Homage to Raoul Rivet

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Somduth Bhuckory

On Friday last Raoul Rivet died at his resident in Curepipe Road. He was 61. With his death dies an important era of Mauritian history, an era which will bear the imprint of his impressive personality. He came to public life at a crucial moment and the oeuvre he leaves behind is the greatest tribute that can be paid to his genius. Whether we like it or not, there seems to be in Mauritius something like a conflict of cultures arising out of the illusion shared and propounded by many that cultural values can be monopolised by a particular group of people. Rivet was no Franco-Mauritian but the French Consul bowed low in front of his bier and paid the respects of France. It was not only a tribute to Rivet or his community but to Mauritius as well, where Rivet did so much to entrench a culture he loved and lived for. We search in vain for another man who has done more for French culture in Mauritius than Raoul Rivet.

* * *

By the very nature of his job as a journalist he got embroiled into politics and soon made his influence felt. He first became Municipal Councillor, then Mayor of Port Louis, and finally entered the Legislature. When he retired from active politics, he gave his time to the local problems of Curepipe where he was elected chairman of the Town Council. It was in the political field that Rivet made the greatest contribution of his career and he actually rose to the stature of a towering statesman. One might not agree with his political views, but one could not help admiring his determination to stick to his principles through thick and thin. As is usual with politicians, the graph of his career began to sink when he himself entered the evening of his life and in 1953 he retired completely from active politics. When all is said and done about Rivet, one thing stands out: he started life as a humble young man without an iota of secondary education and he died an intellectual giant whose place in our history many will covet. Rivet was a self-made man and as such his life should be a source of inspiration to the humble and even to those who are born with a silver spoon.

* * *

The end of the beginning

The public hearing of the Police Enquiry Commission are now over and the Commissioners are leaving for London on Sunday morning. Soon they will get down to work on the report itself and in the meantime the public will be anxiously awaiting it; the police too will eagerly look forward to the report but with a different feeling altogether. When the Commissioners arrived, we said what a pity it was that a Royal Commission, as sought by the unlucky motions of Hon. Bissoondoyal, could not come. In the light of a few unexpected evidences which point to the state of affairs prevalent in the police department we still believe that a Royal Commission was the very thing we needed. Anyway, let us hope that the findings of the present Commission will convince the government that our police force is in need of a thorough overhaul.

* * *

We must point out, however, that we are not satisfied with certain arrangements made in connection with the public sittings. For example, the presence of a lawyer defending the police and cross-examining the witnesses, though perhaps legal, was not helpful and it must have intimidated quite a number of people who were willing to depone before the Commission. After all, it was not a law court and neither the police nor the public required the help of a counsel to support their case. They could have simply deponed and after hearing both sides the Commissioners would have sifted the evidences and made their recommendations.

What we did not like still was the practice of the counsel to have the files of the witnesses taken out and presented to the Commissioners. Again, this must have scared many a prospective witness. Moreover, it does not mean that the guilt of the witnesses should necessarily minimize the gravity of the allegations made against the Police. As we are dealing with witnesses, we might say that the number of witnesses deponing before the Commission was much beyond expectation and there would have been many more had the sittings been in camera. It should be remarked also that the public was expecting the Labour Party to express its views to the Commission.

* * *

We now wish to deal with what we can call the “Ribet episode” of the hearings. The Chairman of the Commission found it queer that the counsel for the Police, Mr P. Nairac, should be in possession of the file of Mr Pokun who was deponing before the Commission; he pressed the counsel to say how he knew that the witness was going to depone: he got the information from Mr Ribet, head of the CID. Mr Ribet was examined by the Chairman and after trying to evade the issue for some time, confessed that he got the information by examining the despatch riders. This is by no means a satisfactory answer. What we would like to know is how Mr Ribet came to know on what the witnesses were to speak before the Commission. If this matter is pressed further, other things might come to light.

In view of the improper practice referred to, the Chairman announced that he would write to His Excellency the Governor asking him to see it that the witnesses were not harried by the Police. This is where we are now: Instead of being protected by the police we are seeking protection from the police. We would say that a case has already been made to have a Home Minister with the police under him. The relations between the public and the police are not what they ought to be. Instead of finding a friend in the policeman we find the inhuman clutches of what we imagine to be oppressive laws. This situation is the accumulated result of a radically wrong approach. Don’t we know that the ordinary constable’s promotion depends on the number of contraventions he takes? Don’t we remember the case of a police officer who, though found guilty of misconduct, was given promotion? Confidence should be restored in the police and we will fail in this if we condone glaring injustices.

* Published in print edition on 12 October 2021

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