All Stand Guilty

Isn’t it high time for the people and all of us to put an end to this unending rigmarole of poor governance by successive governments led by the same leaders who have monopolised the local political scene for decades?

The goodwill of the people towards an elected government is a function of the latter’s ability to govern in an altruistic, efficient, rigorous, transparent, judicious and inclusive manner. It is a function of the government’s ability for innovative policy making, ironing inequalities and eradicating poverty, providing a level playing field in terms of opportunities for all and upholding the public interest at all times. It is a function of its ability to deliver on the promises made and substantially improve the well-being and quality of life of people. It is above all a function of the standards of probity and good governance of the ruling government which must irreproachably and constantly stand the test of scrutiny by the people.

For decades now, successive governments led by the long standing leaders of the main political parties have failed to live up to these basic standards and have each in turn been severely sanctioned by the people at the polls. A chronic lack of transparency in the administration of affairs of the State, a culture of nepotism to favour the party faithful and the coterie instead of putting in place and upholding a strictly merit driven system, an inability to craft effective policy responses to address and resolve the country’s and the people’s fundamental problems, political highhandedness and arrogance , too many cases of wanton dilapidation of public funds and the absence of a sense of selfless service to the country have eroded the people’s trust in the political class. For decades now the country has witnessed an unending cycle of poor governance by one government decried by those in opposition replaced by worse governance when those in opposition come to power. And on and on ad nauseam.

This deplorable situation which has endured for too long depicts the systemic ills which afflict our democracy. The people’s goodwill towards all the political class and their leadership is on a short fuse. There is a growing impatience among the people at the unending saga of poor governance and its load of alleged improprieties by successive governments.

Rhetoric not matched by deeds

The current situation in the country epitomises the sorry state of governance in our democracy. Despite its programme mission statement and commitment that it will conduct ‘business on the principles of discipline, transparency, accountability and exemplary governance’ the government’s bad governance has been exposed by a series of events.

The lack of transparency and accountability relating inter alia to the costs, financing or consultants of the rightly shelved non-priority Heritage City mega project or the disposal of the assets of the defunct BAI group or the choice of legal advisors of state institutions and the exorbitant fees paid to them or the inordinately high number of foreign missions by the members of government have stunned the nation.

The people and the country are still reeling from the Prime Minister’s revelation in response to a parliamentary question that an astronomical Rs22.3 million had been paid as fees by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) to its legal advisor for services provided over a period of some 14 months. To understand the enormity of such largesse by a state institution, suffice it to say that those with a track record of achievements in the country such as the top CEOs of the top private companies in Mauritius who help generate national wealth, growth and create employment in the country do not receive such astronomical income in a year.

Legitimate questions of accountability and rationale about the appointment of advisors and consultants and the approval of such huge payments to them asked by the country and the people have to be urgently answered.

The latest flabbergasting information about the wrong vaccine being ordered to deal with the epidemic of foot and mouth disease symbolizes the disastrous and inept management of this crisis which has seriously impaired the livelihoods of cattle breeders in Rodrigues and Mauritius.

The diverse cases of poor governance uncovered in the country recently have prompted the leader of the Labour Party, who has been lying low in the wake of the diverse court cases against him, to come out of the cold. Using a holier than thou rhetoric, despite himself facing so many questions of governance regarding inter alia substantial hoards of cash in local and foreign currency stashed in bulky safes and bulging suitcases found at his residence, he has come out guns blazing against the government. Trying to justify the unjustifiable, he has even defended the BAI group despite the crying evidence provided in independent financial forensic reports carried out by foreign experts in the field and all the hardships and anguish faced by the multitude of hapless savers from all walks of life.

The positive comments of the leader of the opposition on some elements of the recent budget speech have fuelled speculations in certain sections of the media of a rapprochement and a possible alliance between the MMM and the MSM, flatly denied by the leaders of both parties. Isn’t the country and are we not all fed up with the making and unmaking of power driven alliances cobbled very often at the last minute by the main political parties, blithely swapping partners prior to each elections for the sake and hope of winning power at the polls?

Isn’t it also high time for the people and all of us to put an end to this unending rigmarole of poor governance by successive governments led by the same leaders who have monopolised the local political scene for decades? Haven’t the political parties and their irremovable leaders long passed their shelf life? It is equally important for the media not to pander to the agendas of discredited leaders doggedly holding on to the pipe dream of coming back to power. All stand guilty in the supreme court of the people.

Breaking the cycle

The future of the young, future generations and the country require that there is a collective will to break away from this unending cycle of poor governance and trampled hopes and aspirations of the people. Isn’t it also time to break away from the crippling mindset that the people have no choice than to elect governments from the same parties and leaders having an appalling track record of governance and delivery on the promises made for a fairer, more equal, inclusive, merit based, transparent and prosperous society?

Isn’t it time for the country and the people to wake up to the reality that the present political set up, its political ethics and its discredited protagonists have to be jettisoned in the larger interest and the well being of the country?

It is time for the country, the people, the diverse actors of civil society and the public at large to clearly say so and help the country come up with more credible and game changing political options able to assure exemplary standards of good governance, altruism, delivery efficiency, accountability and transparency to rally the multitude. In short, a new political class driven by an ideology which truly mirrors the ethos and inclusive aspirations of the nation.

Mauritius in its diversity and plurality as well as the weak and the voiceless who cherish dreams of a better socio-economic and political order for all deserve better.

Mrinal Roy

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