What is the citizen to do when ‘normal channel’ fails?

One-stop shop for foreign investors – multiple blocks and shocks and insults for Mauritians?

What a shame, for a country that pretends to be the most advanced in this part of the world. And having Singaporean pretensions to boot!

‘Suivre normal channel narien pas arrivé!’ And this is far from being a rare thing. In fact if anything and judging from so many tales of woe that one hears, it seems that frustration with failure after following laid down procedures is quite a common thing.

There are examples galore, but a couple of them will be enough to illustrate the problem. One concerns street lighting, that is, pertaining to the municipality which means local government. An inhabitant living in a lane noticed that the single streetlight had fused. He duly went and reported the matter to the appropriate section at the municipality. For a couple of weeks nothing happened. So he decided to go and find out, and again went through the rigmarole called ‘normal channel.’

The same officer was there, the same register was opened and the first time complaint looked up and verified. And the same response was re-articulated: don’t worry, we are looking into the matter and will do the needful. When the complainant explained that there was a certain urgency because this lane was frequented by girls coming back from tuition in the evening, and ladies coming from work in the dark, and there were often badauds hanging about posing a risk to these people, the guy said he understood and would get going ‘soon’ to replace the light. How soon he wouldn’t say.

In this way two months passed by, with a third trip to the section of the municipality being in vain. This time, out of options, the man happened to mention this to his son-in-law who was a teacher. Lo and behold! He knew an inspector in the municipality whose children had taken tuition from him the previous year. He would put in a word, and told his father-in-law to go and meet the guy at home.

This was done promptly, and believe you me: the light was replaced the very next afternoon!!

Another case relates to normal channel at central government level, the ministry. It is about importation of organic health products, and the person concerned has had to shuttle from one office to another at the behest of a succession of officers each one more unpleasant and unwelcoming than the other. That person is still at a loss about what to do, no one having been able to give a clear account of exactly what procedure has to be followed, what exact documents are required, where they have to be submitted, and so on and so forth.

One-stop shop for foreign investors – multiple blocks and shocks and insults for Mauritians? What a shame, for a country that pretends to be the most advanced in this part of the world. And having Singaporean pretensions to boot!

That’s how in the first case the person exclaimed ‘Suivre normal channel narien pas arrivé!’ And had to have the recourse which he did – and that too most fortuitously: the lane would probably be still unlit if his son-in-law did not have that ‘connection.’ And hence the second remark, ‘sans connection pas capave faire narien!’

Why are we like that, so indifferent and so inefficient, almost needing a whip crack before we act to what is our normal duty. Under the circumstances, what is the aggrieved citizen to do? He may contemplate a few possibilities:

  1. Do nothing;
  2. Follow the normal procedure.
  3. When nothing happens: offer an inducement if he has no ‘connection.’
  4. Use the ‘connection.’
  5. Go to a higher, if necessary and possible political level – again must have ‘connection.’
  6. Go on the air.

Doing nothing is the easy way out especially if the issue at hand doesn’t impact one personally but concerns the public at large. Trying the normal procedure a couple of times and wait for luck. This delaying tactic may be a strategy to seek a bribe, in which case there will be a briber and a bribable; again if the issue is a matter of personal concern who knows that such an arrangement may be a tempting one to be done and to avoid further hassles.

Reporting the matter to ICAC, with the battered reputation that the politicians have repeatedly subjected it to? That would be an even remoter possibility for the aggrieved party, who might be trapped in a spiral and get bruised in the process – why go through yet another ‘normal procedure’ of uncertain outcome!?

Fortunately the radio services, both private and public, have offered an avenue through the special programmes they have, where citizens can intervene and prevent their cases. A number of these have been solved to satisfaction, but this does raise the question of whether this should be the way to get problems solved that ought to have been determined through the ‘normal channel’?

Unfortunately this kind of problem will continue unless we think of our country with some pride and patriotism, and therefore perform our duties as we are expected to do, and offer service with a smile. Faced with a citizen who has a genuine complaint, the least an officer can do is to have some empathy: put himself/herself in that person’s place, a citizen at the receiving end – for s/he also may any time be in a similar situation.

We have a tendency to think that bad things or incidents happen to others only, little realizing that any time the tide may turn and hit us too. It’s a thought we have to keep in mind whenever we are dealing with another citizen. Why not get satisfaction in serving and doing one’s best?


* Published in print edition on 11 April  2015

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