Points To Ponder
A First Point: We do have some “jocrisses” in our political field. I have always said that when they do not have anything worth saying, these politicians should learn to shut up, sit down and try to look intelligent. Then people would not know how stupid they are. On another matter now let us see how the debates on the budget are progressing. A Member of Parliament from the MMM party has said that students of the Muslim community cannot accept scholarships funded from funds collected from the proceeds of gambling as gambling is prohibited by Islam. So far as I know gambling is prohibited by Hinduism as well, and the obvious example is that of Yudisthir of the Mahabharat fame, when he gambled and lost, and this led to the Mahabarat war.
This injunction has never prevailed upon Hindus not to gamble. The gambling instinct is part of the psyche of the normal human being. But I can say that my friends, Hindus and Muslims combined, do not spend huge sums in their gambling, they spend a reasonable amount of money in the process. They do not consider themselves as gamblers, this manner of gambling is a form of distraction for them. And more importantly the family of my friends do not suffer because of the limited sum of money spent in their gambling.
How many children of Muslim families would refuse scholarships funded from the proceeds of gambling? If the parents would not gamble, then maybe as a matter of religious conviction, they may refuse such scholarships. What about those parents who gamble? Would they also refuse the scholarships funded from the proceeds of gambling as well?
My opinion is that government cannot do anything in the circumstances to please the Member of Parliament who raised this point, because ours is a secular country. It has to govern according to secular standards. I can but be sorry for any student who might be needing a scholarship to pursue his or her further studies but cannot take advantage of the one on offer because of the source of its funding.
So far as I know, all revenues collected by the government go in one fund, the Consolidated Fund and all expenses are met from that Fund. Or maybe government has created some special fund in which all revenues from gambling in the form of taxes to be used for scholarship are collected. But to do this, government must come up with the proper legislation.
This reminds me of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and the common name vespasienne is derived from Vespasian himself. He had imposed taxes on everything that could be taxed, and at the end of the day, there was nothing to be taxed. The emperor thought of imposing taxes on the public conveniences, in other words on the latrines. His son was not in agreement with him, and he said to his father: “You cannot do that. What would the people say, that you are taxing the public conveniences?” The Emperor came up with the famous and oft-repeated reply: “My son, money has no smell.” In French it sounds better. He said: “Mon fils, l’argent n’a pas d’odeur.” I am sure that nobody will remind that Member of Parliament this famous pronouncement.
And then there is this scatter-brained argument offered in the course of the same debates. The argument of one Member of the MMM that government should not increase taxes on alcoholic drinks as well as on cigarettes. Everybody knows the harm that alcohol and cigarettes cause to the health of the people.
I have been told that the majority of the inpatients admitted to the Brown Sequard Hospital is because of consumption of alcoholic drinks, so much so that the patients who are really ill cannot live without their daily dose of alcohol and, to all intents and purposes, they are lost to society and their family for good. And you have a Member of Parliament who says that the tax on alcoholic drinks should not be increased. Does the Member mean that government should spend more money and keep the price of alcoholic drinks low for the sake of the drunkards?
And he says that cigarettes also should not attract an additional tax because the smokers will suffer. Has he ever heard of the various diseases that regular smokers suffer from, especially from lung cancer? Does he know that everybody around him, to start with members of his family, all become passive smokers, just because one person smokes in the house? Does he accept that cigarette smoking is one of the dirtiest of the habits that a person can have?
How can Members of Parliament bring in such ideas in our National Assembly? This leads me to but one conclusion: some Members of Parliament have already run out of worthwhile ideas. Should they continue sitting in the House as Honourable Members? Members must work to deserve this title, must they not?
Subutex or Suboxone?
A Second Point: We have all heard of a drug called “Methadone”. It is used to supposedly treat drug addicts, but I do not believe that even one person has been treated with success, that is that he has completely given up the taking of drugs or Methadone.
We have also heard of Subutex. This also is another form of drug, which is prohibited in Mauritius as it is considered a hard drug. For some time, there has been an illegal traffic of this drug, but the illegal import of the drug is not diminishing because of the huge profits that the drug traffickers realize in the transaction of Subutex.
And now I have heard of this very disturbing matter, and that is that the MMM members responsible for drug addiction policy of their party have proposed that drug addicts must be given the drug Suboxone. Soboxone is the same as Subutex which is the trade name of Bupronorphine. However, Suboxone has an additional compound called Naloxone and the preparation is in the proportion of 4:1. Those in the know inform us that Suboxone and Subutex is one and the same thing at the end of the day.
Are the members of the MMM trying to promote Subutex in another form knowing full well that there is this illegal importation of Subutex on such a large scale by drug dealers who make such huge profits? Those MMM members should tell us what is the difference between Subutex and Suboxone? We would also like to know the real reason those MMM members are going all out for Suboxone? They should also tell us what is wrong with Methadone when compared with Suboxone. We would also like to know the opinion of the World Health Organisation on both Methadone and on Suboxone.
