The Challenges Ahead


One question that has been on the minds of many people, especially those who see in the continuation in office of the current dispensation following the next general elections a bane for the country, is whether a credible alternative is available. The circumstances of the past three years dominated by the restrictions imposed to the right of assembly in in light of the Covid pandemic, the quasi monopoly of the public broadcaster for the dissemination of government propaganda, a crushing parliamentary majority and an overbearing speakership the National Assembly bent on suppressing the voices from the opposition benches, etc., have not helped the latter to counter the current government effectively.

Worse, the continuing episodes relating to the probability or improbability of a common front comprising the main opposition parties, laboured upon and stretched to ridiculous lengths (and duly advertised in weekly press conferences) have not helped matters to the extent that it would appearnothing else matters to their party leaders. The resulting perception that the political ambitions of a few men (and their families in a few cases) seem to have the upper hand over everything else – and the issues affecting life’s daily realities for the rest of the population are subordinate to those ambitions – has led to the growing sentiment that ‘it makes no difference who is at the helm since they are all the same’.

Our recent history tells us a different story about the governance track record of the parties/alliances in power in recent decades — the ‘all the same’ narrative merely serves to condone the perpetuation of the status quo. If different vested interests – and politicians – succeed in what they do, it is because they have been playing craftily with the emotions of the people. The presumption is that emotions of fear, envy, narrow and wide loyalties, etc, driven by communal, caste or personal considerations, can hold sway totally over reason and have consequently a defining influence over most electors in societies like ours.

That is despite the fact that there are formidable challenges that Mauritius has to face in this globalising world — challenges relating to energy prices, mounting pressures on the international price of raw materials and commodities, climate change, global warming and deforestation, etc. For the common man, the most pressing problem of the day and the one that requires immediate attention is the rising cost of living that is crippling most of the working and middle classes of the country. Mauritius is also witnessing a rising crime rate; whatever official statistics would have us believe, there is apprehension among citizens of this country regarding their personal safety and security. Besides their proliferation in the countryside, drugs are finding their way into secondary schools, and, worse, it appears that some youngsters may have been enlisted in such traffic. 

This is not to overplay the crime problem, but only to emphasize that it would be a pity if it were allowed, due to the absence of strong political leadership, to fester further, thus negating whatever gains that may have been achieved in other sectors. We are not going to hold the police totally responsible for this deteriorating state of affairs, but the Force itself has not helped in light of the growing perception of it having increasingly become subservient to the powers that be, whereas it’s meaningful policy changes and consequential actions that are long overdue.

These past three years have also brought to light the various dysfunctions at the level of other public institutions, ICAC for example in the fight against corruption, the Electoral Commission and its Supervisory Commission with regard to the organisation of elections, the sluggishness of the judicial system in relation to the hearing and disposal of electoral petitions. Much of the level-minded and non-partisan population would be aware of the fate of numerous Fact-Finding Committees, Commissions of Inquiry, the Kistnen Judicial Inquiry, the morbid dialysis saga, the FTI Audit on Mauritius Telecom or even now the Wakashio Court of Investigation: government just ignores or sits on them unless they offer convenient fodder for the political mill of those in power. As for the depth of slumber which surround any obvious malfeasance case against power brokers and their aficionados (the St Louis Gate affair, the Pack & Blister case, the frauds on medical supplies, the ti-papiers scandal to mention but a few) it defies any rationale or any trust in investigative institutions.

What the country requires instead is true leadership that comes up with broad-ranging solutions indicating a clear vision of where we have to go. There are Augean stables to be cleaned up, and only a determined and new dispensation can forget the legendary broom and take up a Karcher. Owing to political contradictions, we are actually at a loss as to whether there is a real sense of direction or that we know what we want. As for the population, is it itself ready to acknowledge that our future cannot be written anew without their own contribution for change from the comfort zone of past practices? Nevertheless, it is up to the Opposition – the alternative government – to raise their consciousness, sketch a credible way forward and thus live up to those expectations and challenges.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 30 December 2022

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