When institutions fail to live up to their mission either because political powers have scorched them or because their top brass do not possess the moral fibre needed to execute their functions in the larger national interest and in that of justice and fairness, it is the country that fails. Having or not having such functioning institutions can make the difference between a country which stagnates or even goes backward and one where the rule of law prevails and progress happens. Both citizens and potential investors should feel confident they’ll obtain redress whenever they have been wronged or persecuted by the powers that be.

An independent judiciary and a Director of Public Prosecutions with the right moral fibre have at no time in the history of this country since independence been more obviously important than since 2014 with the coming to power of the MSM-led government. Thankfully both the judiciary generally and the ODPP have lived up to their mandate to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the Constitution prevails. That is why Satyajit Boolell’s imminent departure and the uncertainty surrounding his succession, especially if it will come, as presently rumoured, from outside the ODPP, have been viewed with apprehension by most stakeholders since quite some time.

The provisions of our Constitution may not be perfect, but one could say that they have stood the test of time. The powers of all DPPs to prosecute or not, without being accountable to anybody for the decisions they make, have at times been questioned. But the system has held together because citizens generally have implicit trust that the ODPP’s decisions are taken after mature deliberation without regard to considerations relating to personal affiliations or kinship or supposed proximity to political parties. The DPP’s job is to take up a prosecution if it stands a good chance of being vindicated in law. For this, he owes nobody an explanation. The former DPP however chose to relinquish his absolute right not to be made accountable for his decisions by going public in a spirit of ‘public disclosure and transparency’ to explain the reasons behind certain of his decisions, especially the high-profile ones.

It will be recalled that after the elections of December 2014, the police investigated several cases involving former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, who was serially arrested on various charges and the results of their investigations were lodged with the DPP for eventual prosecution. However, when the cases were presented in court over the ensuing several months, the majority of them were either dismissed or dropped in view of the DPP’s decision not to proceed with them. It may also be said that, right from the beginning, even before the DPP’s office asked the court for leave to appeal to the Privy Council against its decision in the MedPoint case, overturning that of the Intermediate Court, the government was uneasy with the DPP.

Initiatives were taken from the start to bring the DPP’s Office under the control of the Attorney General’s Office, itself headed by a politician. Several senior ministers who were also legal professionals made embarrassing public sorties against either the independent nature of that Office or the alleged stubbornness of its office-holder reportedly unwilling to accept promotions that could vacate such a critical post in our constitutional setup. There was thereafter the urgent initiative of the government to institute a separate ‘Prosecution Commission’ of three political appointees with the power and responsibility to review the DPP’s decision to prosecute or not in cases coming to it from investigating bodies. That initiative, in the wake of that Medpoint appeal, shook the country’s conscience and best independent legal brains.

Sacrificing the strategic and constitutional interests of the country for the furtherance of short-term political gains led to the explosion of the governing MSM alliance with the departure of the PMSD and its leader Xavier-Luc Duval, a significant ally that deprived the MSM of the required majority to make free with the Constitutional provisions. Both initiatives fortunately failed despite a daunting political force.

It is critical that we preserve both the independence and strength of our public institutions and in particular those felt vital enough to require provisions for their constitutional independence. It goes without saying that maintaining absolute prosecutorial discretion without direct or indirect pressure, arm-twisting or interference by other arms of the government is an essential component of our democracy.

Finally, neither our political alliances and dalliances nor the too easily secured parliamentary majorities, nor the urge to bend with political imperatives of higher offices should prevent men of valour to stand up for what’s right and just and history will eventually draw its own assessment.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 4 November 2022

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 *