Behind the emergency exit of Bungsraz

By Nobel P. Loser

Lessons to be learnt

The country, political agents, activists and lobbyists, including those who boast about their proximity with the PM, and even the media have one or two or more lessons to learn from the emergency exit of Soobhiraj Bungsraz as CEO of Air Mauritius.

Before proceeding, you will perhaps be too happy to learn first and foremost how rewarding it can be to rub shoulders with the common man. If you travel by public transport it is even better, as the extra time spent on bus stops and bus stations brings extra satisfaction to life.

Here we go. Wednesday 8th December, around 09h15 at Terre rouge bus stop.

1. We learn that the DBM makes life difficult for entrepreneurs.

2. Would you believe it — the Route 176 bus is even equipped with the latest video equipment and while travelling commuters can have their share of Bollywood adrenaline.

3. On the return trip, we learn the difficulties of climbing the ladder of promotion even with an MBA certificate.

4. Somewhere near Roche Bois, along the highway, the latest public statements of the PM at Moka are dispassionately analysed, and the issue relates to nominees by the political establishment; in this case, those effected by the PM.

5. Now around 1h00 pm in Port Louis, we hear another kind of sound in the offices of officials from the public and private sector. Things are different. Here they talk about ‘big’ issues. The cocktail organised by the High Commission of Australia on Tuesday night and most of the happenings there attract comments pregnant with meanings, including the Air Mauritius CEO.

6. Around 1h20 pm, in a word-of-mouth silent betting buzz, we learn that Bungsraz would have to go in the coming minutes.

What a fruitful Wednesday it was! We will stick to para 4, 5 and 6 and we now come to the lessons we need to learn from the emergency exit of Bungsraz. A few precisions though. We don’t know him personally. We only had a glimpse of him at the annual dinner hosted by the Bank of Mauritius on Saturday 27th November at Pailles. Still, we hold the view that he is an honourable man who wanted to serve the country.

Now the basic facts. This nominee was either the personal choice of the PM or approved by him on the suggestion of political activitists/lobbyists. Every single element in the bigger puzzle bends towards lobbyists. The first lesson to be learnt is this. Hopefully, and from now onwards, lobbyists and political activists would understand that the PM seems not at all ready to caution the acts and deeds of nominees, however close the lobbyists are to him. The fast exit of Bungsraz, the cool manner in which it was accomplished, after such a short stay at the head of MK, a first in the company’s history, are very telling. Despite the intense lobbying not to remove him.

Second lesson. The country stands to gain if in fact the PM means business and decides to take the bull by the horn and move ahead to shake up non-performing institutions and parasite nominees. Be they chairpersons, CEOs or board members. The PM needs also to summon his ministers and put the burden on them to bring up results and to request them to defend the common good instead of pursuing policies that protect a handful of political thugs and/or campaign financiers. But the truth is known. Not all ministers understand the demarcation line between common good and private interests. And in the case of Mauritius, this truth belongs to all governments!

And it won’t be a scoop to tell the PM that most of our institutions, whether they are from category A or B as so often referred to by bureaucrats on the basis and the fatness of per diems paid, are not delivering. Para 1 and 3 above are illustrative of the prevailing situation. Yes, PM, your people do suffer at the hands of those institutions!

Third lesson: the media. Can anybody understand the pertinence of a call to an NGO to record and publish its opinion on the Bungsraz issue! We cannot appreciate how those who canvass the view that there are a few notorious and dangerous NGOs in the Island, known to them but whom they still choose to interview or on whom they file news stories. If the media, in the first place, does not know what is good for this multiracial country, who else will? Apart from this, we hold the view that the media did well on the Bungsraz issue to report on things that went wrong.

Now a few things about Bungsraz himself. The biggest blunder committed by the CEO is not his remark about the media in one of his mails. It’s about a breaking news issue. The release of information about his meeting and conversation with Sir Harry Tirvengadum! Knowing the history of the Court case and the pending issues not tried for reasons known, how and why on earth had he chosen to make public this “private” meeting with the former CEO of MK? Thus putting in danger the very person he had a duty to protect! We trust Mr Bungsraz is an honourable man, full of good intentions and has dreams for his country and countrymen, but the management of a company like MK is something else.

MK is not an ordinary company. It carries not only the image of our country, but also the emotions, dreams and pride of more than a million Mauritians. It’s good and necessary for the economy as well.

The PM should get acquainted with the inside story of Malaysian Airlines when the latter company was about to make an emergency landing due to its unfavourable balance sheet. Under such bad financial weather conditions, a man was brought in. His name is Idriss Jala.

The next MK CEO should not only be seen to be a good “gestionnaire” but he must claim total freedom from all quarters, including immunity from unhealthy external influence, to handle the affairs of the company in the best interests of Mauritius and of the company.

* Published in print edition on 10 December 2010

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