The Battle against Drug Trafficking and Mafia Infiltration

The repercussions of the Franklin affair, far from over, are already a reality check with a huge thump for all our institutions and authorities, high and low

By Jan Arden

After three years of painstaking work, the commission of inquiry on drug trafficking set up by late PM Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) and chaired by former Puisne Judge Paul Lam Shang Leen with two assessors, was made public in July 2018. By that time, in January 2017, SAJ had resigned, and his PM post taken over by his son, Hon Pravind Jugnauth. The latter announced in August that a taskforce headed by the director general of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), would enquire further into the matters raised by the drug commission.

However, in almost the same breath, the then Prime Minister stated that the principal measure, namely the dismantling of the Anti-Drug and Smuggling Unit (ADSU), would not be implemented. This left many observers somewhat bemused about the PM’s marked public trust in ADSU, or the utility of the taskforce quite aside from its obvious incongruity on constitutional grounds as the Police Commissioner, a constitutionally independent post, would be reporting to the ICAC Director. Since then, the PM has missed no opportunity on all platforms and during the electoral hustings of 2019, to express his full confidence in the ADSU which was, according to him, delivering tangible results.

Where we might judge the success of that fight in terms of major arrests and cases investigated, brought to court and warlords locked up, the evidence is more than wafer thin. To be fair, there have been some high-profile cargo loads of illicit material with street values running into billions seized and arrests made since about 2018.

While this is most welcome, such statistics have to be taken with some degree of caution. Are they evidence of more effective policing or more warlords plying their lucrative criminal drug import/distribution activities, of which the same or a similar fraction ends up getting caught? Besides, for whatever unexplained reason, in those high-profile drug-related cases, it would seem that as yet no investigations have been concluded or prosecuted successfully despite the full trust of higher offices.

Curiously, it befell upon the ICAC, in the now notorious Franklin money-laundering investigations, through weekly revelations of landings to have the scalp of ADSU handed to the CP. After all, the seizures of visible luxury assets worth dozens of millions of rupees, openly and brazenly displayed by a “prête-noms” circus, the allegations concerning jet-setting parties on our West Coast and at a Grand Bassin ranch over a shocking lease of hundreds of acres of natural domain a few hundred metres from the most sacred of Hindu worship sites, are yet to be digested by numbed minds.

The one big question that remains in the smog of ICAC investigations is whether Franklin is himself a prête-nom for occult powers. But they have spurred the Commissioner of Police, who in this matter must have been greenlighted by the PM, into a frenzy of action, effectively dismantling the ADSU through the transfer, we read, of its chief and a cohort of 50 (and possibly more to come) officers, investigators, and cadres, reposted to other duties.

If the ongoing ICAC investigations have indeed served to dismantle the ADSU, it has also opened the eyes of one and all to the accumulated failures and dysfunctions that should have been visible far earlier. The repercussions of the Franklin affair, far from over, are already a reality check with a huge thump for all our institutions and authorities, high and low. Were they bowing to pressure from their upper echelons, were they too part of the mafia infiltration of key institutions the PM conveniently saw fit to denounce these days? Or are there still far too many other unknowns at this stage in this unfolding saga?

But, at such levels of dirty money wheelings and dealings, can the Field Intel Officers of the NSS, the FIU, the KYC officers of local banks, or even the Central Bank monitors have been blissfully unaware of the suspicious financial goings-on that must have taken place over the past five years at least? Could such a network have thrived and flourished turning Black River into a gold mine or a wild west with layers of our top civil servants who have been entirely oblivious? Who authorised the land leases and transfers over forest lands at Grand Bassin or on state lands for an abandoned hotel project “pieds dans l’eau”?

However severe the indictment for the authorities, many questions deserve answers. Meantime we have to trust that both the PM and the CP, in their respective positions of authority, will henceforth be served by far better ground info, a more effective drug investigative agency, closer inter-agency and regional cooperation and better-quality radars. And so much the better, we might say, for deliverables are long awaited in the national battle against the mafia infiltration of our institutions by drug warlords, their aiders and abettors.

