction In Progress?

It is no mystery that the MMM cauldron has been boiling since the last election. At the moment, the risk is that the continuing heat may dry up the contents eventually.

The MMM has been faced with internal revolt in the past, mostly because of serious differences between its top members and the party’s leader. Bits and pieces broke apart on several occasions, right from the start. Nevertheless, the party was able to hold together and secure up to 44% of votes cast in general elections despite the cracks and fissures which have marked its history.

These events showed that MMM leaders could go away without hurting the party fundamentally. This was possible because the traditional voters remained faithful to the party despite the leadership splits. This time, however, matters appear to be different. MMM voters were disenchanted with the party’s stand in the context of its alliance with the Labour Party even before the elections of December 10th 2014.

They expressed their deep discontent at the party leader’s choice in the elections. Up until past weeks, members of regional groups have been coming out in public to state that they are quitting. And, contrary to the previous times, they have not rallied back behind the party after the elections and they don’t appear to have a mind to do so in any near future. This factor is being compounded by continuing leadership crises as in the past, targeting Paul Bérenger in person who is being blamed for his classic brushing aside of contrary views and intolerance of any challenge to his position.

After the departure of a first wave of dissenters, namely, Joe Lesjongard, Jean-Claude Barbier and Raffick Sorefan, there’s another wave of the party’s leaders moving away from it: Alan Ganoo, Atma Bumma and Kavi Ramano, this time. The chasm between the two sides appear to be much deeper now in view of the fact that an MMM leader such as Alan Ganoo who was seen to be sticking to Paul Bérenger through thick and thin so far, has left yesterday morning.

The simultaneous twin hemorrhage at the level of traditional supporters and separation from the most prominent of the party’s leaders is isolating Paul Bérenger much more seriously than ever in the tumultuous history of the MMM. The question being asked is whether the party will survive this storm. It is doubtful whether other parties like the Muvman Liberater and the PMSD will be able to give back to traditional MMM supporters all the glory and shine of their past political belonging they lost out with the party’s endorsement of Labour’s agenda in the last elections.

This leaves a vacancy to be filled up at the ideological level which MMM voters feel the MMM leader betrayed deeply in the last elections. Those who are leaving are not, for the moment, answering this call adequately.

A sentiment of deep estrangement from their party also prevailed among Labour voters in the last elections. They appear not to be willing to endorse again the party leadership which created this feeling of estrangement. Deep at heart, however, they are remaining loyal to Labour and not shifting their support to anybody else. Such voters coming up from a previous generation wanted Labour to come free out of the tangle in which it was caught up. And renew the days of glory through which the party has lived in its brilliant history.

For Labour, however, the question is about the new generation. Will it light up another flame among the younger descendants of the party, capable of canvassing their adherence to the party and arousing a new wave of enthusiasm among the up comers, if only to maintain its broad grip on its nation-wide ideological supporters? As in the case of the MMM, this other big traditional party is refusing to die despite the emergence of other parties on the scene.

There exists a risk that if the MMM and Labour do not re-invent themselves afresh, their voters may have a long “crossing of the desert”, rudderless. This prospect doesn’t sound good for the Mauritian political landscape.


* Published in print edition on 24 April  2015

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