MedPoint: Time to finish it off
Should we read more than what appears on the surface from the Med Point affair, which is dragging on? The last in the series is the convocation of the Minister of Health by the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), the latter’s hospitalisation just when she was due to appear before it and her request eventually to be informed by ICAC about the grounds for the convocation. There may be a lot of point in all of this, left and right, but there remains a persistent question as to why it is taking all this time to finish off once and for all with this matter as there should be other national priorities seeking our attention.
We have seen how the Leader of the Opposition has come into the matter with bits and pieces thrown in from time to time during the past 7 months. At first, he gave the impression that he was targeting the MSM, in particular the Ministers of Finance and Health as they were potentially in positions of conflict of interest in the deal, being related parties directly or indirectly. The next attack was against the person who might have instructed the Government Valuer to carry out a second inflated valuation of the property, at which price the deal was actually done. In the final phase of his attack, the Leader of the opposition has claimed having got information from “ministerial sources” to the effect that it would be the Prime Minister himself who would have given instruction to the Government Valuer to carry out the second valuation, something that the PM has immediately denied and followed up by making a deposition with the police for investigation. That has given the impression that the barb which was being directed by the MMM leader at first against the MSM ended up in the lap of Labour’s leader.
On the whole, the MMM leader has been trying to destabilise the government, creating suspicion and mistrust of each other in the minds of the two principal coalition partners against the backdrop of the MedPoint affair. He does not appear to have succeeded if one were to go by the joint recent declaration of the secretaries of the three major parties in power condemning the traditional divisive tactics of the MMM leader. Has this brought stability on the political front? This does not appear to be the case. The recent hospitalisation of the Minister of Health and her questioning the premises on which ICAC would be acting would indicate that the ball would still be in the MSM’s court.
There is resistance to the convocation by ICAC. Is it just a procedural objection? Or, is there more to it that has made the Minister smell a rat about the convocation? We do not know but, clearly, this episode adds one more twist and turn to the several we have been seeing since the investigation in the MedPoint affair began seven months ago. It has the effect of prolonging a suspense that has lasted quite long.
This episode might have consequences of its own. First, the MMM leader’s averment that the PM would have given instructions for the second valuation of the property will be tested. Second, it will determine how the can from the MedPoint affair is finally carried and who carries it. If the Minister of Health is out of harm’s way, the political scene will remain stable. The investigation will go on. If, on the other hand, it is not so, the MSM would have to sort out the matter with its rank and file, deciding whether the wider interest of the party will be kept intact even if that means having to sacrifice individuals. In such a case, it might go off as routinely as when Shawkatally Soodhun was shorn of his portfolio of Commerce recently without the party batting an eyelid at the event. Such a situation would not necessitate redefining political arrangements in place. In the event, the MMM would have lost yet another opportunity to displace the MSM from the government.
It will be recalled that much before last year’s elections, the MMM wanted to be by the side of Labour in the next government. The obvious reason for this would be that the dominant concentrated private sector would be able to use the MMM to influence government policies towards its private interests, giving at the same time the mass followers of the MMM a semblance of being associated with power. The real reason for such an arrangement would be for the MMM to act as a caution for the protection of the economic interest of the dominant private sector. From what we have seen, the MMM has not given up on this pursuit despite its leader having been fragilised within the party structure after his allegations of the PM’s involvement in the second valuation of the MedPoint hospital.
Defence of private interests has been plaguing our politics to the point of obscuring the major agenda of the government in power. The MedPoint affair is one such case in point. Each time political parties have adopted self-serving attitudes, this has resulted in political and social instability, with suspicions of wrong-doing overwhelming the rest of the action. There is little point in replacing one type of self-interest by another type even though this practice might have been giving the individual political parties some mileage vis-à-vis their interested supporters.
The time has come for setting our priorities right so that it would be better to put the MedPoint affair and identical self-serving projects behind. No doubt, political parties like to remain in power but how much better would it be if this objective were allied with delivery of results instead of wrangling over investigations and shifting blames from one party to the other, depending on the advantage that is being sought? We feel certain that there are much better things to do than to continue swimming in these shallow waters we have been seeing the past seven months.