There is a growing perception that the ICAC, since the coming into office of the MSM ruling dispensations, has not been renowned for conducting with a minimum of zeal and professionalism enquiries in any case that might have involved those close to higher offices in government circles. The only exception that we have been given to see lately concerns its money-laundering investigations into the Franklin affair. The list is otherwise long enough in several high-profile cases that have erupted since 2015. The St Louis CEB procurement saga is still dawdling along at ICAC after 7-8 years despite a Senior Minister having been made to step down by the Prime Minister and several exchanges with either the Scandinavian company BWSC or the African Development Bank as funding agency. More affairs erupted since then, namely, over the corrupt procurement processes at Health, Commerce and the State Trading Corporation during the pandemic concerning health supplies, equipment, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, where again the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Protection was forced to vacate his post but without any substantial progress on any of the several enquiries that would have been largely justified.
Other Ministers when replying to awkward allegations, resorted to stating that the matter had been referred to ICAC for enquiries: e.g., the acting Minister of Commerce and Consumer Protection in the case of Rs 500 M of illegal cigarette paper imported in the island or the Minister of Health on the saga of Molnupiravir pills, millions of which were purchased once at Rs 9 and the very next day at Rs 79 without, it seems, fully abiding by procurement processes. In those and perhaps other cases the mantle of an ICAC enquiry was perceived to be a political convenience where embarrassing questions could no longer be asked.
It was therefore somewhat of a surprise that, while Franklin had been on the ADSU radar since 2016 and the Reunion authorities had condemned the guy for drug trafficking in absentia to 7 years jail time, ICAC felt empowered around February to launch with unusual vigour its money-laundering investigations into drug warlord Franklin’s operations on the West Coast, with all its tentacular ramifications. Where will this ICAC enquiry lead to, ask the sceptics, who wonder how much leeway, protection and for how long Franklin was allowed to augment his business and fly in and out of the country unhindered? The collateral revelations that a senior Minister, a PPS and select guests were allegedly revelling in a Black Label stag party a few hundred metres from Grand Bassin while settling an alleged corrupt deal of Rs 3.5m for 700 acres of land lease sometime in 2020 came as an unexpected thunderbolt. Particularly among the Hindu faithful community and those who at immense sacrifices, fasting and devotions, carry their kanwars and perform their rituals at the sacred site before taking jars of the Pari Talao water for temple prayers on the occasion of the great night of Lord Shiva.
No amount of spin can justify or repair such an assault on whatever dharmic values this profanation implied for our ancestors’ struggles down to today’s Hindu culture, values and traditions. All those involved, even without the full results of ongoing ICAC enquiries, should have tendered their apologies and resigned immediately from their individual high offices. There is equal urgency for our socio-cultural associations to organise a yajor prayer session to beg forgiveness and purify a sacred spiritual and religious site of particular fervour among devout Hindus that has been so damagingly associated with such crude monkey business.
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Donald Trump charged with 34 felony counts
Last Friday, former President Donald J. Trump, faced the first of a tough series of legal affairs, criminal and civil, as a Manhattan Grand Jury decided that the prosecutory evidence presented by District Attorney Alvin Bragg was sufficiently convincing to merit an indictment and trial before the appropriate court. Both the District Attorney and the 45th President will go down in US history, the first for securing a historic indictment against a guy who was known for using every legal artifice, including confidential settlement where inevitable, to avoid facing arrest and indictment and the second as the only former President in US history to face indictment and arrest on such criminal charges as would be disclosed this past Tuesday.
While the Republican party was up in arms, expressing outrage or condemning an alleged subversion of the judiciary for political ends, and others may sympathise somewhat with a guy who lived a wealthy lifestyle which did not require his entrance into politics, for many others, Trump is regally despised as the symbol of the culture and identity wars as represented by the rearguard Make America Great Again (MAGA) wing, embracing undertones of racist and anti-jewish feelings, while he and the Republicans focused on large tax cuts for the wealthiest.
Political discourse has shifted undeniably from civilised oppositions and debates to diatribes so versed in mutual hate and contempt that the more educated elites, often attacked by Trump as the fake news or deep state establishment, face difficult times making any sensible arguments heard. The atmosphere has become almost toxic for latinos, blacks, browns and Asians as certain channels like Fox news and fringe MAGA media outlets have given space and sound to the furious and grievously frustrated White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPs) who feel and act increasingly like a threatened minority.
The current indictment is admittedly a rather weak and sordid affair based on hush money payments to a female porn star and stripper Stormy Daniels through his attorney-fixer and it has nonetheless led the latter to disbarment and a three-year jail term. It remains to be seen whether the ex-President, using every delaying legal tactic his lawyers come up with, ultimately faces some consequence for his part in that scurrilous affair. That, however, is only the beginning of Trump’s legal woes as several District Attorneys, across different States, focus onto his role in such matters as the Jan-6 riots in Washington DC or the attempt to get more votes in Georgia at the last presidential elections.
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Culture and identity wars
While culture and identity wars have become the stage for a raging feud between opponents in the USA, they are not far below the surface elsewhere and, in particular, in the UK and South Asia. In the UK, the traditional wariness of foreigners has in the past twenty years given way to a more naked discourse about immigrants flocking into Britain, an indictment of multiple policies felt as failures (boat people across the Channel, the refugee crisis from the Middle East or the Balkans, asylum seeker processes, the Windrush scandal, etc) with fatal consequences for the UK’s membership of the EU. No civilised discourse seems possible these days without reference to the immigration question in one form or another and the Home Minister, SuellaBraverman is only pandering to a scare-mongering narrative that cuts across political parties and has dominated British politics now for more than 20 years.
In the far more volatile South Asia environment, culture and identity differences have another layer of complexity due to religious and faith divergences. West Pakistan’s political and military establishment, for instance, believed that the country could not be ruled by a Bengali leader, despite being of muslim faith. This led to the pogrom in East Pakistan and the birth of a cultural entity Bangladesh in the historic liberation war of 1971. Since then, Pakistan has been left uncertain as to what is the glue that holds the country together if it is not religion: a collection of tribes or ethnicities without even a common language or simply the India-hate policy that its successive military juntas have adhered to. This too may be slowly frittering away as regional cultures (Sindhis, Balochs, Pashtuns, etc) resent the Punjabi domination and the part of Kashmir under Pakistan occupation, ask themselves if their brothers and sisters on the Indian side are not far better off.
Neither are questions of identity and culture any easier in the variety and diversity of India despite being a democratic subcontinent advancing on the economic and political world stage. Powerful forces from overseas (e.g., billionaire George Soros) are suspected to be funding a variety of internal agents to disrupt India’s growth, affluence and general stability. Both Rahul Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, which has a long-mixed bag history, may be seen as part of that anti-national patchwork or playing up to such forces.
Nationalism, culture and pride in the newfound identity of India Inc might therefore dominate the next general elections, as they did in 2019.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 7 April 2023
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