Amateurism of Mauritius tarnishes its international image

In a short interview published in l’express of September 18, 2016, the lawyer of Ms Nandanee Soornack, Me Mario Zanchetti, states that ‘L’amateurisme de Maurice a affaibli son dossier.’ While he says that the full judgement must be awaited before the government can make an appeal, he gives sufficient information to show that the government weakened its case on a few counts. For example, in asking for extradition, it dropped the initial charge of money laundering and replaced it with that of ‘trafic d’influence’ related to the Dufry-Frydu affair, which the government allegedly could not prove.

More importantly, though, the problem was about ensuring the human rights of the accused. And here, the presence and personal involvement of the Attorney-General supported Ms Soornack’s contention that she was being politically victimised. It must be presumed that the Italian judges no doubt knew that in the English judicial system, the Attorney-General is usually a politician.

The case was further strengthened by the manner in which her lawyer Me Pazhany Thandrayen was arrested at the airport when he returned to Mauritius after meeting her in Italy. This was widely reported in the media at that time, and took place as he came out of the aircraft, with confiscation of his laptop and confidential documents. One more point mentioned is that the affidavit of the representatives of the firm Dufry was produced in court as well, and again as came to be known, the Attorney General went to see them in their hotel along with two other Ministers.

It would certainly be very interesting to take cognisance of the full judgement, so as to appreciate in their depth the arguments advanced by the Italian judges that supported their decision not to grant extradition, over and above the fact that there is no extradition treaty between Mauritius and Italy.

One comment seen on social media is that Italian judges are known to be corrupt! Casting aspersions on the Italian judiciary is certainly not going to help the government’s case in relation to Ms Nandanee Soornack, to say the least.

More seriously though, is the image that this judgement has given of the country: it puts Mauritius squarely in the basket of countries where human rights are not respected due to political persecution, leading people to ask for political asylum. That is not an honourable reputation to hold, assuredly. And should the government lose its eventual appeal, this will indeed be a black day in our legal history.

On the other hand, the cases brought against former Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam in the local courts have so far been dismissed one after another, and this too sends a signal that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not strong enough. Whether this too amounts to ‘amateurism’ is a question that can be posed. Moreover, the allegations made against other ministers and officers who had been hauled in full public glare seem to have lost their potency, since nothing further has been heard about them to date.

No one, no matter how important or powerful, is above the law. We are all accountable for our actions, and that is the way it should be. In light of the denouement with respect to the various cases brought against a few members of the preceding government, the public is left to wonder what all this flurry of aggressive activity was really about, and whether at the end of the day all the energies mobilised and all the moneys spent would not have been better utilised elsewhere, in more constructive ways?

Before long, the demand for answers will have to be met. 2019 is not that far really.

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The Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate

With an estimated 100 million viewers watching it, the debate between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the forthcoming US general elections on November 8 and Democrat Hillary Clinton has been widely commented across the world. Whether we like it or not American politics and policies impact the whole world, and remains a big factor to be reckoned with despite the fact that even America is turning East to expand business and trade.

Those who have followed the analyses that took place in the American media will no doubt have been overwhelmed by the profusion of views. It goes without saying that Trump has his diehards as much as Clinton has hers. The big novelty in this election is the presence of a woman presidential candidate in the person of Hillary Clinton, of which much has been made by the American media saying that it is a first. Yes, but not for the world, which has seen the likes of Golda Meri of Israel, Margaret Thatcher of the UK and Indira Gandhi of India.

An interview Mrs Indira Gandhi gave before the war that liberated East Bengal and made it Bangladesh in December 1971 was aired a few days ago on Facebook. That was a real iron lady and the face of what a true leader should be. She was direct, forthright, succinct, and calmly articulate in her answers.

