In a country where water has always been a precious blue gold for most citizens except for privileged tourists of the hotel industry where water flows night and day, December rains provided respite from the drought, the scorching sun and oppressive heat. When heavy rains kept pouring during January, they were welcomed as a blessing and a rejuvenation for Nature around us. They were also seen as a relief for those who aspire to start a fresh new era with a new-old governmental team partly rejuvenated but still keeping some of yesterday’s opponents in the frontline.
As the adage goes, ‘it never rains, it pours’. Former PM must have lately experienced the longest day of reckoning in his life. This was probably the only time of reckoning he has had to face on his own when the ship had been abandoned by one and all except for a few disgruntled loyal ones who were left to steer the tempest-tossed ship to a safe haven located at a would-be renovated Guy Rozemont Square. The hour of reckoning starts with a sudden fall from dizzy heights on sky-high cliffs where the fantasy of an all-powerful presidency was almost within reach. Damn it!
That hour from the moment the stage was set up at Desforges Street with a lynching mob that was in no mood to offer him the MBC-style garland of flowers and the trip to Line Barraks with money-laden safes, must have been the longest hour in his life when all of a sudden his whole career as a politician must have flashed through his mind.
The cool life in an already well-feathered nest in misty London where he probably felt he belonged to and from which he was snatched away by the would-have-been PM (a hard-to-catch shark the former PM had apparently baited) of the failed Alliance of Unity and Modernity — a most outdated and stupid name when you think of it! — because of his name and thrown into the hustle and bustle of Mauritian politics and shifting alliances with most improbable partners.
A career served on a golden platter. The awkward beginning and faltering steps as PM in 1995 with supporters accepting him as a learner, a neophyte who would learn fast. Barring the Kaya riots in 1999, which plunged the country in near chaos, he did learn fast. Even faster than anyone would have predicted.
In that longest hour following the fall from dizzy heights that shook him off his illusions and the confrontation with the harsh reality of a police arrest, a most desperate and lonely monologue must have resonated in his mind. Damn it! I was the Prime Minister for nine long years, I am a patriot and I did my best to uplift and democratize the economy; it was no easy job negotiating with the sugar barons to give us lands which could be used by other planters for agriculture, and I gave generous handouts to the public, young and old, to improve living conditions, etc, etc.
When he was dragged out of his hole and exposed to the public, bare-chest and dishevelled, Colonel Gaddafi was quoted as having said to his blood-thirsty captors: ‘Look, what are you doing? I am the Supreme Guide of the Revolution.’ Terrible last moment for him.
Well, Mauritius is not Libya, and the former PM is no revolutionary leader. And well, 2005-2010 was the best part of his career when even non-Labourites were saying: He is doing well. With a Finance Minister who kept the economy afloat despite global waves of recession. Others would say: he put Mauritius on the world map.
Then, the inevitable happened, the local specialization in l’art de faner which contaminates anyone who is not well-equipped with sufficiently lofty standards. One-man show at the MBC, abusive presence, nepotism, cronyism, unaccountability, wrong rôle model, alleged dealings with odd characters given carte blanche to carry on questionable dealings and abuse of power. As for the economic context, it was no better or worse than comparable countries despite gross exaggeration of ‘extreme sufferings of the people’ recently being aired in opinion columns.
While the public is baffled by such a flow of cash widely displayed in the media, the ex-PM is reckoning how he will save himself from the deluge that is threatening to suffocate him for good. In the biblical narrative, the deluge was believed to be God’s punishment in response to the corruption and depravity of humanity in a particular region.
The fight to save his honour may not be that easy and it remains to be seen how he will manage to drown his opponents in the present deluge. The project of renovating the Party’s headquarters might look like a honourable exit from the pretty mess he has landed himself into. If he doesn’t manage this in a plausible manner, he might go down in history as The Disgraced Prime Minister and cogitate on possible Redemption. Never mind that others also bear responsibility for the rot that has been setting in for decades.
Let us leave aside the outcome of any trial in the present case. It is the public which needs to be convinced about the electoral campaign financing narrative; it needs to be satisfied that there were no questionable dealings, no alleged transport of money-laden suitcases to Italy or some other place. Clear statements and factual support of such statements to explain all the money stashed away will be better than anything else.
Rs 220 million is about less than 6 million euros; one million euros is the price of two average RES villas or middle-class modern houses in Britain or France. By Mauritian standards, however, it is a hell of a lot of money.
At this stage, we also do not know whether the complete list of Swissleaks beneficiaries will clear the mist or add to the prevailing fog.
Let heavy rains keep pouring in. Now is the time for a clean sweeping of the rot. Big or small fish, let them all fry.
* Published in print edition on 20 February 2015