A couple of hooded men showed up at the Ministry of Family Affairs last week. They employed a menacing tone and physical presence towards the officers over there, with the objective no doubt to intimidate those responsible for the Family Court.
At that time, the Court was due to take a decision in the matter of FSM deputy of the Assembly with a view to preventing him from approaching a minor girl from Triolet who had allegedly been taken away from her home without the authority of her parents. The deputy has since been put under arrest and released on bail. By now, the whole matter already smacks of so many misconstructions, deliberate or otherwise, that it no longer appears to be as straightforward a case of abduction of minor as it looked when it first hit the headlines.
The appearance on the stage of the hooded intimidators on the streets of Port Louis is reminiscent of some nasty similar events of a not-so-remote past. This reminiscence advises that it is highly important for the authorities to nip the worm in the bud if they do not want a repeat of the serious threat to public safety that those past events had occasioned. It is amazing, to say the least, that the men who recently paid a threatening courtesy call on the Ministry would have expected to get away scot-free from their incursion into this sort of illegality in the full sight of everybody.
A self-respecting country should not at all have allowed this kind of public demonstration of an anti-social force to roam about defiantly and freely in public. It should have pursued the wrongdoers relentlessly and caught hold of them so as to give a clear signal to all concerned that they should not expect to get away easily. It is to be doubted whether the police has an efficient system of intelligence service in place so as to be able to scotch up anybody trying to emulate the wrongdoers in this case. If not so, it has not learned lessons from the past. If it has the intelligence but is refraining from taking the appropriate action, it needs to be reminded how political interferences in all and sundry affairs in some other countries have reduced law enforcement to a ridiculous position in those countries. Besides, by not acting promptly and decisively, the authorities may be putting at risk the basic element of safety which law-abiding citizens expect at the minimum from the government.
It is axiomatic that the law should be equally applicable to all. No one should be allowed to think that he can take the law into his own hands whenever it suits his convenience. We have seen the social instability caused when excesses of one group against another were not nipped in the bud at the very start. We have also seen how some political leaders have not hesitated to employ incendiary language to set one social group against another in order to secure private advantage. The price to pay by society as a whole due to such adventures is too high for the law enforcers not to take action promptly, decisively and firmly before it is assumed by the perpetrators that they can go about their unlawful businesses without the risk of being made accountable.
We have recently seen dozens of prisoners escape from the prisons at one shot. We have seen how those prisons were running without the basic instruments of prisoner surveillance being in place and/or in a state of functioning. This is institutional failure. We have also seen how a steward of Air France who had been condemned for involvement in the Subutex trade was able to find himself transported out of Mauritius when on bail, with little if any chance of being fished back into jail to serve his term in Mauritius. Incidents such as these needed some exemplary and resounding action being taken by those in authority so as to send clear signals on the side of respect for law and order, short of projecting an image of breakdown of the institutional setup responsible for the concerned matters. We are yet to see any such action.
In the meantime, hooded men have not only paraded themselves in the streets of Port Louis but have also invaded the serenity of a Ministry and threatened the officers. Earlier we had seen a “stand-by team” constituted by a group to monitor the last general election campaign all over the island. Escalation of lawlessness of the sort will throw positive signals to all sorts of abusers. The country deserves better. We were wondering in our editorial of last week whether our institutions were in for a renaissance, given certain energetic actions some of them had recently taken, and welcoming it as a herald of a new era of good governance in the country. We hope that we may not have to think it over so soon.
* Published in print edition on 30 July 2010
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