2015 onwards: Will we have leadership by example?

It seems that an ex-minister who lost at the recent polls for the general elections jumped the queue when he went to pay a utility bill. He had to be reminded that he was no longer a minister and would have to stand in the line, and his insistence to the contrary was not entertained.

We would have thought that, even being a minister – why, especially being a minister – would be for any such an incumbent a golden opportunity to demonstrate that s/he too follows the rules and regulations of the country, and thus give the example to the common citizen. Perhaps this is doubly important for an ex-minister – or any politician – who, to boot, has not been re-elected: if only to try and regain some of the lost credibility and counter the perceived arrogance when occupying the previous position. But no, our ministers, even in their ex-personas, have to keep reminding us that we still belong to the third world where breaches of the law by the high and mighty is a reality to be suffered by the people.

That is what prompted the title of this piece, in the hope that the Vire mam wave which became a mortal tsunami for the outgoing government and parties will become a transformative one for the country, from the highest to the lowest levels. The inversion – that is, highest to lowest instead of the usual lowest to highest – is intentional: it is meant to signal that the example must come from the top — from the Prime Minister to the ministers/Members of Parliament – and especially in light of what the country had to unfortunately witness, and endure, during the past several months. And to hope that, as whatever remains of the defeated parties tries to recoup for the next bout due in five years, this lesson will be a pivot around which will revolve all decisions to be made so as to come back at the helm again.

Much as we salute the result of this election as reflecting the consistent and determined as well as principled stand of this paper in relation to electoral reform and the Presidential system that was proposed, we are duty bound to caution that it is an accumulation of things big and small that in the end determines the fate of parties and candidates. In line with the incident narrated at the beginning of this article, we note, for example, that one of the ministers of the present regime is known to have, during a previous mandate, copiously insulted a policeman at the Caudan roundabout who was but doing his duty of controlling the traffic when he slowed down the minister’s BMWay.

On other occasions, the wives, relatives or sundry agents and advisers of the politicians behave in such as way as to tarnish the image of the government of the day, even to the extent of giving orders after often loudly proclaiming their kinship to power or to new appointees of the regime. It is our prayer that we be spared the repetitions and enactments of such scenes and behaviours which also have an impact on voters’ preferences when the time comes.

And the time will definitely come, for remember: we are a democracy and therefore change is bound to occur again. As it did in 1982, 1983, 1995, 2000 – and 2014! Therefore, there are lessons that politicians must always retain, and that the results of this latest general election have, once more, demonstrated. Some of them are:

·        Whatever goes up will come down.

·        Duration of political experience does not confer upon one any extra capability to predict election results.

·        Declarations such as ‘nous pe alle vers ene grand victoire’ are more in the nature of wishful thinking, disconnected from what is actually happening in people’s minds.

·       The same people who have voted a government in soon enough start to see through the veneer of exaggerated electoral promises.

·       Some declarations of intention during the pre-electoral campaigning, especially as regards engagement with controverted regimes, have to be carefully weighed before any step forward is taken. It is all right to be politically correct as strategy to win at the elections, but political correctness can harm the national interest seriously.

While Paul Berenger with his quarante-cinq ans d’experience politique was giving his Alliance a massive victory, a more realistic Jugnauth, even more experienced, was cautious in saying that he saw his Alliance winning at least 40. Who had misjudged the writing on the wall, experience notwithstanding? Examples of such overconfident pronouncements made could be multiplied several-fold, but are not needed anymore.

For the point now is to look to the future, to address the numerous problems, challenges and issues that face both the government and the people. Failure to do so, and to seek self-gain rather than serve the needs of the people, will not take long in generating disenchantment. Tout beau tout nouveau will go only so far, and the concrete ameliorations in the lives of citizens must become visible in reasonable time lines.

The people gave the mandate: they have the power to alter it. Let this not be forgotten.

Let us trust that 2015 will genuinely inaugurate a new era, and infuse a new air of confidence and hope of good things to come, that people can look forward to a truly Happy New Year, the one they voted for…

* Published in print edition on 30 December 2014

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