Points to Ponder
A First Point: Let me dwell upon a few miscellaneous matters relating to politics in the Mauritian context. My opinion is that we should all learn from past mistakes in order to avoid repeating the same past follies. The MMM has always tried to project itself as the strongest political party in the country, but we know that it has failed to prove this claim in tangible terms except for the election of 1982 when its success was due to a fluke, according to certain political observers. Yet, since 1983, the leaders of that party keep on boasting about the MMM being the strongest party locally. Maybe it helps their self-esteem, but we have seen that they have been on the losing side, election after election. They seem not to understand that the electorate cannot be not taken in by what such leaders say.
Paul Bérenger keeps on saying that the Labour Party is communally minded, that its campaign is based on racial themes and that it wins the general elections because it uses a communal language. We must accept certain facts that are peculiar to our country. For example, it is a known fact that the majority of the Hindus follow the Labour Party and the MSM also gets the majority of its supporters from the same community. A majority of the General Population support the MMM; the Muslim and Chinese communities have, it would seem, divided loyalties between the Labour Party and the MMM, though it is well known that in the past about 90% of the Muslim electorate were loyal supporters of the MMM. The PMSD gets most of its support from electors of the General Population.
In all the years that the Labour Party has been in government with its allies, it has never discriminated against any community even when members of such ethnic groups have openly supported the MMM or other opposition parties. Just consider the number of housing units that the Labour Party has constructed and which have mostly gone to members of the General Population in spite of the fact that most have openly sided with the opposition. Who have been responsible for the electoral preferences of this electorate? The party in opposition to the Labour Party, or maybe the religious organisations?
What about the MMM? Is it a communal party, and drawing its support from whom you know? I have not heard the Labour Party levelling any such accusation against the MMM. Just remember that when Paul Bérenger accuses the Labour Party of practicing communalism, it is in the same breath accusing the Hindu community of being part of the communal conspiracy. We all know that the MMM has among its supporters some Hindus just as we have some members of the General Population as supporters of the Labour Party. But we all know which are the real communal parties.
In the same breath, we have to mention the stand taken by certain newspapers. Some of these papers have been saying that they are “independent papers” but we know that they are deeply committed to the MMM. Who has judged them to be truly independent papers? The public is the best judge in the circumstances. However much these papers support the MMM, yet the public consistently vote, at least a majority of them, against this party. It’s rather strange that Paul Bérenger has not realized that such papers are in fact doing a disservice to his party.
Now what is the political agenda of the MMM since the last general election? The leaders have raised a few cases of alleged corruption by supposedly some ministers, one relating to the acquisition by the State of the Medpoint property, and the other to the lease of State land in Port Louis for the Neotown project. I am all for the necessary inquiry in each and every case of alleged fraud and corruption by any minister or by any person whosoever for that matter. These matters have been raised by no less than the Leader of the Opposition. What next?
The MMM has kept harping on these two cases for weeks and with such intensity that it would appear that it has run out of real political issues. We would have liked to hear from the MMM about how it can outperform the government and give satisfaction to the people, which taxes it will abolish or at least bring down, from where they will get foodstuffs at a cheaper prices, how they will improve the Health services, our Education system, the lot of the very poor by making housing units available to them, how it will attract foreign direct investment much needed for the economic advancement of the country… The list can go on and on, yet the MMM continues to harp on the Medpoint and Neotown issues! The opposition and the supposedly independent papers, that in fact fully support the MMM, come up with innuendoes about some sort of corruption and fraud, as if those papers and some politicians consider themselves as paragons in their particular fields. It is very easy to make insinuations against your opponents but with insinuations being what they are, the reputation of certain persons concerned is easily destroyed. An enquiry is going on, at least people must have the patience to wait for the findings.
