On Monday 28th March 2016, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions issued a Communiqué in relation to a case which took place in the bungalow of the former Prime Minister at Roches Noires during the time the latter was in power. It involved an incident of night break-in and larceny in the former PM’s bungalow.
There was one version of facts as given by Mr D Gooljaury, in which he had stated that it was he, not the former PM, who was present at the bungalow at the time of the incident. After the change of government in December 2014, however, Mr Gooljaury contradicted the previous version of facts given by him.
Police investigated the case further to establish the facts. Last Monday’s Communiqué from the DPP’s Office states that it has advised the Commissioner of police to first lodge the case against Mr D Gooljaury for the “offence of effecting public mischief” and, after disposal of the case, to proceed against Dr N Ramgoolam, the former PM, Messrs P Jokhoo and R Sooroojebally subsequently for the “offence of Conspiracy to do an unlawful act, namely effecting public mischief” and calling Mr Gooljaury as witness in this latter case.
Much will depend on the evidence the Police will adduce to prosecute its case. If it finds new corroborating evidence to establish that the original version of the police statement was a contrived misrepresentation of actual facts, given under duress, the former PM would have some explanation to provide about why that version of facts was given in the first instance.
In all this, there is an important issue of the credibility of the protagonists involved. This will be particularly the case for the former PM, who is still leading the Labour Party. If his credibility is undermined in the court process, it will be a first important stumbling block for him and the party he is leader of. Repercussions may not stop at this level.
But importantly, it is the credibility of Mr Gooljaury, the prosecution’s witness-to-be in the case of the former PM, that will first be scrutinised by the Court. If he is not believed by the Court in his own case, we would be entitled to ask ab initio whether he can be a credible witness for the second case. But even if he were to be believed in his own case, his credibility will necessarily be tested again by the defence lawyers in the second case.
Part of the issue will also depend on the time taken to arrive at a definitive conclusion in the two cases. If the cases drag on for some time, this will keep the suspense going while throwing out in public embarrassing information as the prosecution proceeds. We must however not rush to hasty conclusions since a court finally reaches its verdict after weighing in a lot of evidence presented before it, and after sifting the wheat from the chaff.
Politicians on the other side of the fence will want to cash in should the former Prime Minister suffer some amount of discomfiture in the case. In politics, the discomfiture of one political leader is assumed to cast benefits on his opposite number, in this case the leader of the MSM, who finds himself in direct opposition to the former PM. In our system, the perils encountered by an adversary automatically confer unearned virtues on the one opposed to him/her.
Given that Pravind Jugnauth, the MSM leader, is himself facing the appeal court in the MedPoint affair, it remains to be seen whether he would enjoy windfall gains, if any, were events to take a course against the former PM. The power struggle may not yield him the expected dividends. There is suspense in his case as well. Time will tell which way the wind will blow finally.
But the recent Cabinet reshuffle involving a downgrade of Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo – and perhaps his eventual departure in the light of the continuing current investigation of his SBM loan by the ICAC – from Finance may have other objectives, especially if Pravind Jugnauth gets freed from his current predicament in court. This departure woud leave the portfolio of Finance and a senior position in the Cabinet within the reach of Pravind Jugnauth if the court decision plays in the latter’s favour.
Raj Dayal has also been temporarily sent off for alleged misbehaviour. He nursed the secret ambition, it appears, to go for the position of Prime Minister eventually. If so, he would have been an obstacle to the further progression of Pravind Jugnauth in the government hierarchy. His recent blustering, if proved, may thus represent a windfall gain both for the MSM and Pravind Jugnauth.
This recent playout on the political scene seems to indicate that a single throw of the circumstantial dice might have opened up the way for Pravind Jugnauth unexpectedly, securing him two consecutive wins in a single Cabinet reshuffle. The investigations being conducted by the ICAC in the two cases stand as the sword of Damocles upon the heads of both Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo and Raj Dayal, both of whom may have to make way for others. It would have been much better for political leaders to win public support and earn goodwill by their deeds rather than by reaping collateral benefits from the misfortune of each other. It would also have been much better for the country not to travel along such a tortuous path exposing to ignominy its public figures, past and present. One can visualize Mr Bérenger rubbing his hands in glee at the vast opportunity opening up before him as the mutually destructive game proceeds apace. He is not to blame for the nice meal served him on a golden platter!
* Published in print edition on 1 April 2016