Points to Ponder
Crime and Punishment
A First Point: Sir Anerood Jugnauth, President of the Republic, gave his candid opinion as to the punishment that should be meted out to the perpetrators of that heinous crime in which a newly-wed Irish woman, a celebrity in her own country, was brutally murdered. We do not know who those criminals are, they could be the persons who have been arrested by the police, but whoever they might be, they really deserve the supreme punishment. Sir Anerood said that those criminals do not deserve to live. I understand this to mean that they deserve nothing less than capital punishment. I know that a very great number of Mauritians agree that criminals found guilty of such crimes deserve capital punishment. There can be no alternative. We trust our legal system and we are sure that when the judge finds an accused person guilty he knows what he has done and on what evidence he has acted together with the jury. We trust them for having done their duty according to the law of the country. And then there is the Court of Appeal and above these Courts, we have the Privy Council, these are so many additional safeguards in case there is a suspicion of a judicial error somewhere.
We are just waiting for government to update the relevant legal provision and allow our judicial system to put the death penalty into effect. The number of deaths due to criminal causes is on the rise, the statistics may say whatever they like. Those who live on the fringe of society, those who defend the supposed rights of criminals without considering the real rights of the victims of the criminals and such other people would be against the reintroduction of the death sentence, but who cares about such opinion? Government should go by the opinion of the majority of Mauritians.
Once more the purpose of this article is to point an accusing finger at our prison system. To start with, there is a new Commissioner of Prisons. I have been told that he is a very nice and good man and he believes in cajoling the prisoners into becoming decent people, which is not his duty according to me. He tries to talk sweetly and nicely to them as if the prisoners are good and honest. He is considered to be a good Commissioner of Prisons by some precisely because he acts and behaves as he is doing, I am afraid that he will end up as some commissioners of the past.
The persons who are aware about what really is happening in the prisons are of the view that there are several problems that have to be addressed immediately. The foremost problem concerns corruption inside the prisons. Without the collaboration of at least some of the officers, such a situation cannot exist. How can you explain that certain prisoners are in possession of mobile telephones in their cells? We know that the accounts of such telephones are recharged by anybody from outside the prisons by SMS messages, which are then exchanged for cash, cigarettes, drugs, etc. How can you explain the presence of money in the cells of the prisoners? People know that all sorts of transactions are being carried out inside the prisons, mostly by the prisoners themselves and still the authorities pretend not to be aware of what is happening. Who will believe this?
It is well known that all our prisons without exception are in need of a thorough clean up in terms of doing away with the possession by the prisoners of all prohibited articles, of all manners of unacceptable happenings and behaviours and the lack of discipline. If our local people cannot do it, then let the task be entrusted to a team from some foreign country, but this must be done this very year without fail.
The most important point is that the prisoner does not view a prison sentence as a punishment. He takes it as a holiday from his usual activities. He goes to prison for a rest and he gets far better food than he can ever dream of at home, he has his meals and his tea at regular hours, he has officers at his beck and call and doctors are at his disposal any time of the day and night.
And the funny part of all this is that the relatives of the prisoners get a pension from State funds so long as the person stays in prison. A person commits a crime and his relatives are paid for what I do not know.
What should be done? According to me, a prison is a prison and prisoners must be treated like prisoners. They should feel that they are being punished for a crime that they have committed.
The human and civil rights of the prisoners should be suspended for the period they will be in prison. They must not be given free lodgings in prison. They must be required to pay for their stay. They will have to work hard and they will have to pay for the food that they will consume. Those who do not work will have to live on bread and water. And working for the prison authorities means real hard work and they will be paid only a fraction of what they can earn for similar work outside the prison control. All sorts of facilities that are given to prisoners should be withdrawn and a strict discipline should be made to prevail in prison.
Those busybodies who interfere with the prison authorities should wait for the prisoners to be released if they want to help them. I would advise them to take care and help the victims of the criminals instead of trying to help the criminals.
The prisoners, in fact anybody committing any offence against another person, must make good to the victim or to their relatives for the damages suffered by the victim.
What does the new Commissioner of Prisons think of our suggestions? Does he agree that he should not be soft with the prisoners and the idea is that a prison is a place to be feared by the prisoners? Does he agree that life in a prison should be such that a person who has committed a crime and goes to prison once will never commit a second offence for which he will have to go to prison again? That is he should do everything possible to keep prisoners out of prison. Or would he continue as the others and increase the population in the prisons thereby increasing the rate of crime in the country?
