Time for a Political Big Bang

The present nominated PM does not have the legitimacy of a formal mandate to govern. The platform for a new MMM is showing the way. Is it not also time for a new Labour?

At a time when the world is living through momentous events which would have a significant bearing on world peace, the local political scene is in disarray. The positive outcome of the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un summit in Singapore this week augurs well for world peace.

Total de-nuclearization of North Korea against development support and guaranteed security for the country and the normalisation of relationships with world nations summarise the gist of the historic accord between the two leaders. It kick starts a process which would defuse one of the major hotbeds and threats to peace in the Korean peninsula region. In contrast, the bold proposal of Donald Trump at the meeting of the G-7 in Canada on 8-9 June 2018 to re-admit Russia and Vladimir Putin back into the group was flatly rejected by the other members of the group stuck in the time warp of the Cold War era.

In a world context of constantly evolving new geo-political alliances polarizing around the United States and Russia, how can the major political and other challenges facing the world be resolved without the presence of Russia at the table? In 2015, Russia helped bring about a long-term deal with Iran on its nuclear programme with the US, UK, France, China, Russia (the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany and the European Union. This put an end to years of tension over Iran’s alleged plans to develop nuclear weapons.

A picture of disarray

In contrast to the game changing initiatives taken by world leaders, the local political situation remains bogged down in a quagmire. After decades of disappointing leadership, the people are clamouring for the current cohort of politicians to be replaced by a new breed of bright, highly qualified and altruistic young men and women capable of collectively charting innovative strategies to improve the quality of life of people, narrow inequalities, create merit based opportunities for all and realize our loftiest ambitions as a nation.

This is far from happening. The political leaders remain rooted to their posts, despite having been repeatedly disavowed by the people and rejected at the polls. The country cannot remain saddled with the same political leaders and political has-beens. The people desperately yearn for a new competent and able leadership to grapple with the many daunting challenges the country faces and boost the standard of living of all. The present political status quo of omnipotent leaders lording it over their parties and the country helps neither the people nor the country. The quality and calibre of politicians also leaves much to be desired. The upshot is a messy political situation where democracy is being patently short-changed and the interests of the country are being scuttled.

To make matters worse, the political leaders and the parties are still embroiled in their petty shenanigans and futile political games to outplay each other. Lofty ideals, selfless service to the people and high standard of political ethics are no longer part of the values and ethos of the political class and governments. For too long, political leaders have put their unquenchable thirst to hold on or wrest power by every means over the interests of the people. For too long they have contracted political alliances blithely swapping political partners to suit the exigencies of each general elections. No wonder there is a growing sense of alienation of the people towards the political leaders and their parties at the poor state of governance and political ethics of the political class.

At a time when we need to induct the best brains of the country in government and in the top posts of the government Establishment and the key institutions of the state to substantially improve competence and the managerial acumen of government services to ensure sound decision making, those in power are doing the exact opposite. A culture of favouring sycophants and the apparatchiks in politics over competence and the overbearing hegemony of the coterie and political appointees over key government posts and institutions are plumbing the prospects and performance of the country.

No to the status quo

The main political parties operate in accordance with a standard template: the party members kowtow to the diktats and rule of the same omnipotent leaders who remain rooted to their posts despite being repeatedly disavowed by the people at the polls.

The MMM is once again in the throes of an umpteenth wave of dissent and criticisms within its ranks by longstanding and senior party members in the wake of successive political setbacks registered by the party. The exercise of the right to contest the party line dictated by the party leader with the support of its apparatchiks has led to new expulsions. The party seems averse to criticisms. The rejection of the legitimate request of the dissenters to first validate the party branches and the list of bona fide delegates participating in the forthcoming vote to elect party office bearers was the last straw. This overbearing grip over the party apparatus makes a mockery of party democracy. The dissenters have therefore opted to set up a platform for a new MMM.

