Either a sweeping change in leadership or the emergence of a new political force remains a necessary condition for any hope for the future of Mauritius
“Every time you think that the tragically comic exhibition of incompetence from this government has reached rock bottom one event or the other comes up to prove you wrong.”
Since these words were written in this column only two months ago (28th July 2017), we have been “gratified” with another set of highly revolting display of ineptitudes by the people who occupy positions of authority in our governance structure. An Attorney General who uses his authority of his office to issue a certificate of good moral conduct to a self-confessed “swindler”. The latter who himself indulges in swearing contradictory “affidavits” under the authority of justice from week to week.
If only for the tragic display of lack of discernment and judgement the former Attorney General thus disqualified himself from holding such a position of authority. And we should say that at least in this case we must be grateful for small mercies as he has had the decency to resign his position.
Then there were the incidents involving the Vice Prime Minister who, on the occasion of an NHDC seminar, which was about ‘Building a better Mauritius for our children’, behaved like he thought he had been vested with the boon of “infallibility”. He did not hesitate to have a lady thrown out of a public gathering because she dared question the relevance of his politically partisan speech during what was an “official” function.
Hats off to the lady for this display of courage and affirmation of her rightful expectation to be treated as a mature and responsible Citizen. This is unfortunately an exceptional occurrence at a time when sycophants attending such ministerial displays are expected to behave like sheer vassals who owe allegiance and pay constant homage in gratitude for past favours or in the hope of obtaining some in the future.
What of the Deputy Chief Whip in Parliament? You are left wondering whether he has yet fully grasped that this position ranks as one of the most highly elevated in the hierarchy of our public institutions. At a public gathering he blurted out against a lady journalist who had used what he considered “offensive” language against him in a press article referring to the latter as a “femelle lichien” (a hugely deprecating remark in the local context and language) purportedly as a tit for tat reply. In this particular case, the aggravating circumstances include the fact that all this happened under the seemingly amused watch of the Minister of Gender Equality and the speaker had the initial unconditional support of his leader – who subsequently slightly retracted in the face of a wave of public protests and indignation.
As if to crown the exhibition of outrageous behaviour by our “honourable representatives”, most Mauritians have had the singular “privilege” of seeing the photograph of the private parts of a Member of Parliament and PPs to boot, displayed on their mobile phones over the recent week. And that too accompanied by the most salacious pieces of conversation being exchanged during the sitting of Parliament. Some astute observers have even suggested that at the material time the issues that were being discussed related to the National Development Unit’s works programme – forming part of the portfolio of the PPS. This incident is beyond comments.
As a former Member of Parliament, who had the remarkable privilege of sitting in a House presided by Sir Harilal Vaghjee, the distinguished first Speaker of the Mauritian Legislative Assembly, it inevitably occurred to me that such a pervert display would simply have been unimaginable at that time. It allows us to easily measure the distance travelled on the slippery road of decay and putrefaction in the standards of behaviour and quality of elected members since independence. In a system where Parliament is viewed as the mother of all democratic institutions, it provides a distinct illustration of how Mauritius is rapidly damaging its reputation as a model democratic nation in this part of the world.
The causes of this degeneration are varied and complex. An inescapable conclusion, however, is that the omnipotence of the four leaders who have either inherited or grabbed the decision making apparatuses in the principal political parties for nearly half a century is the most prominent and damaging. It can in fact be identified as the cause because without a drastic change in this condition there is little if any chance that anything will change.
As Albert Einstein once suggested, the definition of madness would be to go on doing the same thing and expect that the outcome would be different. Francis Fukuyama, the right wing political writer, talking of the United States under Donald Trump, defined political decay in the following terms:
“the capture of political power by well-organized interest groups that bend the system to their own interests, at the expense of the broader public interest. A decayed system is also one that cannot fix itself because the entrenched interests and ways of thinking prevent reforms.”
Any reasonable observer would no doubt agree that the above description applies almost perfectly to the system which has prevailed in Mauritius over several decades now. The worst part is that not only are the power structures (private wealth and political) captured by the same interests – as mentioned by Fukuyama and as happens in most liberal free market democracies – but in this country the political and business personnel have remained unchanged for as long as one can remember except for the “papa-piti” successions. The resulting asphyxiation of the democratic processes, worse, decay of the institutions, the inability to implement much needed innovation and radical reforms are all directly attributable to this permanent state of stagnation, even regression.
From the above, therefore, one can only conclude that we have reached a point at which either a sweeping change in leadership of our political parties or the emergence of a new political force, while probably not a sufficient condition, remains a necessary one for any progress and hope for the future of our country.
* Published in print edition on 6 October 2017