Points To Ponder
A First Point: Are the MSM members still confident that the MMM will form an alliance with their party for the next general election? I am reminded of the oft quoted line from Virgil: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, that is beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
What is the gift that the MMM has promised to the MSM? That it will be given 30 out 60 tickets for the general election. At the same time, Paul Bérenger keeps harping that the alliance has not yet been concluded. And Sir Anerood Jugnauth, who is the leader of the alliance that has not been yet been concluded, uses the same language. It is worth noting that Sir Anerood does not have a party to lead, yet he is the leader of the supposed alliance that will materialize — or not: nobody knows.
The reasons on which I am relying to say that there will not be an alliance between the MMM and the MSM are easy to understand:
1. It is simply not possible that the MMM will give 50% of the tickets for the next general election when Paul Bérenger himself has often said that the MSM is worth only 5% of the electorate. And I do not recall him saying that the popularity of the MSM has reached the 50% mark.
2. Paul Bérenger has on so many occasions said that it is better to have a three- cornered fight in a general election and the question of alliance will be discussed thereafter. The Labour Party and the PMSD will be together. The MMM will be on its own and the MSM will be the third force. Paul Bérenger thinks that he will have an easy win as both the Labour Party and the MSM have a majority of Hindu adherents, and thus the Hindu votes will be divided, which is the dream of the MMM.
The more so that Paul Bérenger has successfully managed to separate for good the Labour Party and the MSM. But time will tell whether Paul Bérenger will end up a victim of his own doing.
3. We know that the followers of the MMM are not in favour of the MMM-MSM alliance and the leadership of the party are well aware of this. The party will not go against the wish of its electorate.
The MSM should be careful where it will tread, but it must beware of the sweet talk of Paul Bérenger. In the general election, it might be wiped out, the MMM will wash its hands, as Pontius Pilate did in days past.
The past is indeed gone and both Navin Ramgoolam and Sir Anerood Jugnauth must open a line of communication albeit through third parties.
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The SSR Botanical Garden
A Second Point: What is happening to our so far well appreciated SSR Botanical Garden, also known as the Pamplemousses Garden? Previously, entry to the garden was free, but it was well-maintained, making it a pleasure to be there. All the vegetation was well cared for, the trees were marked for the benefit of the connoisseurs and the pond had always been full of the giant water lilies.
Mauritians felt welcome just to take a stroll, some with their families. Others used to give surreptitious rendezvous to their beloved ones and some came to study botany. But those who really visited the garden were the tourists. The SSR Botanical Garden has always been one of the few landmarks that really attracted the tourists to the country and I am sure that the garden has contributed a lot in making Mauritius known far and wide.
Instead of attracting the visitors to the garden, those responsible for its maintenance are doing everything possible to repel them. I am sure that the officers at the ministry concerned know very well what the situation is. Three matters have to be considered.
First, from the parking place visitors used to enter the garden through a gate where tickets were sold. That gate has been closed. The reason? Those who were selling the tickets and manning the gate used to indulge in fraudulent practices, so it is said. In fact, only fifty per cent of the total receipts were accounted for. Some officers knew of such a practice; as a result that gate had to be closed down. Therefore visitors to the garden have to park their vehicle in the parking area, come out on the main thoroughfare, walk to the main gate where they can buy their tickets, then enter the garden – and this is a hassle for them. This is why I say that the officers have discouraged potential visitors from coming to the garden.
If in fact certain employees were indulging in fraudulent practices, what measures has the ministry taken to punish them? Closing the gate is not the solution. Those found guilty must be made to pay for their crime: I do not think that anybody will contradict me on this score. The gate near the parking area should be re-opened with a better control, and the public will be satisfied.
Secondly, the technical staff and others responsible can be given about three months to bring the necessary order in the garden; it should be better in all regards, more attractive and more pleasant than what it was in the past, when the garden was at its best. If those working in the garden cannot do their job properly, they will have to go. The ball is in their court: they are being paid to work, isn’t it?
Thirdly, those who are responsible to look after the water lilies must explain the reason for which the plants have been attacked by water snails. I have been told that snails have proliferated in the pond, but what have the officers been doing? Is it not their duty to prevent snails and other pests to infest the water lilies? I have in mind some other officers in charge in the past; during their time, there were no pests.
The appreciation that people had for the SSR Botanic Garden has gone down badly. What is to be done? The Minister of Agriculture must come up with the appropriate solution, but will he? I wonder.
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4-star Central Prison
A Third Point: Let us face a fact: we are a third world country and there is nothing to be ashamed of if our prisons should be of the third world standard. On the contrary, if the other institutions are of that standard and our prisons are following the standard in the United Kingdom, France or the USA, that is of the first world, then something is definitely wrong here.
I am told that the new prison building that is being constructed is like a four-star hotel. This is encouraging people to commit more and more offences so that they can go to the new prison where they will be lodged in far better conditions than at home, and they will get better food than what they have at home.
The judiciary does its duties but the enforcement of the punishment is in the hands of the executive. Do the criminals feel that they are being punished for their crimes? Definitely not, but government and those officers in the prison service care more for the prisoners than for the poor people all around us.
We now hear that our prisons have become over-populated. The solution appears simple. Why is the Police not assuming its duty? So long as an accused party is not convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the person cannot be under the custody of the Prison Authorities. Such a person is under the responsibility of the Police Authorities and therefore why is such a person who is under investigation or even if the investigation is complete and over, under the custody of the Prison Authorities?
The Commissioner of Prisons must put his foot down that persons not sentenced by a Court will not accepted by the Prison Services. Is he bold enough to take this step? Will the Commissioner of Police assume his responsibility for persons arrested for allegedly having committed some crime and keep them in his custody? He knows very well that prisons are for persons who have been sentenced by a Court and that should be the end of the matter.
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Hawkers and other street denizens of Quatre Bornes
A Fourth Point: What has the Police done for the town of Quatre Bornes in the four areas that are under the responsibility of the officers who are posted in the stations in Quatre Bornes? I am talking of the hawkers, the marchands ambulants as they are called. I am still saying that they are becoming an eyesore and this is happening under the very eyes of the Authorities, We cannot say anything about the Municipal inspectors as well as the councillors because either they are simply useless, or they are in favour of the lawbreakers rather than those who uphold and respect the law.
Then we have the sex workers. Why is the Police so tolerant of them? We also have the problem of parking especially on fair days. Why is the Police so much in favour of those hawkers who ply their trade but cause so much trouble with their illegal parking? Let me put the question as it should be put – has the Police been instructed by some politician that they should not prevent hawkers to park their vehicles in an illegal manner and they should not book those contraveners?
The people of Quatre Bornes do not want their town to face the same problems as Port Louis, Rose Hill or other townships. If the situation is not controlled now, it will be too late. We have a municipality in name only, the councillors are they are “napunsak”, as they say in Hindi, completely powerless and they should all resign. We are spending a lot of money without any positive result.
It’s best not to speak about the inspectors and other officers. They should be on the streets and not in the offices. A friend of mine was telling me that he has never seen an inspector in the area where he lives. More on this point some time later.
* Published in print edition on 5 October 2012