My position is clear. The State should not put drug addicts either on Methadone or any other drug at our expense. Our health services should not be used to for the benefit of the drug addicts. The health services should be used for the exclusive benefit of the genuinely ill.
I do not know what the Labour Party thinks. Nor do I know the opinion of the MSM nor of the PMSD. And of course of the MMM as well. I will ask the government to tell us when it is contemplating to reintroduce death penalty for, among others, the drug trafficking.
Boycotts and walk-outs
A Third Point: Certain interesting matters of political importance or rather of non-importance came out of the debates on the budget. I have in mind two of them.
The first concerns the stand taken by the MMM on Pravind Jugnauth’s summing up of the debates. Paul Bérenger has said that the members of his party will boycott the speech of the Minister of Finance. If that is the choice of the MMM, nobody can dispute it, but it seems that boycotts and walk-outs have become a policy with them.
Why has the MMM decided to boycott Pravind Jugnauth? Obviously, the pretext is that he has failed as the Minister of Finance and also because he has criticized unfairly Paul Bérenger concerning Rodrigues. Pravind Jugnauth has apologized through a letter written to the Speaker, but Paul Bérenger does not seem to be satisfied with the apology by letter. He should have apologized in the House where the criticism was made.
But it seems that there is another long-term plan to destabilize the MSM in the move. Paul Bérenger has specifically said that the MMM will be in the National Assembly to listen to the contribution of Navin Ramgoolam. The MMM members do not want to fall foul with both the MSM and the Labour Party at the same time. And if the file of the MSM is shown by the MMM to be dirty enough that it should not form part of the government, and if such an argument is accepted by the Labour Party and a decision is in fact taken, then the road will be clear for the MMM to join the government and so prevent the haemorrage from which the party seems to be suffering.
The boycott of which Paul Bérenger has talked about must be viewed in this light as well, and not a boycott for the pleasure merely.
The second matter is more serious. This concerns the fact that our hotels are not prepared to accept Asian tourists, particularly from India and China. The Minister of Tourism has said so, and he was serious. He was not talking lightly as he was addressing the National Assembly, not a public meeting.
The obvious reasons seem to be that the tourists from India and China are not high spenders as the Europeans. But take an example, an Indian couple got married in Mauritius and I have been told that the parents of the bride and groom spent about Rs 157 million for the wedding. Let those who do not want to cater for the Indians and Chinese tell me of a European couple who has spent that type of money. There is none.
The Minister of Tourism has said enough for us to draw our own conclusion. But the Minister had to be what is termed as politically correct. That is why he said what he had to say in the language he said it. Our opinion is that most of the big hotels are racist in their approach, in the hotels and on the beaches. This is their policy, they have always behaved in this way and they are still doing it.
They do not want to change the food to accommodate the Asians and the ways of living of these very rich people. And of course they will not change for the Arabs. They want to be under the boots of the Europeans and that’s that.
In the circumstances, what is to be done with the owners of those hotels that have adopted a discriminatory policy towards the Asians? Give them some time to adapt to the change that is expected of them. Otherwise, when the leases to the land on which those hotels have been constructed should not be renewed at the first expiry. And strict laws against discrimination of any sort must be enacted and the punishment must be exemplary. The hotels must have licences as business concerns, and the possibilities are many.
Of barristers and squatters
A Fourth Point: I have been informed that a number of barristers have been recruited at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but many of them do not have any experience whatsoever to perform the duties they are supposed to perform.
These barristers at law are supposed to advise the police authorities, but in many cases it is alleged that they give the wrong advice. They do not do it deliberately, but this happens because they have no experience. You may not believe me, but ask the Police Officers who are involved with the prosecution of cases or better still get the opinion of Prosecuting Counsel in the various District Courts.
Formerly, only those barristers who had at least three years’ experience at the Bar were appointed Crown Counsels, as they were then called. But it seems that matters have changed, but not for the better. Should the recruitment process be revisited?
A last point: There is a place called Bangla Desh near Tranquebar in Port Louis. That area is infested with squatters from everywhere, but more especially from Rodrigues. One squatter attracts another and at the end of the day, you have hundreds or thousands of such squatters. Each squatter is a problem by himself and when you have hundreds or thousands of them, the problem becomes unmanageable. Even with a few squatters the government had such problems that we witnessed recently.
The ministry responsible for state lands is given the power to see to it that such lands are not squatted upon by anyone. I wonder what the ministry is doing to clear all state lands of squatters of all types.
What is the policy of the Ministry of Lands concerning squatting? If the ministry tolerates squatting in one place, others can encourage people to become squatters in other places. Why is the ministry so slack concerning this very serious problem of squatting? I do not want to speculate on the reasons, but reasons there are.
The people living in the area, either in their own houses or rented premises, are getting fed up with the behavior of the squatters. The police authorities do not go to Bangla Desh because they are apparently scared of the people there. Can this be true? We are entitled to ask this question, the more so as the area is quickly becoming a place known for drug trafficking and prostitution.
What will the police authorities do to clear the area of all the illegal activities going on there? What will the Ministry of Lands do to clear the area of all the squatters?
* Published in print edition on 10 December 2010