Police, who calls the shots?

By Jan Arden

In the issue of 25th November, we commented on a series of disturbing events, including allegations of drug “planting”, that were affecting the public perception of the police force. “Allegations, confusion, and controversies, with heavily slanted political comments about suspects who have yet to be declared guilty by competent courts, distract from the national policing imperative to tackle the scourge of drug importation and trafficking with purpose and professionalism.”

The last thing we would have wished is to delve further into the matter but events since then have been even more disquieting, if that were at all possible.

The ADSU ‘landing’ at the residence of the pig breeder Wayne Attock, with the suspect’s wife and lawyer releasing around November 21 a hidden camera footage of the police officers’ movements, which would suggest a suspicious “planting” of the recovered small sachet of drug, was an unexpectedly disquieting matter. Worse, the CP’s reaction to transfer the team elements and the revocation of his order thereafter by an unspecified hand left little doubt that the real powers overseeing the CP and part of the Force under his command (PH-SST, ADSU, CCID…) were somewhere higher up.

When the same units and special striking team fail to distinguish between chia or toukmaria seeds and synthetics, when police operations seem to target high-profile opponents – either lawyers Akil Bissessur or Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, when reported drug seizures – either at Akil Bissessur or now Bruneau Laurette – show no traces of suspects’ DNA, when the police prosecutors are unable after one month, despite repeated demands, to provide defence lawyers with a complete video copy of the search operation at Laurette’s residence, questions are bound to be raised… have we breached new grounds of behaviour, presumably by a small group of flat-footed officers enjoying highest protection? Is the CP entirely to blame if powers above override his ambit and constitutional responsibilities?

When the PM, himself a lawyer always claiming presumption of innocence for his allies and Ministers trapped in unsavoury dealings, turns into investigator, prosecutor, jury and judge to condemn the Opposition in Parliament or at socio-cultural gatherings, it neither bodes well for the country nor is it a sign of the PM’s and MSM’s confidence for upcoming high-stakes political polls, municipal or general, and whose timing is yet to be announced.

* * *

Citizen Joyram’s hunger strike and the scars to collective conscience

Citizen Nishal Joyram, a 44-year-old educator, informed the authorities around October this year that should they fail to reduce the unprecedented taxes on fuel causing high prices at the pump, he would consider starting a hunger strike. With no serious movement on the taxation and fuel pricing from the authorities, Mr Joyram initiated his solitary hunger strike on the parvis of the centrally located Cathedral in what was an unusual action for both its exceptional bravery and the little hope that government would actually bend its rigid stance even to some extent.

The proverbial “pot de terre contre pot de fer” or hitting one’s head painfully against an obtuse brick wall, came to mind but soon sympathy built up because, although a powerful tool of last resort, it went far beyond a personal gain or those of a particular community to take on quasi spiritual overtones with comrade Nishal never expressing anger against the authorities except hope, love and sayings from the Bhagavad Gita. Prayers, on-site visits of multi-confessional representatives or various figureheads, a national support team and candle-light vigils round the island, rendered tribute to an event that touched all Mauritian souls not steeped into transactional politics the governing alliance seems to favour.

Leading Opposition figures and all visitors commended the exceptional courage, prayed for Nishal Joyram’s safety and demanded that he end his action for his own and family’s sake. The fact that in the growing weakness of Nishal, government failed over 22 days to even send a Minister or any representative to meet the guy for whom the overarching sense of social justice, equity and solidarity meant so much, etched many hearts with resentment at such coldness. 

On the advice one assumes of a third-grade advisor, the attempt by the authorities to soil Nishal’s action and motivations under the highly emotive and spiritual umbrella, was somewhat crass to say the least. Fortunately, the medical specialist Dr Gujadhur, onsite daily, has had to intervene, call an ambulance and the stretchers to take the gentleman to a clinic before he suffered irreparable damage. The population would be relieved at that ending but the scars to collective conscience may take longer to heal.

* * *

A tramway fuelled by debts?

If the recent completion of the tramway linking the urban corridor between Port-Louis and Curepipe and ferrying, in undoubted comfort, some 40,000 commuters daily, were such a politically marketable feat, then we have no doubt the municipal elections for urban folk would have already been announced.

Unfortunately, even the most loyal MSM enthusiast knows the plight of thousands of car, truck and bus drivers, the absence of reliable in-town bus services to tram stations and the traffic havoc caused daily by such a road-level infrastructure starving the country of much-needed public infrastructure attention elsewhere. Which inevitably brings to mind the 2014 forcible condemnation of a future tramway by the tandem late SAJ and then aspiring Finance Minister Lutchmeenaraidoo: “A small group of happy commuters paid for by huge taxes and massive subsidies borne by the rest of the population”!

Besides, the population has yet to absorb the fact that not one rupiah of the massive debts incurred for this project has yet been forked out by the government, the moratorium on debt repayments, capital and interest, running to 2024. With a Central Bank in virtual bankruptcy and running on borrowings, forex bound to grow more scarce and public debts at sky-high levels of some Rs 450 billion, there is no saying what the real costs will be to run and operate the tramway.

About the forex crunch, a business friend, keeping far from politics, who does well in consultancies and travels that take him three times a year to Dubai and the Middle East, reported to me he has to spend weeks to negotiate access to foreign exchange even at the best private local bank with unseen levels of paperwork and even worse, if he happens to return home with a wad of left-over notes to place in his account.

“A nightmare… Soon they’ll ask for my colonoscopy!” he quips wryly.

Anecdotal perhaps, but real-life stories like these are common from sections of the business community, SMEs and consultancies that should have seen their post-covid energies unleashed.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 9 December 2022

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