We owe it to the young and future generations to clear the appalling mess and trigger the sea change necessary to establish a significantly better order
By Mrinal Roy
The country is in turmoil. The political situation is in disarray. The Labour Party, the PMSD and the MMM, three political parties which have had their heyday before and after independence, have in the wake of successive electoral debacles been reduced to desperately joining forces and stitching up a non-descript alliance to counter the ruling L’Alliance Morisien. The latter alliance, which includes the Muvman Liberater and dissidents from the MMM, is led by the MSM, a party which had for years been considered a political light weight in the local political configuration.
“It is obvious to all who understand the dynamics of Mauritian politics that the status quo in terms of leadership and modus operandi of the main opposition parties comforts and helps maintain the government in power. If the alternative choice offered to the electorate is between repeatedly defeated party leaders lording it over their undemocratic and feudalized parties and the ruling alliance, the outcome would be unchanged…”
Has there been a shift of allegiance of the multitude exasperated at the ‘fossilized’ state of parties such as the Labour Party unable to cut the dead wood and reinvent itself with new talent and intellect around a new leadership to offer a credible and competent alternative and choice to the people which rallies the electorate?
The short-lived alliance of the opposition parties has already imploded. Trapped in their own fixations about becoming Prime Minister and hangovers about control over levers of power and key constitutional posts, the leaders of the alliance have true to form opted to first safeguard their own narrow interests. That at a time when the priority and focus of the political class should be the protection of the interests of the people and the country. Their game plans and convoluted shenanigans have gone awry and backfired. The clash of political agendas proved fatal. Before even being cobbled, the ‘(un)holy’ alliance of opposition parties designed to challenge and wrest power from government has already been blown apart.
It is obvious that the leaders of the MMM and the PMSD have been stunned by the unexpected turn of events. The PMSD is in limbo and is saddled for better or for worse with the MMM. Is this a tenable situation bearing in mind realpolitik and history or is it a recipe for political hara-kiri? The saving grace in all this mess is the resignation of Arvin Boolell as leader of the opposition in line with elementary rules of political ethics.
It is not surprising that those who perceive politics as an endless game of political stratagems and gambits rather than abiding by the highest standards of propriety and conduct are unable to fathom the rationale of this commendable decision. Surely Arvin Boolell could not accept to be propped as leader of the opposition by parties driven by their own parochial agendas.
The government has obviously taken stock of the fracture within the ranks of the opposition parties with muted glee.
On the back foot
The government has been on the back foot in the face of the popular outcry against its plummeting standard of governance, the Wakashio ecological catastrophe, nepotism and cronyism and the growing array of scandals and allegations of corruption involving Ministers.
The government is also facing growing criticisms regarding the patent lack of transparency and accountability of government spending and public funds amounting to billions of Rupees advanced by the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) to bail out distressed companies or spent in costly projects such as the Safe city which is incapable of providing key deliverables such as video footage to help elucidate criminal cases or spent under questionable government procurement tenders.
People are also outraged that tens of millions of Rupees have been placed by government institutions and companies such as municipalities, the Mauritius Housing Company and the National Insurance Company in a new bank which is now in receivership and that billions of Rupees have been lost in risky loans granted to foreign companies at the State Bank. Such widely decried governance cannot go on.
It is obvious to all who understand the dynamics of Mauritian politics that the status quo in terms of leadership and modus operandi of the main opposition parties comforts and helps maintain the government in power. If the alternative choice offered to the electorate is between repeatedly defeated party leaders lording it over their undemocratic and feudalized parties and the ruling alliance, the outcome would be unchanged. This will certainly not be a viable option for the future and the young of the country.
Mauritius is therefore at a critical juncture of its political history. More than ever before, the people and the electorate furious at the appalling state of governance, recurrent scandals and costly blunders in the country are clamouring for a competent and credible alternative choice. This necessarily means a new team of talented Mauritians driven by a commitment of service to the people and having the professional expertise, credentials, intellect and competence to grapple with the many daunting challenges facing the country, put people and the country at the centre of their proposals and successfully challenge the government and the established order.
The time is ripe for such a sea change.
Getting our priorities right
Various groups in the country are reported to be brainstorming and organizing themselves as an alternative team to challenge the established political order. What is however of prime importance during this key exercise is to unswervingly remain focused on key issues of prime concern to the people and not be mired in complex and controversial matters such as tinkering with the constitution which are patently divisive. More than ever before, we need as a nation first and foremost to get our priorities right.
The root cause of all the systemic problems crippling the country and systematically undermining democracy and the prospects of the country is the widely decried political culture.
The people no longer want MPs who, once elected by the people, put the interests of their leader and party above those of the people and the public interest. They want an end to dynastic politics and do not want a political system where political parties are closed shops and considered as a family heirloom of the political leaders
As a nation, we have the unique opportunity of harnessing our best resources to chart and build a significantly better and prosperous future for all.
Mobilizing the best
We therefore need first and foremost to establish a check list of qualities we want our politicians to have. Politicians must be a representative sample of the best talent and intellect in our midst.
They must have proven professional expertise , a track record of achievements in their field of activity, intellect, competence and able to team up to chart an innovative pathway towards inclusive prosperity and help realize our loftiest ambition as a nation. They must be charismatic, be able to put pen to paper and have the ability to connect with the people.
They must also have a commitment of service to the people. They must be a model of rectitude. Their governance must adhere to the highest standard of ethics. As elected MPs they must uphold the interests of the people and public interest at all times. Professionals with expert knowledge in a field of relevance to the socio-economic development of the country can elect to contribute to the advancement of the country for a term of office.
Being an elected MP or a Minister is a serious and important responsibility towards the people and the country. There is therefore no place in politics for the dilettante or any Tom, Dick and Harry bent on assuring a cushy career in politics through the perks and trappings of power.
If we select and assemble the right team having these essential attributes to serve the people and help the country surmount the adverse fallouts of the Covid-19 pandemic and put the country on a pathway to prosperity, it can serve as a template of exemplary governance for the future.
Clearing the mess
The government policy framework must also be overhauled. It must inter alia include robust bulwarks and rules to assure the independence of state institutions and companies which must be manned by competent professionals instead of political cronies. There must also be strict adherence to rules of meritocracy in the public service, a fundamental review of our economic model as the current model has outlived its shelf life, land reform and a review of the education sector to assure quality and a smooth integration into the work place.
The quality of health services and social welfare services must be reassessed to ensure that they are benchmarked on the highest standards and are cost effective. Our diplomatic outposts must be manned by career diplomats instead of political appointees. Energy production must stop using highly polluting coal. There must also be robust safeguards to assure stricter accountability of government spending and transparency at all levels as well as a more rigorous oversight over the management of state lands and government decisions to prevent costly blunders.
The task ahead is therefore formidable. The collective will of the people is however determined to set things right. We owe it to the young and future generations to clear the appalling mess and trigger the sea change necessary to establish a significantly better order for the benefit of the multitude.
* Published in print edition on 5 March 2021