Twelve months back, we expressed the hope that 2020 could be made to be the start of a transformative process, to be triggered by the new team that had taken over from the preceding ageing leadership.
The previous decade had been marked by many an upheaval both locally and abroad. It began in the midst of a global financial crisis and subsequent international recession dating from the late 2000s. The impact has been such that to date the global economy is still not out of the woods. Inevitably, the Mauritian economy has not been spared either, and the country was facing new challenges, on other fronts too as problems continued to plague the country. Not least amongst which are escalating public debt, the financing of electoral promises, the social havoc being caused by what has been called the drug epidemic, etc.
most economists would argue that the country has the potential not only to overcome them but to do even better if the appropriate conditions are set in place by the government, whose basic role is to bring about the conducive conditions and provide the opportunities that people can avail of to ameliorate their standard of living. They had pinned their hope on the Pravind Jugnauth-led government to change course and reverse the trend that has marred the proper running of the country’s institutions.
But that was soon dashed in the wake of the appointments in different institutions of the country and which continue to this day. The same pattern is seen, despite the electoral assurances given from one election to another, for remedial changes and doing things differently. The renewed pledges for transparency, meritocracy and competence soon gave way to the old habits of appointing relatives, political sponsors and agents and such others. The government has forged ahead regardless of protests from civil society, the press and opposition parties.
The same attitude seems to have become the trademark of the present government, like its predecessor. If on the whole it was seen to have efficiently managed the Covid-19 pandemic, when seen from a medical perspective (though an earlier lockdown would have spared us from the advent of Patient Zero), what followed when it came to the procurement of drugs, medical equipments, etc., revealed another story. The same story has been replayed in the series of scandals that have rocked the government since with its handling of the Wakashio oil spill, the St Louis Redevelopment Project, the disbursement of public funds by the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd, the dysfunctions in the National Assembly, the never-ending inquiries of its anti-corruption commission, etc. The government presses on regardless of protests and calls for transparency in the functioning of the country’s institutions.
We will not prejudge nor speculate on the outcome of the judicial inquiry investigating into the death in mysterious circumstances of the former MSM activist Soopramanien Kistnen, which seems to be connected with the emergency procurements of medical equipments and drugs, or the investigations of the police into the cases of what appears to be serial suicides, etc. The Commissioner of Police has made known his determination to go to the bottom of these cases. He is a good man and a competent soldier, and we trust he’ll do what is required to reassure the population that law and order will be abided by one and all – as Me Antoine Domingue SC would put it : ‘Même le roi est ‘sub Deo et lege’: « under God and the law ».’
The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary have more than once stepped in to uphold the Constitution and safeguard the country. That’s how it should be. When institutions fail to live up to their mission either because political powers have scorched them or because their top brass do not possess the moral fibre needed to execute their functions to the highest ethical standards and norms and to deliver in the larger national interest, it is the country that fails – as we have pointed out earlier. Having or not having efficiently functioning institutions can make the difference between a country which achieves and where citizens feel totally safe and one which fails on both counts.
With the right decisions to course correct, this can still happen – provided, though, there is the political will. Can the people expect it to manifest as a new year ushers in?
* Published in print edition on 25 December 2020