How far will PKJ’s scalpel go?

A visible inability to stem or act against those perceived to be corrupt or the morally bankrupt coat-hangers is bound to tarnish PK Jugnauth’s own personal image

By Jan Arden

In retrospect, late Sir Anerood Jugnauth’s political longevity can be attributed as much to his ability to use and ditch allies while feathering the nest of his newly founded party, the MSM, in 1983. Sir Gaetan Duval, Madun Dulloo and late Raj Dayal, all have known SAJ’s political cunning and ruthlessness, the latter asked to step down after an infamous « Bal Kouler » recording was aired and even before any corruption inquiry was started. No dithering and lengthy wrangling there under the sun and that’s probably the way it should be, would argue legal minds, once there’s a reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing.

If Pravind Kumar Jugnauth (PKJ) tried early on to demonstrate that he had stepped into his dad’s shoes with the decision to get his former Deputy PM, Ivan Collendavelloo to step down in what has become known as the St Louis gate affair, that whiff of will was not to last. He and his party had emerged victorious with some 37% of votes cast, ensuring a win in seats against a divided opposition of the three main traditional parties, and his team might have seen the removal of his Deputy as an early opportunity to show PKJ’s mettle and SAJ’s inheritance in action against the leader of the rather fictitious partner Muvman Liberater.

But, as a succession of affairs and high-profile events concerning various Ministers and PPSes unfolded regularly, he has become perceived as weak and vacillating, unable to rein in nominees, advisors and cronies making hay in various capacities while the sun was shining. Under his stewardship of the MSM-led Westminster model of democracy, Ministers have survived their scandal-strewn paths without fear of some busybody investigative agency disturbing their demeanour, a few even benefitting from the PM’s public support after he had, in his own words, concluded his private enquiries.

A visible inability to stem or act against those perceived to be corrupt or the morally bankrupt coat-hangers, as a financially stretched population continues to pay their MP/PPS/Ministerial salaries and perks, is bound to tarnish PK Jugnauth’s own personal image and that of the MSM inner circles, or the cronies parked in SOEs and parastatals.

PKJ’s latest tests

The latest addition to the growing list are no ordinary MSM minions or Ministers, since whistle-blower allegations have cast a cloud on both Attorney General Maneesh Gobin and his constituency colleague and Public Accounts Committee appointee, PPS Rajanah Dhaliah, in an alleged corrupt deal that apparently would involve well-heeled West Coast drug barons securing through « prête-noms » 700 acres of state lands on lease in the vicinity of Grand Bassin.

While the second could be thought of as dispensable, the AG had such invaluable qualities to the higher MSM spheres that he was also Minister of Agro-industry and appointed as Secretary-General of the political party in power. The ICAC remained studiously aloof of any probing investigation for months since the allegations were first made. Until, that is, the PM finally uttered the wish last Saturday that Rajanah Dhaliah, against his lawyer Ravi Rutnah’s publicly trumpeted advice, should step down as PPS and rush to ICAC for his statement under warning. Will that finally unleash ICAC’s investigations on the bigger stag, wonder the naive, while the cynics believe the small fry may have been scapegoated, but only time will tell where the inquiry is now headed.

What will be the fate of Pandit Vivek Pursem’s private prosecution who felt aggrieved and disgusted by those alleged goings-on a few hundred metres from the holiest of Hindu sites, the Pari Talao? Does he not deserve to be heard in a court setting?

In any case, the MSM may have no choice but to carry several dead weights to the next general elections. Unless of course, as in 2019, the MSM offers internal change and renewal through several candidate newbies replacing the floss as a somewhat last-ditch attempt at image clean-up. They constitute much of the current crop of second or third-tier MSM MPs and backbenchers, who have been ambitioning for more meaningful resignations and cabinet reshuffling for two years or more without success. How far will the scalpel go, and will it serve any purpose they may ask themselves.

We gather this Wednesday that an impromptu reshuffling of Cabinet and PPS posts with a hastily organised oath-taking ceremony was held with, in particular, Maneesh Gobin and Sudesh Callychurn deprived of their Agro-industry and Commerce hats respectively in favour of Hurdoyal (moving over from administrative reforms taken up by Anjiv Ramdhany) and Dorine Chuckowry. What good this might do when newbie Ministers may take a year or more to understand and grasp their portfolios and their cabinet responsibilities remains an open question at this stage.

* * *

Constitutional changes

Meantime, as the three main Opposition parties continue their constituency level mobilisations, the onus is on the many voices that have at times for years been praying for the emergence of an alternative. Of these, there has always been some public sympathy for the constancy, resilience and fortitude of Resistans ek Alternativ (ReA), fighting for the removal of community representation in our Constitution, despite the psychological safeguard merits of the Best Loser system when it was introduced a half-century earlier.

Whether ReA has mellowed and matured to recognising that this genuine question can only be addressed through a firm political commitment for change and a large enough majority to effect those constitutional changes that would obviously have large consequences on our political psyche and democratic processes remains to be seen. Those are sufficient incentives to work with the main Opposition grouping towards a round-table either before or immediately after the general elections, rather than contribute, however unwillingly, to a division of opposition votes.

As regards other aspects of constitutional changes, which have become so glaringly evident under the MSM rule, these will require rapid and determined action by the Opposition once and if they make it at the next elections. As for those voices, relatively fresh exits from the MSM fold, who were happily trudging along with SAJ’s policies, including the Rs 6 billion Betamax contract termination, the Rs 20+ billion BAI/Bramer crash, the ludicrous chase and attempt to arrest and handcuff the DPP, or towards the woeful proposal of a Prosecution Commission, not to mention the end of the DTAA with India, perhaps a period of modesty and public contrition would better suit their future potential ambitions.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 1 September 2023

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