An Emerging New Criminality
A man was shot down point blank in his house at Pamplemousses in the last week of 2009. The assassination is said to involve a network of drug importers who might have been settling scores among themselves. In the past, such an event would have created a mighty stir among the population. People would have enquired about the provenance of the gun and ammunitions employed to bring down the victim and the Police would have been on a warpath to find out and ensure that those behind the assassination are immediately brought to book. This kind of situation is becoming more like a “fait divers” at present. In the case referred to, one of the chief presumed masterminds behind the drug business is said to have immediately left the country under highly suspicious circumstances. It is not known as to how close the investigators have come to pin down the real culprits who are behind the crime.
The fundamental responsibility of a state is to provide security to its citizens. When crimes, especially drug-related crimes, are sorted out with the expeditiousness they call for, people have the feeling of being in good hands. When this is not the case, the element of trust in the state’s power to deal effectively with crime and lawlessness evaporates. The Pamplemousses case has shown that criminals can brazenly take the law in their hands. They appear to be unconcerned about reprisal for their bad actions and have therefore acted with impunity. In such a case, no one feels safe. It is of critical importance that the appropriate authorities come out and demonstrate that criminals will be tracked down and not be allowed to leave the country without fully clearing themselves of doubts about any misdeeds in which they could be involved. For, if criminals were to enter and exit the country freely, the element of national security would have no meaning.
It is being said that traffic in a prohibited drug called Subutex has assumed proportions recently. Some drug peddlers have been caught red-handed outside the airport. One steward of an aviation company was tried in court sometime back and was found guilty of having imported illegally a large quantity of Subutex into the country. Sometime after his sentencing, he appealed against the judgment and was bailed out. He left the country surreptitiously and is said to be finding himself in France. The chance of extraditing him to face trial again in Mauritius is believed to be extremely slim. If loopholes in processes and procedures permit criminals to get away with their crimes so easily, this may act as an inducement for the illegal trade to proliferate. It is the population which will be paying the price ultimately for such looseness as the extensive use of drugs will inevitably lead to more and various crimes.
A state which respects itself administers its justice firmly, without discrimination, fear or favour. In the present case, insinuations are being made that this drug business may be having political ramifications. Unless such insinuations are scotched immediately by putting forward the facts and taking actions decisively to stop the degeneration, the situation may come to be used for making and breaking political alliances on the assumption that some political parties may be condoning, if not supporting directly, the perpetrators of the drug trade and the crime squad that goes along with it.
This supposed political connection of trafficking in drugs may conveniently help to jettison one political party or other and to bring in its place the one that will give the impression of opposing it and the so-called drug business it would be associated with, the most vehemently. If political matches are made on such flimsy grounds, the matter will only serve to demonstrate that interests are the most dominant force in politics.
The crimes that have been recently perpetrated and may not be totally disconnected with the trafficking in drugs pose therefore a risk not only to the integrity of society. In fact, they may not also be disconnected with the proliferation of gambling all over the country as a further threat to social peace and well-being. Indeed, they threaten the stability of the country’s very political establishment. They may become the pretext for the coming together of the most unexpected of political alliances insofar as politicians may be made to adore today what they were despising yesterday.
In our view, crime must be dealt with as crime. It should not spill over to political arrangements. If the course of the law is well defined and if the system of crime and its punishment is not tampered with, the monstrous new criminality which has emerged, as in the case of the cold blooded killings that took place in Pamplemousses and in Quatre Bornes recently, will assume ungovernable proportions. Any official who is found to have aided and abetted in the committing of crime and the escape of criminals from the punishment that should have been their lot, must be punished in an exemplary manner. That will act as a deterrent to prevent trusted servants of the state from abusing the trust vested in them. Not a single case has been brought up so far against such impostors whereas, had it been so, it would have demonstrated the firm commitment of the authorities to deal firmly with crime at its source.
It is important to remember that ordinary criminals can unleash nation-wide instability. A gang war involving prostitution or drugs or any such things in the region of Plaine Verte in Port Louis in 1968, rapidly spread out and became a serious menace to the whole country. A so-called “death-squad” which was dismantled in the earlier part of the previous decade was found to have been involved in several unimaginable crimes all over the country. The risk that crime can assume significant proportions is a real risk.
Real risks are dealt with firmly and with determination without digressing into side issues. This duty is entrusted to the law enforcement agencies. The time has come for the latter to show its mettle by dealing effectively with the proliferation of serious crimes. There is no reason we should not have learnt the lessons from the past and applied them concretely so as to arrest this phenomenon of new wave crimes based on an amalgam of drugs, excessive gaming and complicities of those who are supposed to be the upholders of law.
“What is the use of democracy,” said an Afghan recently, “when previously without such democracy, we could without fear of being despoiled, leave our doors and windows open when going out but can do so at our risk and perils when democracy is supposed to be with us now?” One needs to reflect on this statement.