Grilling the CEB


Would it not have been simpler to clarify the situation properly, as the CEB, which is under strained financials, can ill afford to enter into possible costly litigations

By Jan Arden

On this Saturday 16th September, MMM MP Joanna Berenger, backed by information she had gathered, formulated publicly an accusation that the Central Electricity Board (CEB) would have allegedly allocated a contract for renewable energy supply worth Rs 5 billion to a non-responsive bidder, Corex Solar.

According to MMM MP Joanna Berenger, the Central Electricity Board would have allegedly allocated a contract for renewable energy supply worth Rs 5 billion to a non-responsive bidder…

The bone of contention seems to have been the condition that all bidders should furnish proof of their title deed or lease agreement to the land on which they proposed to build their solar power farm. It seems that changes in proposed land venue from bidders could be entertained before the tender closure, but the controversy is whether Corex Solar, having won the contract in February 2023, could then inform the CEB that its proposed land was not available and was therefore seeking an alternative venue. Was that not exposing the CEB to legal complications and challenges, she asked?

The CEB issued a communique, which stated the chronology surrounding this contract but did not really address the specific issue raised, while its Officer in Charge registered a complaint for defamatory declaration against MP Joanna Berenger at the Police. Later the Minister of Public Utilities Joe Lesjongard, with overview of the CEB, also filed a similar complaint. The controversy took on more complicated turns as the media have reported that the CEB’s Renewable Committee had expressed reservations about this exercise and that a Senior Counsel, asked to advise the CEB, had recommended that the tender be cancelled and a new one launched.

If such an advice did indeed exist, why did the CEB feel the need to press for another (and different) advisory opinion either from outside or from its own in-house and relatively junior legal advisor?

We understand that MP Joanna keeps ruffling government feathers, but rather than rushing to the police, would it not have been simpler to clarify the situation properly, as the CEB, which is under strained financials, can ill afford to enter into possible costly litigations.

* * *

More on the Eco-Deer Park land lease controversy

The PM has these days robustly defended his Attorney General (AG) in the 700-acre land lease for the Eco-Deer Park chassé near Grand Bassin. Two whistle-blowers had alleged at ICAC headquarters that they had to pay some key intermediaries Rs 3.5 million to secure the signature of the lease. There were also allegations that the AG had been invited to a stag BBQ party at the chassé sometime on September 20th. These have been aired publicly yesterday by Me Sanjiv Teeluckdharry with an online interview that has gone viral of one star whistleblower, Mr Ketwaroo.

Meantime, the Hindu priest, and social worker Mr Vivek Pursun, who had entered a private prosecution against PPS Rajana Dhaliah and Maneesh Gobin, saw the DPP intervene to ask for discontinuance of the private prosecution on grounds of insufficient evidence of legal standards. Nevertheless, its office pointed out that this does not mean the case against the duo Gobin-Dhaliah is being ruled out: “The DPP will be able to take such an informed decision following the referral of the case to him by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in pursuance of Section 47(6) of the Prevention Against Corruption Act. The DPP endorses the legitimate expectation of citizens that offenders are brought before justice without delay.”

For their part, counsels for Mr Pursun have applied to the Supreme Court to summon ICAC so that it may be questioned regarding progress of the enquiry since the case hit the media several months ago. If the AG has not yet been called in for questioning by ICAC, it may well be that there is no money trail to him, but apart from ICAC and the PM, few of us know with confidence the state of the current ICAC enquiry. Affaire à suivre.

* * *

Historic Women’s Reservation Bill in India

From the memories of the 75 years of the building housing the old Indian Parliament, Indian polity moved on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi, to the brand-new and far more spacious Parliament building for its first historic session. And the first Act that passed the floor was the proposal to have 33% of seats reserved for women, which, after the twenty seven years of failed attempts, is indeed unquestionably a historic day for celebrations.

There was virtual agreement in principle with the BJP proposal from all Opposition parties, with 454 votes against 2, although inevitably vote bank politics found their way in their narratives, as they balked at conceding history graciously to the BJP when they had themselves failed in all previous attempts. In any case, the provisions will only apply once a national census (delayed by Covid) and the delimitation of constituencies are completed, suggesting that the legal minimum would only apply for the 2029 general elections.

Beyond those legal provisions, major parties have some time to adjust their mental, psychological and political structures to the upcoming realities. India was already late on the issue internationally and has some necessary catch-up to do.

* * *

Trudeau and the k-factor

After the G20 summit in New Delhi, where Canadian PM Trudeau was visibly isolated, snubbed and ignored, did he return in a foul mood to Ottawa or was he facing the ire of the k-party (K – Khalistan) sympathisers of theNew Democratic Party (NDP), under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, that prop up his minority Liberal government? It is otherwise difficult to understand his shocking and immature posturing when he opened up in Parliament about « allegations » which he deemed «credible» of «potential involvement» of Indian nationals in the murder of a known khalistani terrorist Nijar at a Vancouver Gurudwala.

Rarely had a head of State with his head on his shoulders cobbled such a vague assertion into a public statement in Parliament, nor rushed to seek support for those khaistani allegations he was peddling from fellow Anglo-Saxon world rulers (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand). This was Diplomacy 101 in any respectable university.

It was a serious matter for a country that hosts a large contingent of established Indian-origin nationals, a large majority of whom do not share or espouse those extremist views, that welcomes an annual inflow of Indian students to Canadian universities and potentially damages export prospects of Saskachewan Canadian farmers and other sectors to India.

None of the other four major Anglo-Saxon players PM Trudeaucuddled up to, provided much comfort to those allegations, demanding evidence rather than hunches. In Canada itself the PM was mocked and blasted in several quarters including the rising Conservative Party of Pierre Poilievre.

India was quick to bash a leader who had never cooperated over decades with the Indian authorities for the extradition of the most violent of those khalistani elements, nor had they even provided basic mandatory security to Indian consulates and diplomatic staff in recent khalistani violence. Others recalled that Trudeau’s profession for “free speech” didn’t prevent him quashing a trucker demonstration late last year. A rare feat therefore to claim some Khalistani-friendly NDP.

Matters have now reached another damaging level as India has decided not to take Trudeau’s attack lying down. After a strongly worded travel advisory to its citizens and students to be careful about their movements around terror-infested Canadian areas, we learn this Thursday that all visa services to India from Canada have been suspended for “operational reasons” and this may lead to difficulties for several thousands. Where will the unfortunate actions initiated by the unfettered opportunistic leadership of PMTrudeau take India-Canada relations next?

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 22 September 2023

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