* * *

The RCC Fracas
Isn’t all this RCC ruckus an overkill of wayward and adrenaline-aroused adolescents for some other reasons?

A particular sega rhyme chanted (among others) in the annual heady exuberance of 15-18-year-old adolescents that characterises the laureateship celebrations at the Royal College Curepipe (RCC) has been around for years probably without causing a furore. At what time were the lyrics modified in a way that’s clearly offensive and hurtful to the “Creole” section of the population, we don’t know. But those words are patently unacceptable and both the RCC, the Old Royals, the Rector and the Ministry have made known their deep regrets while promising some form of sanction and intellectual rewiring for the group leading the chant.

Our patient and hurdles-strewn path to nation-building have known many such vagaries and may know more in the future though, fortunately, we have accumulated enough wisdom at various junctures in our complex socio-economic history not to pour oil onto ever-present embers.

But have those brawling and exuberant adolescents really committed a gross crime of such magnitude that Aurore Perraud went to complain to the CCID, that the institution (now an Academy) had to receive police protection and that a few “creole” parish priests and a plethora of opinion writers demanded exemplary punishments? What next, alert international instances? To the obvious feelings of community hurt, should calmer minds and a host of opinion writers go overboard for adolescents and structures that recognize to have erred and promised corrective action?

Let us cut to the chase then. If there is a “malaise creole” that is being expressed by the criticisms, justified perhaps but strangely shrill, exemplified above, it has many roots in history and we would not like in this short space to delve further than necessary into it.

Nobody really believes the RCC or the St Esprit and St Joseph or even the French-inspired Labourdonnais fabricates elites, but it does provide opportunities for those in urban or rural areas, on the basis of merit at qualifying exams, to access one of the Academies. That democratic approach may sound anathema for some opinion writers.

Others may decry that the Reform engineered by the Minister in 2016, and, by the way loudly applauded by many of the same opinion writers of today, only makes competition for limited places more ferocious while leaving a third of the student population by the wayside in so-called disconsolate Extended streams. We have been here expressing concern about that very predictable outcome of the Nine Year Continuous Basic Education (NYCBE) reform since the inception of the program, while those opinion writers were busy lauding the Minister who would dismantle the seven-year RCC, RCPL, MGI or the QEC streams, while private star schools were left untouched.

As an ex-RCC alumni, we bantered and played with classmates of different backgrounds and ethnicities, rarely with intentional slants and do not believe that any of the christian or Creole students ever had to complain of bullying or ethnic aspersions to my knowledge. I would not be so confident about other star private institutions in Curepipe but, be that as it may, isn’t all this RCC ruckus an overkill of wayward and adrenaline-aroused adolescents for some other reasons?

Was it normal for parish priests, even if they felt personally targeted, to throw their book of wisdom, charity and forgiveness away in this public demand for “lynching” of school kids, educators and administration who had already expressed contrition and promised action? We could point to Mr Noel’s crudely distasteful anecdote verging on insult, admittedly in a “chassé” but that went viral, about Air India and Captain Dookhit, for instance. Were the catholic priesthood up in arms or appealing for forgiveness? Are they today rushing to the fore in an easy blame game when perhaps their principal irritant is their notorious absence on the creole front-lines, which has created space for a multitude of new entrants and episcopal churches?

One would have thought that every community has to look at itself and avoid throwing oil onto fire in our sociological setup where errors and mistakes can happen and need to be corrected. We are in the same boat of continuous nation-building through mutual respect and tolerance. The more level-headed communique from the Council of religions is steeped in such a spirit, where one should condemn acts or words that are gratuitously insulting for some community. Nevertheless, the Council added that excuses have to be accepted even if we need collectively to fathom the roots of the problems and what our education system can and should do to tackle the issues exposed thus.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 17 March 2023

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *