Two ministerial resignations occurring within a week: the first by Nando Bodha, long serving Secretary General of the MSM – mostly under Sir Anerood Jugnauth –, motivated according to him by his frustrations with the current political culture prevailing inside the Pravind Jugnauth-led government, and the other by Yogida Sawmynaden following intense public pressure in the wake of disturbing revelations in relation to public procurement procedures during the lockdown and suspected cases of murder of a few individuals, including MSM activist Soopramanien Kistnen.
The difference between these two resignations is that while Nando Bodha has resigned from all the ‘instances’ of the MSM, but not as an MP, Yogida Sawmynaden has merely take a ‘congé politique’. He stays as MP and as member of the MSM. Although his case in court is yet to be determined, the amount of evidence that has come to public knowledge about his dealings and their ramifications is can potentially blacken his reputation as a reliable representative of his constituency. Inevitably this impacts the image of not only the MSM but of its leader as well. As it is, Pravind Jugnauth had initially stated that after his own enquiry he had concluded that there was nothing against Yogida Sawmynaden. The fact that the latter has now been forced to step down shows, at the very minimum, that he himself has felt that he can no longer discharge his duties as Minister. With more evidence piling up, can his leader still continue to support him as strongly? Is he not an embarrassment to the party and to the Parliament?
While the general view once Yogida Sawmynaden began to be investigated was that he ought to have taken leave as Minister, the PM didn’t concur with that view and, contrary to what happened in the case of Ivan Collendavelloo, he didn’t ask Sawmynaden to take a break. But now the circumstances are different, and only the PM knows why he needs the latter so much in the MSM.
Whatever be, Pravind Jugnauth still commands a comfortable majority in Parliament, and on that basis he may see himself as being in control of his party, his government, and of the political agenda in the country. But the succession of revelations in Court one more incriminating than the other, his continuing support to Sawmynaden, the catalogue of cases of irregular appointments and of appointees not fit for purpose, and the worrying socio-economic situation of the country point in another direction: that the tide may be turning against the government. The public demonstration planned for tomorrow with the theme and objective that the government, more so Pravind Jugnauth must go, may well – if it is successful — be a defining moment in the country’s history, according to former President of the Republic Cassam Uteem.
For any country, democratic or otherwise, it is better that its government be one that is there by popular mandate through a voting process. It is also preferable that it goes out too by the same route than be forced to give up power by street protests and violence – verbal, and physical which can rapidly escalate and worsen an already precarious law and order situation. Whether we are approaching that eventuality – of forcible regime change – may perhaps be a premature speculation. But what is absolutely without a doubt is that, despite the government’s relatively positive track record on a few fronts, there is a mounting lack of confidence in the government’s ability to steer the country towards a safe and stable future. The legal battles being waged are going to be protracted, vitiating the atmosphere in the country even more. Public opinion is swaying towards perceiving a change of government as being the only viable solution to the ills that the country is enduring. This cannot last for long.
From a severe trust deficit, the flag has now changed to red – an extreme trust deficit in the government now prevails. Whether the situation can be reversed is entirely in the hands of the government and its chief executive, the Prime Minister. A formidable challenge to which he only can give the answer. It had better be soon.
* Published in print edition on 12 February 2021