The Last Straw

Extremely damning indictment of the government and the PM if these allegations are true. They would certainly have to go

By Mrinal Roy

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
— Lord Acton

A live broadcast presents the event covered uncensored as it happens. There are no insidious doctoring of images or spin possible. It is also readily available on the net. The live broadcast of the parliamentary session covering the Private Notice Question put to the Prime Minister on 5 July regarding the burning issue of ‘whether he or the Secretary to the Cabinet or anyone acting on behalf of government has had any discussions or agreement with any foreign party and/or telecommunications operator in connection with the installation or use of equipment to enable sniffing, interception, monitoring or recording of internet traffic to and from Mauritius and/or countries in the region’ showcased and exposed yet again the seedy aspects and systemic flaws of our democracy.

People expected the PM to come clean with candid replies to all the supplementary questions of the opposition and the public in a forthright manner which allays all their justified apprehensions and doubts. This did not happen…”

As evidenced on the live TV broadcast, the PNQ session was peremptorily cut short by the Speaker after the reply of the PM denying any discussions or agreement as spelled out in the question. The abrupt and high-handed manner in which the Speaker bluntly denied the leader of the opposition the right to ask germane supplementary questions to his PNQ following the reply of the PM has shocked the nation and people across the country.

Imperative to come clean

Despite the serious public allegations levelled against the PM on such an important matter and rife speculations spawned in the country, there was a long and deafening silence from the PM. People across the country were impatiently awaiting prompt and straightforward replies and complete transparency from the PM to dispel their misgivings and concern about any encroachment on the country’s sovereignty and their fundamental rights, freedom and the sacrosanct privacy of their internet exchanges. People expected the PM to come clean with candid replies to all the supplementary questions of the opposition and the public in a forthright manner which allays all their justified apprehensions and doubts. This did not happen.

Unless these grave allegations are convincingly dispelled, they will also have dire impact on the trust and goodwill enjoyed by Mauritius in the world. Against such a backdrop, how can the PM remain so gallingly silent?

Far from ending the polemic, the clarications now provided by the PM raise new interrogations.

Despite government’s oft tom-tommed rhetoric about transparency and democratic standards in the country, people watching the live broadcast of the PNQ were appalled at the lame stratagem conjured to shield the PM and the government from the thrust of legitimate supplementary questions on a matter of such national importance and profound concern to the people. Such shenanigans have heightened people’s angst and misgivings.

True to form, the national TV financed from public funds blithely aired a truncated and doctored version of the live broadcast of the parliamentary session covering the Private Notice Question on prime time news in the teeth of the actual live broadcast available on the net.

Shameful display

It was a shameful display and a far cry from the lofty standards of parliamentary democracy prevailing in the best democracies of the world. The government must realize that this is not a cat and mouse game but an extremely serious matter which cannot be surreptitiously swept under the carpet. The onus is therefore squarely on the PM to provide honest replies to all interrogations on a matter of such national importance. People want full transparency. They will not be hoodwinked by filibustering tactics, empty pontifications from the government legal brigade or hollow motherhood statements.

What is also particularly galling is that on a matter of such importance to the people and the repute and standing of the country in the world, all Ministers and government MPs closed ranks around this abject and infuriating travesty of democracy. The government must realise that the public demand for full transparency and credible answers will not go away. This is too serious a matter for people and civil society to let go. The fundamental rights and freedom of people and the sacrosanct integrity and sovereignty of the country are red lines for the nation.

In contrast, in the UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, have this week resigned from Boris Johnson’s government. Rishi Sunak explained that he was resigning because ‘our approaches to chart a path to a better future are fundamentally too different’ and that ‘the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously and that these standards are worth fighting for.’ Sajid Javid said that he could ‘no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this Government’ as the ‘British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government.’ These resignations have left the UK PM, Boris Johnson fighting for his survival. He resigned as PM on 7 July.

Moment of reckoning

No political leader or party can be more important than the superior interests of the people and the country in a democracy. This is a moment of reckoning for the country. People are up in arms against the appalling state of governance in the country grounded on absolute and hegemonic control of key state institutions ineptly manned by the coterie and political appointees of every ilk. They condemn the lack of transparency and accountability of public finances, MIC funds and the policy of dishing out freebies at public expense the country can ill afford to all and sundry to entice support. People decry the flawed economic model and the tens of billions Rupees of public funds sunk in so many costly blunders and white elephants by incompetent political appointees. People are also riled that they are the ones who will eventually have to hold the can.

The chequered history of Mauritius is littered with glaring evidence that Government has no competence to manage commercial ventures. This must be left to seasoned professionals in the related field.

The heady pursuit of power by all means can only be detrimental to the interests of the country. In the absence of a Freedom of Information Act, the people must remain mobilised against any subterfuge and lobby government to demand full transparency and trustworthy replies on the grave public allegations made against the government.

The country is sitting on a powder keg. Any tinkering with our fundamental rights and liberties and our sovereignty would be the last straw. As a nation, we must also measure the seriousness of the allegations made and realize that it would be an extremely damning indictment of the government and the PM if these allegations are true. They would certainly have to go.


Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 8 July 2022

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