We thought that Hillary Clinton had all her arguments coherently articulated, but there wasn’t that aura that Mrs Indira Gandhi radiated. She was regal, if one may say so; Hillary Clinton was merely presidential. However, she was more so than Trump, who could not take any of his points to its logical end. For example, when asked about nuclear security, he could not explain how the Iran deal was bad and what he would do. He went on about Japan without being clear about what exactly he meant and what he intended to do and how.

There is an estimated 20% of the American electorate that is yet to decide which candidate they are going to vote for. Clinton is considered elitist, somewhat aloof from the common man. Trump appeals to the conservative stream and excels in rousing populist sentiments – so say the local analysts.

The best that one can say is that these debates provide some kind of entertainment, although they have sunk to some low levels. Apparently Trump is being advised to rake up the Monica Lewinsky affair in future debates. The least one can say is that Monica has moved on, why not leave the poor soul alone?

Another novelty is that for the first time a sitting President has come out publicly in support of a presidential candidate, as Barack Obama has done for Hillary Clinton, besides telling the American people in as many words not to vote for Trump because he is not fit temperamentally to be the president of the United States and its commander-in-chief. And the latest is that the wife of President Obama, Michelle, has also joined in the fray and has made an impassioned speech in Pennsylvania in favour of Hillary Clinton.

Michelle Obama has called on the audience present to ALL go out and vote, that every single vote counts and that thus each one of them has the power to elect the next president. She affirmed that Hillary Clinton has the ability, the maturity and the experience to be the next president. She’s even appeared in an advertisement urging voters to go for the person who cares for children and that under her watch as president their children will grow up in a conducive atmosphere which her rival cannot provide.

The situation is getting more interesting now – but this is going to be a surprise election; given that female opinion about Hillary Clinton is divided, whether the interventions of President Obama and his wife will give Clinton enough ballast is difficult to say. Nothing to lose in waiting and watching!

End note: after having listened carefully to Michelle Obama, a professional in her own right, we strongly feel that next time round she should be a presidential candidate.

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Will SAARC break up?

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an important regional grouping of eight South Asian countries as the acronym (SAARC) suggests, was due to hold its 19th meeting in Islamabad in November.

However, following the September 18 attack on an Indian Army base at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir that left 18 soldiers dead, the Government of India has announced that it was pulling out of the meet, even as it escalated its attack on Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism. India has been joined in this move by Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

India had informed current SAARC chair Nepal that ‘increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of member states by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the summit in Islamabad’.

As for Afghanistan, it cited the ‘increased level of violence and fighting as a result of imposed terrorism on Afghanistan’, continuing that ‘H.E. the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani with his responsibilities as the Commander-in-Chief will be fully engaged, and will not be able to attend the summit’.

The Royal Government of Bhutan was concerned about ‘the recent escalation of terrorism in the region, which has seriously compromised the environment for the successful holding of the 19th SAARC summit’; it also shared ‘the concerns of some of the member countries of SAARC on the deterioration of regional peace and security due to terrorism and joins them in conveying our inability to participate in the summit, under the current circumstances’.

From Bangladesh came the message that ‘the growing interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh by one country has created an environment which is not conducive to the successful hosting of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016’.

It may be noted that Dhaka’s relations with Islamabad have soured in recent times; it has taken issue with Pakistan for supporting terror outfits that have been blamed for a series of attacks in the country.

The decision of these four countries has irked Pakistan. In fact, there is a genuine possibility of SAARC breaking up and a new regional association formed, excluding Pakistan. It has upped the ante against India, and seems to be itching for war. India, however, is not in a hurry to wage war, and is instead exploring several other options.

Pakistan a result is becoming increasingly isolated, and has been brash enough to evoke the possibility of a nuke strike, threatening that Pakistan will finish India. This reference to the use of nuclear weapons has been considered as highly irresponsible by several commentators, as they cited its poor track record in the nuclear domain.

Without a net exporter of terror in its midst, the new grouping may be able to bring about more stability in the region, which will allow the SAARC member states to press on with their development.

TP Saran

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