The question that arises is whether, as a people, we have been demanding enough in the standards we expect from our governing body since Independence.
The answer is No. The older generation who voted for self-rule took it for granted that the new rulers were staunch patriots who were committed to the advancement of the people as a whole and that they would give due attention to safeguard the modern institutions the Constitution was endowed with. Disillusion came fast when it became crystal clear that certain elected leaders were control freaks who would not let distinct public bodies breathe and act independently.
The unsolved case of Azor Adelaide’s murder opened a chapter of Untouchablity involving certain political leaders which never closed. In between, for more than four decades, the public has powerlessly witnessed some politicians behaving like feudal lords instead of imbibing modern leadership qualities by setting lofty standards for themselves. It soon started appearing that some who hover in the spheres of power could get away with blatant cases of corruption, bribes, embezzlement, nepotism, conflict of interests, self-enrichment, reaping benefits from drug traffic and even getting indirectly involved in crime. Normalcy in the style of governance is defined by the unwritten rule of Unaccountability. Several of these have had a field day enjoying the benefits of Impunity for decades.
It is the different institutions which don the cosmetic trappings of democracy outwardly that have failed the public by not assuming their duties and bending their back to the whims and fancies of different governments. Anyone claiming to have full trust in the judiciary of this country may raise eyebrows. Oh yes, judges are very efficient when it comes to sending up an ordinary citizen to years in jail for cultivating a few gandia plants in his garden. But then why have we not heard about any State law official taking an initiative of his own to start an investigation on malpractices and wrongdoings by MPs, ministers or Prime Ministers?
It seems control freaks in governments can reduce officials to becoming mere puppets when their interests are in question. Unfortunately, quite a few in the public service have been trained, it seems, to serve the influential and the powerful more particularly and then to receive their hefty salaries from public funds. When institutions do not prove effective to carry out their jobs properly, the public is right to ask questions as to whether the public money spent on them has been worthwhile. Advanced democracies do not need an ICAC, for example, to prop up the judiciary and the police. In such places, different institutions carry out their duties without political interference.
The issue is that though SAJ’s rule and governance is traditionally associated with rigour, meritocracy, respect for rules, more freedom and a general no-nonsense style, inspiring more trust than his predecessor anyway, it is felt that no political party is fully clean and above board. They have an albatross hanging round their neck. There is always a moment of reckoning, and the main stakeholders had better face it than live in denial. There is no shame in admitting faults; it is shameful to lie to oneself and to the people.
Just observe people around and see the havoc created by a culture of impunity. « Why not me? I can flout laws, cheat, lie and swindle as long as I get some benefits, nothing else matters », this seems to be the credo of some misguided people. Vous savez qui je suis moi ? — an arrogant sentence that blurts out from the mouth of any fellow, businessman from the bourgeois class on Mon Choisy beach, or from any bloke who tries to impress you with his high connections. This sort of mindset is like a mental disease which prevails among those who lack self-confidence despite outward signs of prosperity and power. Please, grow up and drop this ridiculous attitude.
There is no need to congratulate magistrates. It’s always reassuring to see that they would not allow themselves to be intimidated by anyone. Let the separation of powers be a reality, not a joke. Needless to congratulate politicians either. Most of the leaders have failed the people miserably. Ethics, principles, probity, righteousness are usually words they generally pay lip service to. For once where magistrates act with a backbone in cases involving public men in this topsy-turvy country where certain people are devoid of values, a few thugs from Triolet get excited and cry foul !. That beats it all ! All these followers had better devote their time and energy to meditate on monster Greed that enslaves a lot of goondas.
There is a gut feeling that if a new breed of judges and magistrates are determined to act independently, fairly and honestly, there is a glimmer of hope that they may inspire other institutions to stand up on their own and act responsibly towards all citizens alike without any FEAR.
For the public to grow up and be more demanding, it is high time to have private television which offers a platform for debates on various topics of interest inviting the public to interact. We know fully well that politicians of different hues are dead scared of free speech on private television, so much are they used to policing everything. Well, they are wrong. Thoughts and actions should not be guided by fear. Free speech should not be perceived like a threat but as a liberating factor. It will prompt one and all to be more rational, convincing and credible. Private television works on private funds, for sure. But the public should be given the choice to judge for itself and develop critical thinking. Free speech on private television is an indispensable tool to defend democratic institutions. Should Mauritians go on their knees to beg for that?
* Published in print edition on 15 July 2015