Since 2005, the MMM and its present leader have suffered a long humiliating list of seven consecutive defeats at the polls. Its leader’s brand of politics, erroneous reading of the Mauritian ethos and values, scientific balkanisation of the people and contested stances on a host of issues including the introduction of a dose of proportional representation (PR) in the electoral system or on the education system have not particularly enthused the majority of the electorate. There is also a perception of ambivalence when dealing with hot potatoes such as the current decried Joint Technical Committee proposals on sugar or the purport of the illegal protest march organized last week, to humour all parties instead of taking a decisive, unambiguous and principled stand.

More than anything else, trust is a crucial element of the electorate’s voting decision. The MMM is weakened by successive waves of dissent, exits and expulsions from the party. Its leader has had to cede his post as Leader of the Opposition. Yet, despite this poor record, there is still no change of leadership. The party members still dutifully throng to attend his weekly press conferences.

In contrast, the Labour Party and its leader are lying low since the December 2014 general elections. It is flabbergasting to note that the Labour Party which has been a prime player in the political affairs of the country before and after independence is, presumably owing to the legal trials and tribulations of its leader, so absent from the national debate on major issues affecting the country.

No leader, let alone one mired in protracted legal battles, can hold hostage such an important party as the Labour Party whose tribunes played such a determinant role in the independence of the country. It must be said that he had sapped his own position as leader of the Labour Party when his power sharing arrangement with the MMM and his related endorsement of PR in the teeth of the principles unwaveringly upheld by the Labour Party since 1956, backfired into a scathing defeat at the December 2014 general elections when he also lost his seat as an MP.

He must realize that his presence as leader exposes the party to cheap attacks and undermines the prospects of the party. There are already crying signs of this. The party is more important than any leader. In the interests of the party, he must therefore step down forthwith. The more so as a rejuvenated and restructured Labour Party led by a talented new young leader has a real chance of winning the next general elections hands down.

As regards the MSM, the present nominated Prime Minister does not have the legitimacy of a formal mandate to govern, which can only be conferred by the people at the polls. There is therefore an urgent necessity to let the people elect a PM of their choice through the ballot box.

Under government watch, MBC-TV which is financed from public funds has been turned into an inept and tedious propaganda machine. People are switching to more succinct international news channels. Despite the rhetoric and the daily tom-tomming on prime time TV, the record, after three and half years in office, to resolve a host of issues affecting the people such as growing inequality, cogent policies to bring inclusive growth in the country or the inordinate time taken by the investigative agencies such as the police or ICAC to determine cases and bring justice, is paltry.

The many outstanding and pressing issues range from the urgency of quashing the serious problem of drug trafficking in the country which is affecting our youth in a context where it thrives undeterred, the need to stop the unabated rise in road accidents and deaths, the urgent necessity of removing unfair taxes and levies on the price of petrol to finance diverse projects and items of budgetary expenditure which unjustly penalize owners of vehicles, the imperative to keep the sacrosanct principle of separation of powers under the Constitution inviolable at all times and the urgent necessity to beef up with the required professional expertise the regulatory authorities governing the various poles of the services sector to prevent further mishaps in the approval of permits and to provide the enabling environment for operators in the diverse pillars of the services sector to substantially move up the value chain, etc.

Imperative of a sea change

Mauritius once again has a tryst with its destiny. The present political status quo is untenable. It would therefore be anathema and a patent lack of regard towards the people if the same leaders who have failed the people or have been disavowed and defeated at the polls were to again lead their respective parties and seek election.

The daunting economic and social challenges facing the country require that the government of the country is instead entrusted to a new competent and pluri-disciplinary team of talented young Mauritians with a proven track record of achievements in their field of expertise to leapfrog the country to higher levels of prosperity, inclusive growth and a level playing field in terms of opportunities for all to meet their existential needs and pursue their dreams of happiness. The platform for a new MMM is showing the way. Is it not also time for a new Labour?

The onus is therefore collectively on all of us to trigger through cogent actions the sea change necessary for this political big bang to happen at the earliest for the significant benefit of the people and the country. Time is of the essence.

* Published in print edition on 14 June 2018

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