Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Carnet Hebdo

Law & Order and Public trust

— Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Let us first ask a straightforward question to the government: How on earth are they going to address the issue of bribery? The penalty point system is engendering a new form of corruption whereby a few policemen of doubtful honesty may strike a deal with road users to induce them to pay lower fines which go directly into the pockets of representatives of law and order. Daily reports on such occurrences are disgusting and revolting. And yet, salary hike in the public sector is cheering up all civil servants including policemen, if we go by television reports on the satisfaction expressed by all beneficiaries. It should be a cause for concern that some civil servants unscrupulously use their position to indulge in illicit financial gains. What the authorities intend to do to instill discipline and professionalism and put an end to bribery in the service generally should be made public. An effective solution is to sack those who are found guilty of corruption. It would certainly act as a powerful deterrent. ICAC’s initiative to inform and educate the public on the issue of corruption is insufficient to change mindsets. There should be a strong message sent to the public to the effect that citizens at large cannot complain about corruption all year long and actively participate to keep it alive at the same time.

Road users should be taught to act responsibly as mature citizens, abide by the law and pay fines to the State for infringement of road traffic regulations. Otherwise, it might be too late if one day we wake up and find that corruption is too deep to be uprooted. There is still hope for progress given that there was a time when people used to bribe civil service officers to speed up procedures to get an identity card.

Another serious concern is about the amount of trust the public places in the representatives of law and order as regards harassment, physical violence and death in police custody. It appears that this element of trust is not on the increase. The Commissioner of Police or the Prime Minister should come forward on television and reassure the public that members of the police force are free to conduct investigations according to law or are not harassed by undemocratic interference coming from higher spheres of influence. At times, one gets the impression that honest citizens are sacked, arrested and interrogated as vulgar criminals while people of dubious integrity get away with serious offences. Reassurance from the higher quarters will make it clear to one and all that the integrity of our institutions is being upheld and that we are not drifting towards becoming Cuba or China.

Crowded classrooms with forty pupils might not be the best environment for teaching. The point is whether as a developing country we can afford to run schools with 25 to 30 pupils per classroom. It will partly solve the problem of teaching being a thriving business instead of paid public service to the country’s younger generation. The sight of a teacher strolling along the aisles of an overcrowded classroom checking the work of pupils who look bored stiff shows that we have a long way to go to adopt modern teaching methods which will make learning more interesting and lively for children. Little wonder teachers are rejoicing over the pay hike if you consider the informal monthly salary that flows into their pockets thanks to the business of private tuition.

Before considering further taxation on consumer products or the income of the population at large, the Ministry of Finance would be better advised to urge the MRA to delve into the real salaries of the commis de l’Etat.

Is salary hike the only incentive to make public sector employees work more conscientiously and efficiently? There are so many cases of utter neglect of patients in hospitals, where some medical officers lure them to their private offices and ask for higher fees whereas they are paid to do the same job in hospitals. It would be to the credit of the MBC if the journalists were free to interview a wider category of people in the streets and allow a diversity of views to be expressed. Otherwise, all the satisfaction expressed by a few selected people sounds more like propaganda to score points for the government than anything else. The MBC is doing well on several fronts, diversifying and enhancing the quality of its local programmes on television and proposing interesting programmes on health, agriculture and food on the radio. A higher degree of objectivity in presenting public opinion and criticism on current topics would be most appreciated.

The forthcoming programme with a psychologist listening to people’s worries and answering their questions on radio is a most laudable initiative. The use of psychology for public welfare will prevent people from falling into the traps of all sorts of sects which parade as religions. Talk to people who convert and join sects and you will find that all of them had serious psychological problems and there was just no one to listen to them. So they turn to all these sectarian, self-proclaimed gurus who make hallucinating speeches on everything under the sun.

Better use public funds to have good psychologists enlighten people on the causes of their problems and promote understanding as regards social interaction and relationship. Understanding chases away unhealthy and impure thoughts and makes people feel and be better, so that they eventually act in a civilized manner. However, psychology is not the panacea to all worries and anxieties that poison everyday life but it can help to make life more bearable and pleasant through love, friendship and solidarity.

We hope that the Ministry of Education will also have psychologists talk to senior pupils, boys and girls, and help them understand themselves and others. That will be a good start. Adult males have a serious ego problem in this country whatever be their professions, social classes or ethnic groups. Male chauvinism, machistic attitude and misplaced pride are unbearable. Special attention should be given to the younger male population in order to help them solve their ego problem and make them more civilized adults later in life.

Why on earth MBC radio is taking the name of Radio Maurice is quite strange. Maybe it is not. Just mimicking next-door DOM neighbour Radio Réunion, itself imitating Radio France in its métropole. This morning, the newscaster on a private radio referred to Europe as ‘le vieux continent’, which is a term used by westerners to differentiate from the ‘new world’ which America represents. Is Europe an ‘old continent’ from a Mauritian point of view? Back to our Radio Maurice deuxième jeunesse and so on, nothing surprising. When you set foot at SSR airport after travelling by Air Mauritius where only European music is aired and hostesses wear only European style uniform, you are greeted by Aérogare de Paris which is looking after the airport and walk along the metro-like corridor with the slogan Maurice, C’est Un Plaisir on the right, and a fountain made of black stones and plastic flowers, a vulgar imitation of what looks natural and beautiful at Gillot airport.

At the cafétaria, there was not much variety of food except a few croissants, pains au chocolat and pains aux raisins made with loads of butter, which you personally avoid consuming in Europe. So Radio Maurice is a logical outcome of all this stuff. It will soon dish out bonne zournée all day long to the audience. We hope that our MBC psychologist will spare us bon couraz to people who air their worries on the radio.

Why news presenters, both male and female, are wearing greyish and black clothes these days is quite puzzling. Dull colours, indeed! Probably part of the mimicry.

Last but not least, our psychologist should explain how a continuous policy of nepotism, corruption in the public sector, high scale of swindling and crookedness by shady individuals in our society, and wildcat ultra-liberalism with capitalists marrons in big companies running away with huge profits and paying low salaries to employees constitute what we may call psychological violence which undermines the morale of a society.

Add to this the dynasty mindset in political leadership which hoists up sons, nephews, brother-in-laws and what not on the forefront of politics as if voters were immature grown-ups who absolutely need the father figure or else they would be orphans. Dynasty mindset is bound to prevent deserving hard-working politicians from playing a key role in politics.

We certainly wish to move on and bring positive changes in the country.

Nita Chicooree-Mercier

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