One last matter, does the new Commissioner of Prisons agree that the persons on remand should not kept in the prisons which are under his responsibility but they should be left to the care and supervision of the Commissioner of Police?
A Second Point: The three parties that make up the alliance in government are the Labour Party, the PMSD and the MSM. We know the circumstances in which the alliance was concluded, what was the real strength of the various parties and the number of tickets and other perks each party got. During the election campaign, we had a feeling that all is not going to the satisfaction of all the candidates. We are not laying the blame on any one at the moment but should we have to do it, then when the time comes, we shall do it without compunction.
But let us go a little further back in time. Pravind Jugnauth, the leader of the MSM, wanted to be the candidate in the constituency of Moka-Quartier Militaire for the by-election following the Supreme Court judgment which had declared the election of Ashock Jugnauth to be null and void. In fact, Pravind Jugnauth was the candidate and he was heavily backed by the Labour Party, which did not field a candidate of its own. It is generally accepted that the man behind the victory of Pravind Jugnauth was the Labour Party MP of the constituency Moka-Quartier Militaire, Suren Dayal. But during the electoral campaign, problems cropped up and the problems were not restricted to constituency no 8 only. I was told that there were problems in other constituencies as well. People thought that these were teething problems of a new coalition and that soon the parties will get used to working with each other. However, I am told that the situation is quite different and certain members are not satisfied at all.
Dr Navin Ramgoolam is fully in control of the government and from what we learn from the international institutions, from the politicians in other countries and from the economists of international repute, he is doing very well. I cannot rely on the judgment of our opposition because they have an agenda that goes against what the Prime Minister stands for. The opposition criticizes the Prime Minister and the government and that’s that.
When I say that the Prime Minister is in full control of the government, I mean in control of the ministries and by extension of the ministers. If anybody will not play the game fairly and according to the rules, can he stay for long in the government? The more important point is to find out what would happen if one of the parties decides to break away from the alliance, would all the MPs of that party follow the leader or would they rather stay in the government? The question has to be decided sooner or later.
But sincerely, we would not like to reach such a situation. To avert such a dire situation, is it not time to create a committee composed of a few MPs of the Alliance which will sort out any problem between members of the alliance and if the problem cannot be sorted out in the committee, then it should be referred the leaders of the parties in alliance and eventually to the leader of the alliance to decide on the problem in his âme et conscience for the good of the alliance, of the government and for the country.
A Third Point: I read with interest the article on rain harvesting by your correspondent SKRJ published in last week’s issue. I fully concur with his views. I wish to add to what he has written. Mauritians cannot use potable water that has been purified and chlorinated and taken to the house of the consumers, in their kitchens, in their bathrooms, in their gardens, in their yards, etc., to their hearts’ liking. They will have to be made to pay a heavy price beyond a reasonable consumption level.
If a person wants to wash his house inside and out, if he wants to water, sprinkle and spray his garden, if he wants to wash his car or if he wants to use piped water for any such purpose, he can do so, but he will have to pay the price, which should be very high.
But there is an alternative that can be put into effect. And here comes the idea of harvesting rain water. We get enough rain in Mauritius to satisfy all our domestic and non-domestic use. The technology is here, it must be implemented. If all the houses, big or small, would be given facilities to install pipes and plastic reservoirs in all buildings, that is in buildings that have no such installations, say within a period of two years, after which time the cost of water purified water would be increased with the exception as mentioned earlier, the consumption of purified water will go down.
And then legislation must be passed to empower the authorities that control the construction of new buildings to impose on the responsible parties a clause whereby no permit will be given unless all facilities for rain harvesting would be installed.
All our water resources are controlled by the Water Unit Division, which is a department in the ministry. There cannot be any problem in exercising full control over all our water. However, the engineers and other technicians whose duty requires that they should be in the stations and on the sites are mostly in the offices, mostly in Phoenix. They are not doing their duty properly. At least those who are cooped up in the office.
But then if seven officers are required in the ministry and only two have been recruited, how is the work to be properly performed?
There are three points that should be of concern to the authorities. First, too much purified water is lost in the pipes; second, people waste too much water, and third, our water is too cheap.
* Published in print edition on 21 January 2011