Back To Old Rituals

The government has lately appeared not to be projecting itself in much bright light…

In answers to PQs, information has come out in public about diverse allowances paid to persons close to the ruling party who have been appointed to public institutions.

Ministers’ travels have also been disclosed. The number of trips undertaken by each one to different destinations have been used to project them as globe-trotters and to raise public awareness such as to suggest that those trips would not have been necessary. No statement to this effect is made but the intent is to show the travels undertaken more than the work for which travels were undertaken.

As expected, the opposition and part of the media have employed the information so disclosed to qualify the present government as being no different from previous ones in so far as abuse by political appointees is concerned. This is said to be contrary to the kind of discourse it was holding during the last electoral campaign to curb the abuses being made of the public purse by members of the outgoing government and its cronies.

The embarrassment caused by such disclosures is surely not helpful to the government as it goes on to show that political appointees would be taking undue advantage of their proximity to power at public expense. It has the effect of putting the government on a defensive stance, no better than those predecessors it was castigating. Finally, the impression is created that foreign travels and per diems paid to those who travel could be the reason why political parties secure power.

Add to this statements regularly being made about the government’s ineffectiveness to drive up the country’s economic agenda two years after winning at the polls. The intent obviously is to portray the government as non-performing even on the economic front. In response to this accusation, the government has come out to declare that vast projects (Metro Express, road infrastructure, medical centre, etc.) are soon being started with the accompanying economic spin-offs.

To be fair, it was not expected that in the prevailing very-low performing international economic conditions, Mauritius would have made vast economic strides apart from cashing on the boom in the tourism sector. But it must be said that some of the business-busting decisions it made at the start of its mandate hasn’t been helpful to bring about confidence among economic operators. All told, its economic performance has indeed been low key due to these factors.

Beyond projecting such under-performance, there’s a need to have to look at the frustrating political process itself. We have seen successive governments and alliances ejected from power in the past due to a series of reproaches made to them about failings like those above-mentioned. That has not prevented the successor governments from travelling down the same path and being ejected from power in the next elections.

A question arises therefore as to whether the people are bound to put up with abuses government members and cronies make once a government is elected to power. If they aren’t, the alternative has been to throw out the incumbent abusers who are then replaced to be thrown out, in turn, by the next set of abusers, sometimes camouflaged as a brand-new alliance.

This model of the democratic play-out keeps bringing us back to the starting point. Voters are reduced to a reactive set with truly no choice as to individual merits among the new actors they have to stage up each time. It appears as though some sort of a democratic dictatorship is at play. The people are forced each time to choose the least bad among the whole lot, soon to be disillusioned by abuses. Is this what we deserve?

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India-Mauritius relations: A new start

It is reported that Indian Defence Minister, Shri Manohar Parrikar, will be on a short visit to Mauritius coming weekend. This visit will coincide with the delivery to the National Coast Guard of vessel ‘CGS Victory’. Two Chetak helicopters are also to be formally delivered to the Police. Besides, Mauritius is setting up the Metro Express with Indian assistance and there are other projects of common interest in the pipeline in Mauritius.

We should first welcome the Indian Defence Minister to Mauritius. This visit should help re-consolidate ties between the two countries after the upset caused following the recent revision of the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement between the two countries with far-reaching consequences for the good standing of our global business sector.

Every effort should be made to put this tax treaty episode behind as Mauritius has to look to the future and not to the past. Putting behind generalisations about presumed malpractices, allegedly through Mauritius, will be a good step in this direction. The continuing cooperation on a sound footing should open up newer opportunities for the two countries to constructively collaborate for peace and security in this part of the world. India has to have a say in such geopolitical matters. The alternative is to be isolated by rival powers. Mauritius stands in the position of being able to cultivate “special relations” with India like the one between the UK and America.

In fact, work is already afoot to strengthen mutual ties. The re-launch of discussions between the two countries towards a Comprehensive Economic and Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) appears to be like a normalisation of relations. This visit will go in the same direction if the two sides identify factors which will work to mutual benefit, opening up new and better horizons for trade and cultural exchanges.

Let us make a new start. Mauritius needs to be united in its support for India to emerge as a successful global economy and there’s a lot we can do to further India’s interests with our close friends on the African continent. Let this visit be the opportunity for a strategic consolidation of existing ties.

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Quick administrative decisions make a better world

This week it was reported that a thief was caught plucking litchis from the residential compound of the Commissioner of Police in Saint Pierre.

It appears that thieves breaking into private property to steal fruits have increased in numbers all over the island. The theft usually occurs at night but thieves have become so daring in past years that certain among them don’t hesitate to break in even in broad daylight.

Citizens lodge complaints against such intruders at the police station. But the lack of result has discouraged several of them from taking pains to even report the matter to the police. Victims feel helpless. In the circumstances, the stealing activity has proliferated, sometimes posing as a security threat to owners of fruit trees during the fruit-bearing season.

So, it came as an agreeable surprise to many people that the thief who was caught in the act at the Police Commissioner’s residence was not only charged (by the police) but he was also sentenced by a court same day to 6 months’ imprisonment. He is currently in prison.

The lightning speed with which all this action was implemented has surprised observers. The expediency with which the case was despatched has evoked the admiration of citizens at the efficiency of both the police and the court, notably in the act of gathering evidence, proffering the charge and convincing the court to the point of having the sentencing executed on the same day.

This must become a trend setter for us to get some international recognition for clinching such issues with a speed many other jurisdictions will envy us for. It may open up a new chapter so that no one would be in a position to make a statement to the effect that provisional charges are levied against individuals in Mauritius which drag on for months or years until the police and/or the DPP’s Office decide to bring it to court. No more! We appear to be turning over a new leaf. Hail the newfound police and court efficiency!

M.K.

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