Government must be careful and should not get entangled in the trap laid by the opposition. All matters involving fraud and corruption must be dealt with expeditiously and, if proved, the person involved must be made to pay the relevant penalty. Otherwise, those who falsely accuse certain persons of fraud and corruption should be taken to Court. I mean that the persons involved should be prosecuted to the conclusion of the case. Why spend so much of the State’s resources to get the case ready, bring it to Court and finally decide that there is no case to prosecute for some particular reason. I do not think that the State Counsels are paid to do such a lopsided job.
The government alliance should beware of the forthcoming local government elections. It must start with the preparations forthwith, especially with the selection of candidates. All the future candidates must have an unblemished record; any suspicion of any sort of wrongdoing must disqualify any potential candidate. Those councilors who have not performed as expected should be told to give way to others. Let the hunt, yes, I mean hunt for worthy candidates start immediately. There are such candidates willing and ready to stand for their party.
The minister of local government says that he will bring in a bill to create about six more municipal councils. According to me, this measure will work against the interest of his own party, but if the government gives him the go-ahead… that is not my business. He can do as he pleases. Stop all ideas of amending the law, hold the elections this year itself and think of how to give more independence to the local authorities, especially in financial matters. Eventually, all grants in aid must be stopped and then full independence will be enjoyed by everybody. One journalist says that the local authorities must not be controlled be the line ministry, does that journalist mean that the central government must give money without exercising any sort of control as to the manner in which such money is spent? Or does that journalist mean that grants in aid should be stopped straightaway?
Who has misled the House?
A Second Point: A parliamentary question was put by the leader of the opposition Paul Bérenger to Dr Abu Kasenally, the Minister responsible for Housing and Lands, concerning the Neotown project. The minister answered the question as well as supplementary questions that were put. Apparently, Paul Bérenger was not satisfied with the answers and therefore he pursued the matter on the following Saturday in the course of his weekly press conference.
Paul Bérenger has accused Abu Kasenally of having given incorrect and misleading information in Parliament. Now this is a very serious matter, especially as he has accused, outside the House, the minister of such misconduct. Nobody can give incorrect and misleading information in and to the House.
Would our honorable members accept the situation as it is now developing without taking any corrective measures? In my opinion, two courses are open to the members concerned.
First, Paul Bérenger can raise the matter in the House to the effect that a minister has given incorrect and misleading information. If there is a Privileges Committee of the House, it can be seized with the matter and hear both the leader of the opposition as well as the minister concerned and eventually submit its finding. The committee must perforce condemn one of the two, the leader of the opposition for a breach of privilege or the minister for contempt of the House.
In the alternative, a member can put down a private member’s motion to the effect that the leader of the opposition has committed a breach of privilege in accusing the minister of giving incorrect information in the House. It is normally the procedure in other jurisdictions that the person concerned would himself request that such a motion be debated as soon as possible in order to clear his name. And here also, one of the parties is bound to be blamed. Maybe one defence for the leader of the opposition would be that he did not accuse the minister in the House for giving false and misleading information, he did it in the course of a press conference.
Second, Abu Kasenally can sue Paul Bérenger for having defamed him by saying that he has given false and misleading information to the House. As a minister he is supposed to act responsibly and it seems that he has not so acted, from what Paul Bérenger has said. It is a question of the minister clearing his name as a minister, as a politician and as a representative of the people.
But I do not think that any of the politicians concerned takes these matters as seriously as the situation demands. So this matter will die down as other matters. But I am sure that one politician has not acted as he should have.
Controlling of bookmakers and gambling houses
A Third Point: It is well known that most people in the gambling business are not above board as far as their transactions are concerned. It is all a question of money. It is in this context that Nita Deerpalsing raised in the National Assembly the matter of control of the transactions of bookmakers.
The minister of Finance has decided that the measure about to be put in place by the previous government will not give satisfaction. With this we understand that he will come up with a better system of control of the bookmakers and other persons responsible for all sorts of gambling joints. The question I am putting is: when can we expect the Minister to come up with his method of control of the bookmakers and other gambling house keepers? Will it take long? People are waiting to know what is being done on this count.
* Published in print edition on 20 May 2011