The Baie Jacocet Submarine Cable Survey Controversy: Checkmate?

The stench of gutter politics and diehard fixations reminiscent of a bygone era have no place in today’s Mauritius There is also no place for loose cannons in politics who are unable to grasp, imbibe and adhere to the founding ethos of independent Mauritius.

By Mrinal Roy

The highly charged survey/sniffing affair relating to the Mauritius Telecom (MT) Submarine Cable Landing Station at Baie Jacocet epitomises what is fundamentally wrong with the appalling state of governance in the country. This serious matter has sapped the goodwill and repute of Mauritius and threatened to put at risk the bulwarks in place to safeguard the sanctity of internet and international telecommunications traffic and the interests of economic actors. It has caused deep apprehensions among the people about the country’s sovereignty, security and encroachments on their freedom of expression and internet exchanges and raised some fundamental questions. The nation therefore expects clear and honest answers.

How can the Prime Minister of the country verbally instruct the CEO of Mauritius Telecom, a private company having diverse shareholders to allow a foreign team of technicians to have access to the MT high security Baie Jacocet Submarine Cable Landing Station belonging to a broad consortium of countries, to carry out a survey mission without first seeking their approval?

Orange SA (France Telecom) holds a 40% shareholding since 2000 following the controversial decision of the government at the time to cede a large chunk of MT shareholding. Why did the chairman of Mauritius Telecom, who is also the Secretary to the Cabinet, allegedly only informed the CEO of MT on 14 April that a foreign technical team was already in Mauritius and wished to carry out a survey of the Safe Cable? Why did he not urgently call a board meeting of Mauritius Telecom to first obtain their and the consortium’s approval to allow a physical intervention on such a high security and sensitive international telecommunications cable?


The most flabbergasting aspect of this questionable decision is that there has been no written and detailed request by the PM for a survey of a highly sensitive international telecommunications cable to be carried out by a foreign team of technicians. Everything is verbal. This is patently evident in the Hansard records and live broadcast of the parliamentary sessions covering the Private Notice Questions on this extremely serious matter. This departure from best practice norms has unleashed a highly damaging mayhem and caused a furore in the country. 

Tentacular control

This deplorable situation is the outcome of a mode of governance which is widely decried in the country. Key laws are being amended and more and more discretionary powers are being entrusted to the PM or Ministers. The style of governance grounded on a tentacular and hegemonic control over key institutions and state companies, nepotism and the appointment of political nominees, the coterie and the party faithful to head public companies and man key posts has bred incompetence and left a long trail of costly blunders.

A system of governance without robust checks and balances, accountability and transparency can boomerang. This is evidenced by the tens of billions of Rupees of public funds lost under the watch of government in the costly Betamax litigation, the cost overruns of the Bagatelle Dam and the Cote d’Or National Sports Complex, emergency procurement tenders, the Safe City project whose cost effectiveness still seems elusive, recurrent flooding chaos despite billions of rupees annually invested in drains, etc.

The main protagonists of the ongoing saga have all been appointed to their posts as Chairman and CEO of MT or appointed after retirement on contract to head the Police Central Criminal Investigation Department (CCID) in charge of the investigation on the allegations of the MT affair, by the PM. Such a flawed system of governance can give the comforting illusion that everything is possible and cloud sound judgment. Such heady delusions of power can backfire. The whistle blowing ex-CEO of MT has obviously upset the apple cart.

Shadow boxing

People understand that against such a backdrop, the ex-CEO of MT must hide his hand in this deep game. Without details of the alleged incriminating evidence available, there can be no countervailing gambits in this political shadow boxing. The focus is now on the reports of the senior officers of the MT delegated to accompany the foreign technical team on what was exactly done during the 6 hours the team spent at the MT Baie Jacocet Landing Station.

This is too damning a situation for government and the PM to mask its patent discomfiture behind the alibi of national security. The current government stratagem, filibustering ploys and vacuous politicking in response to the barrage of legitimate interrogations of the opposition and the public at large undermines the government posture at a time when people expect forthright answers from the PM. Nothing less than the truth will dispel any nagging apprehension that the government is hiding a bigger incriminatory truth.

All agog

It must also be said that the opposition parties are all agog with excitement at the unexpected turn of events which has breathed hope and lifted spirits in opposition ranks. They smell blood. Politicians of every hue are coming out of the woodwork. However, without new revelations from the ex-CEO of MT and other leaks, the opposition parties do not have a leg to stand on. Each step of this mano a mano uncovers tell-tale hidden truths about this murky crisis. They provide handles for the leader of the opposition to relentlessly pursue his incisive questioning of the PM during the PNQ sessions.

The hidden truth cannot be buried. The resignation of the Chief Technical Officer of Mauritius Telecom this week is another tell-tale event in this messy saga. There are already cracks in the defence line. There is still time to own up and come clean and avoid the risk of an ignominious checkmate.

Loose canons

The MT survey/sniffing affair has also uncovered some seedy and lowly aspects of Mauritian politics which the multitude thought had been buried for good at the time of independence. The stench of gutter politics and diehard fixations reminiscent of a bygone era have no place in today’s Mauritius There is also no place for loose cannons in politics who are unable to grasp, imbibe and adhere to the founding ethos of independent Mauritius.

The Mauritius we want

It is equally important for the political class to realize that the status quo is not acceptable to the multitude. The leaders of the different opposition parties are all jockeying and rearing to play a leading role should there be new general elections and a change of government. The political class must realize that 54 years after independence the people and in particular the young want a radical change in the credentials, qualifications, standard of probity and competence of political leaders and the political class, the mode of governance and the policy framework of an inclusive growth pathway.

Without a radical change, the country will be boxed in a time warp which would hobble the lofty ambition and prospects of the country and the young. Despite the contrived government narrative, the latest IMF country report catalogues a messy situation which is a damning indictment of the government’s flawed governance. The people therefore need a strong response to the current daunting challenges faced by the country. This urgently requires a radical change of policies, long overdue reforms and more importantly a new breed of highly qualified, altruistic and competent political leaders and politicians having a track record of achievements, who can brainstorm an innovative growth template for the future, usher a new dawn and deliver sustainable prosperity and individual fulfillment for the benefit of all. This is the only viable way forward for people and country.


Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 22 July 2022

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