By L.E. Pep
Government feels empowered as a climate of fear settles in and some of the government critics feel the pressure. The government apologists and stooges try to pass this undemocratic law as necessary to secure the internet – especially for the benefit of kids (sic) — and thus bolster the legitimacy of censorship.
The amendments in fact go much beyond the aim of plugging the loopholes — fake news, false profiles, etc. — in the law. One may well ask: Why amend the ICT Act in a sly and sneaky way to add “which is likely to cause or cause annoyance, humiliation, inconvenience, distress or anxiety to any person” instead of the “intention to cause…” as in the British law? And why the subjective words like ‘annoyance’ and ‘inconvenience’, ‘humiliation’ that can give way to all types of interpretation?
With this draconian law hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles, more netizens (like Shameem Korimbocus and Zanpol ) will be silenced. This is about our freedom to think and write as citizens which is at stake. We will not be silenced into submission, we have to fight it now and nip it in the bud.
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EDB: investment of Rs 250 billion over 10 years
We are being told by the EDB that Rs 250 billion of private investments are expected for the next decade in different sectors. Many of the projects have been cleared by the Fast Track Committee. Many of these are investments in smart cities or industrial parks, meaning more of the same that we had been served earlier by the ex-BOI.
If these are the projects that are expected to boost our productivity and help us diversify our exports mix, then we feel somewhat let down. They are more or less the same policies and projects which were announced in different budgets but not implemented because there was very little research or cost benefit analyses carried out on their viability: pharmaceutical village, bicycle and motorcycles manufacturers, technopoles at Rivière du Rempart and Rose Belle with 3D printers, the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in Madagascar, Ghana and Senegal (2015), the Gold fund, gold business (that will encompass a wide spectrum of high value-added activities, ranging from refinery of gold, producing gold bars, setting up top-end jewellery processing units, vault facilities to the trading of gold and bullions on our new commodity exchange)… you name it.
It is to be hoped that some of the EDB policy initiatives and project proposals do not just stumble once again or are not restricted merely to the habitual ‘effets d’annonces’.
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New Ethnic Census: Affirmative action and Quotas
At a meeting in Beau-Bassin, the leader of the opposition asked: “Who’s scared of an ethnic census? Who benefits from the crime?”
All reasonable people, including responsible political parties, are worried that a new census may pitch the country into such similar monstrosities as “the holocaust, fascism and genocide in Rwanda” (Kugan Parapen of Resistans ek Alternativ) given our fragile social fabric. The leader of the opposition has been able to carve a new role for himself and is now leading his flock with promises of a bigger share of the national cake through affirmative action and quotas… Sounds like we are seeing a revival of the PMSD of yesteryears along the dangerous path of conflict and division.
Thomas Eriksen, a Norwegian anthropologist, recommends instead « de mettre en place des instruments qui préviennent le favoritisme et les traitements inégaux sur la base de la parenté et de l’identité de groupe. Cibler un groupe, ou une catégorie, comme victime de malaise peut, finalement, être contre-productif parce que cela peut valider des stéréotypes que les gens ont déjà.»
Unfortunately, we have reached a point on this issue where reasoned debate has lost its power to win arguments.
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The “fatras of the ESC & EBC”: a wake-up call
One by one, our institutions are being infected with toxic politicisation. Many people see the recent appointment of someone allegedly close to “La Kwizin” as ramming though of a ‘partisan’ in an important independent institution. It is eroding faith in our institutions. The Electoral Supervisory Commission is the latest one. It is not only being perceived to be partisan but it has also been slandered as “fatras” who would have violated the Constitution.
We were expecting some reactions from the members of the ESC which is considering all the options after the belittling remarks of the leader of the opposition. It turned out to be a mild one, and they finally decided to fall back into their ranks after consultations with the acting president who seemed to have reassured them.
Does the ESC still command the respect and trust of the population as an unflinching, independent institution after this appointment? What about the EDB? We should not be giving anybody reasons to start believing – as opposition politicians would want us to — that we have just spineless people in high positions of responsibility in our institutions.
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Wooing the electorate: Qui dit mieux!!!
As the election season approaches and knowing that the electorate has already had a taste of what all the political parties are worth, the different political parties will be raising the stakes. So you are likely to see a bumper crop of promises.
The flurry of promises has already started with some parties pledging to repeal the recent amendments to the ICT Act, to come forward with the Freedom of Information Act and to abolish the post of Vice-President. It should not surprise us that the nearer we come to the polls, the higher they’ll raise the stakes… and they may even promise to carry out their pledges within their first 100 days in power!
Once bitten twice shy, voters know very well that many a promise is jettisoned once the election is won… but they are prepared to tag along to see how far the politicians will go to stretch the truth so as to bolster their credentials and woo voters.
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PM avoids the Press on the Dubai deportation issue
There must be something wrong with the communication cell of the PM. He should not have been advised to come out all guns blazing on the issue of the deportation of a controversial Facebooker based in Dubai. And now he has to play hide and seek with the annoying press intent on cornering him on that particular issue.
It is understandable given that he had already wasted precious ammunitions as his communication team seemed to be unbelievably unaware of the alleged intervention of the “Minister of Islamic Affairs” on the deportation issue. The left hand does not seem to be knowing what the right hand is doing — a dysfunctional communication cell.
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A leaking National Assembly: House adjourned
The house is usually adjourned, meaning a break in the course of parliamentary business, either at the end of a session or each day’s business or more lengthy adjournments for holiday periods. But last Tuesday it was exceptionally adjourned for the next day because of bad weather conditions. Rainwater was leaking along the walls of the Chamber. But before the adjournment we were gratified with the usual blame game: the present situation’s precariousness would be a legacy of the previous regime and with counterattacks about what this government has been doing for the past four years.
It is paradoxical that we have many ongoing prestige projects – AI, Blockchain, FinTech – but we are not devoting enough resources to simple maintenance work which could have had serious consequences for our representatives given that the weather conditions were deteriorating fast with risks of flooding at any time — and turning our dear representatives into refugees. Provisions were, however, made for a compensation of Rs 125, a packet of biscuit and one water bottle only, for each of our representatives.
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The Remnants: A new Political Party
Dear voters, get ready to mobilise support for a new political party which, like the Phoenix, is rising from the ashes – the remnants from all our political parties. It will be a perfect hotchpotch, exactly what the nation in its confused state needs now. We will have Rugoobur, Jahangeer, Fowdar, Obeegadoo, Selvon, Labelle… These are not disgruntled elements; they just were not given the opportunity to serve.
If they are voted to power, there is likely to be intense competition for ministerial jobs and as all of them are equally capable and potential ministers, the chosen ones will have no choice but to excel given that they will be closely monitored by their own. And we voters will benefit – less travel, less per diem, no draconian laws or inconvenient prestige projects.
As for the economy we stand a greater chance of realising growth rates – valued more by quality than quantum -, an economy not driven by consumption, unproductive public investments or private investments in Smart Cities but a more inclusive and resource-efficient economy. The remnants may turn out to be our only choice for a better future. At least their leader will have a mandate from voters and will therefore command our respect.
* Published in print edition on 16 November 2018