Of a Free Press & Happy and Smart Cities

Why is there an obsession to bring in more foreigners in such a small island, with lands at forbidding prices and an acute scarcity of lands for locals, not to mention shortage of water?

Public concern over a series of scandals that hit the headlines for weeks preceding the 50th celebration of Independence aired in the media and social networks was a positive sign of a will to preserve the institutions from being sullied. Lack of transparency in the dubious dealings of the Angolan businessman and the identity of local beneficiaries sent a wrong signal to the public for the umpteenth time.

The huge project of building villas and apartments with all modern facilities at Tamarin over sprawling acres of lands aim to make accommodation available to all income brackets. Fine. 50% of the housing will go to foreigners. Why is there an obsession to bring in more foreigners in such a small island, with lands at forbidding prices and an acute scarcity of lands for locals, not to mention shortage of water?”

The press has been more efficient in the battle to uphold right principles and ethics than the official Opposition. Public awareness of the necessity to have a free press has to be constantly re-activated in order to fight against the propensity of politicians to have their own way without appropriate checks and balances. The public should be made to understand that an investigative free press is of utmost importance in a democracy. Otherwise, serious wrongdoings involving government officials and private individuals will be swept under the carpet and kept away from public gaze.

In other words, let politicians not try to manipulate the emotions of people and pitch them against an investigative press for the wrong reasons in private meetings. Deep within, our local brand of politicians would rather find no obstacles on their way to sidestep the law and illegally fill their pockets and feather the nests of their relatives and friends.

Let the public open their eyes on any attempt of the authorities to target any newspaper and harass journalists directly or indirectly. Politicians are not elected to repress free speech, take revenge for their own wrongdoings and failures, and slyly use means to destroy any newspaper financially. This government has developed an aggressive inclination towards reprisals and revenge. Let the public show solidarity with the press.

Otherwise, it’s no use having elections every five years – and stop calling it a democracy. Let the country become like China where the now lifelong President has issued a sort of ten commandments ordering the public to refrain from using phrases like: ‘I don’t agree with’, ‘the government is wrong’, etc., on social networks. But at the same time, the President’s unlimited terms of office is bad news for corrupt officials. He will show no mercy on corruption. Death penalty, no more no less. Happy days ahead for the political class in democratic Mauritius. Loot in peace.

Are citizens free to voice their opinion on the governance of Mauritius? No, they are afraid of being harassed, arbitrarily transferred or discriminately arrested. After 50 years of Independence, what freedom do we have to demand respect for citizens’ political opinion and free speech?

MBC. Guests on radios contribute to bring a fair analysis of topical issues and encourage the public to adopt a rational attitude towards major events involving high-ranking public figures. The MBC obeys government orders and does not provide a balanced analysis of what is happening in the country. MBC news has been unashamedly one-sided and biased, and has become the personal property of prime ministers of all hues who bore the public in monotonous palabre style with speeches mainly aimed at embarrassing and having a dig at opponents. In this matter, democratically elected political leadership perpetuates an authoritarian style of communication. Is that what Mauritians want today?

Journalists do not have complete freedom in opinion columns much as their counterparts abroad do. Political correctness imposed by self-righteous attitudes and interests of press owners stifles open debates. Social networks are manipulated by suspicious groups to spread rumours and confuse people. An absence of reliable groups likely to bring enlightening information on key topics makes it difficult to find out the truth.

Air Mauritius. In the wake of the International Creole Festival in November. last year. the national carrier decided to add a last sentence in Creole to welcome passengers on board. Surreptitiously and unilaterally without bothering to inform the public of its alternative language policy. Henceforth, you hear Nou souhète zot tou bienveni, Air M espéré zotte ine fer ène bon voyaz, bienveni dans nou ti paradi Moris…

The last sentence is often said both in French and English. It is very embarrassing to hear pilots or whoever addresses passengers use self-praise, flattering words to present their own country. ‘Welcome to our Paradise Mauritius Island’. Come on, fellows! You should refrain from using such words, show humility and modesty. It’s not up to you to describe the island as a paradise, leave it to visitors. No use repeating the same nonsense as politicians in honeyed speeches meant to flatter and raise the self-esteem of the public for being lucky to inhabit the place – while at the same time, the same politicians behave as if the island were their private property.

Hearing the sudden switch to Creole on Air Mauritius planes, one cannot help remembering that on a planeload of Indians, a few Mauritians, all mostly Hindus, the pilot made his announcement only in French, which was quite shocking. Only about thirty minutes later did he drop a few lines in English. The pilot did not forget to speak English, he just did not like the idea of driving a planeload of Indians. Do not dream of them speaking one sentence in Hindi!

The Mauritian executive exhibiting staff in the new uniform on television approved of the ‘sobre et chic’ style and colour in the press. Mauritian designers were barred from tenders, the choice fell on a French designer. So the AM executive deems it fit that whatever the French designer’s justification be, it should be good. He has no notion of whether ‘sobre et chic’ is, let alone if it reflects the colourful island, dresses and environment that characterize the island. A higher fare paid out of public coffers does not cause a stir as long as it is paid to foreigners. These Mauritian fellows have the knack to embarrass Mauritians. They have become experts at it!

How Air Mauritius calculates its airport tax is mind-boggling! An almost free ticket to Singapore for miles acquired from frequent travels amounts to Rs 11,000 only for airport tax. Just incredible! Air France’s airport tax is much lower. What justifies the fare policy adopted in Mauritius if not broad daylight exploitation of passengers for lack of competitors?

Happy and Smart Cities. The huge project of building villas and apartments with all modern facilities at Tamarin over sprawling acres of lands aim to make accommodation available to all income brackets. Fine. 50% of the housing will go to foreigners. Why is there an obsession to bring in more foreigners in such a small island, with lands at forbidding prices and an acute scarcity of lands for locals, not to mention shortage of water?

Prices: from Rs 6 to 12 millions. Renting possibilities: Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000. Mauritians abroad are invited to invest in the future happy city. Well, for Rs 6m one can get Rs 24,000 in a small town in Europe. For Rs 8m, a small apartment in Paris is rented for Rs 36,000, and much higher if it is fully furnished.

Triolet. Who cares? Prolonged celebration of Independence with invitation cards sent to all and sundry to share briyani and go back home with take-aways at Triolet last Sunday at JSS is mere eyewash and looks more like propaganda and a start of electoral campaign with public funds than genuine concern for the needs of the village. With the same prime ministerial TV news palabre diatribe targeting opponents.

2010 electoral campaign promised a sports complex costing Rs 30 m. Two months before 2014 election, the same project was announced for Rs 122 m, four times as much! For the umpteen time, may we remind the authorities that the village is badly in need of proper recreational infrastructure for all ages. For children, teens, adults and elderly people. Leisure, except a cinema hall, sports facilities for all, cultural activities are non-existent.

The recent discovery of a private lab to make synthetic drugs in the crackdown on drug trafficking is just one example of a more devastating illicit trade and self-enrichment.

Individuals with lavish lifestyle, big houses and frequent travellings are known to everyone as unscrupulous drug traffickers except to the police.

Any clubs or places for youngsters to meet up? No. Libraries or cultural centres? No. Socializing, intellectual development, physical activities? A dream. School, tuition, work, travel, home, television, iPhones, Facebook, meals and sleep. The monotony of routine. Likewise, other villages are devoid of opportunities and infrastructure for a more satisfying general development of the inhabitants. Does the government care?


* Published in print edition on 13 April 2018

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