Week 10 June 2016 Highlights

MAURITIUS TIMES

This Week’s Highlights

Issue: Friday 10 June  2016

•    EDITORIAL

MedPoint: The Political Fallout

The Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) took to court in 2011 Pravind Jugnauth, the leader of the MSM, who was then Minister of Finance and who had placed his approving signature on an internal administrative memo relating to a reallocation of funds to allow the then government to purchase the MedPoint clinic, for having thus involved himself in a case of conflict of interest under section 13(2) of the Act (…)

On 8th June 2016, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) applied to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, our final court of appeal, against the judgement handed down by the Supreme Court on 25th May on the grounds that the judgement is “wrong in law”, that it raises important questions of interpretation as regards the issue of conflict of interest mentioned in section 13(2) of the Act, that it puts into question the determination of other cases involving conflicts of interest and that it constitutes “a precedent not conducive to the public interest in the proper administration of justice”. These are valid points and deserve to be thrashed out in full and final conclusion as to this peripatetic journey of the case.

•    INTERVIEW

Interview – Touria Prayag – Editor-in-chief, Weekly

“We should all fight for our worst enemies to have their rights respected”

* ‘In a real democracy, institutions work independently of politicians and are stronger than those in power. And institutions are only as independent and as competent as the men and women heading them’

* ‘Can you imagine David Cameron telling the police not to use provisional charges against his ministers? These same charges which have been and are still being used against everyone else?’

Touria Prayag’s book ‘Provisional Charges’ was launched last Friday. This book by the Editor-in-chief, of Weekly is about the human stories behind the debate on arbitrary arrests and provisional charges. “It goes beyond the legal controversies about arrests and provisional charges and gives a voice to the victims – ordinary, decent citizens who are at the receiving end of what could be described as the tyranny of the State. Arbitrarily arrested and detained, their basic human rights snatched away from them and their freedom withdrawn, they suffered bitter humiliation and abuse of their privacy.” We spoke to Ms Prayag about this antiquated procedure of ‘provisional charges’ adopted under emergency provisions in colonial times, and never repealed. Read on.

Excerpts:

“Powerful people do not like criticism and that’s it. They expect a hefty salary, first-class travel and junketeering, scrumptious fringe benefits, unchecked power and at the same time a quiet life where everyone bows down to them. So they all hate those who don’t. How they deal with that depends on their personalities and the options they have. Now, as a journalist, if you want favours or are scared of the wrath of those who are in power, then you perhaps should not be in this job…”

“Can you imagine David Cameron telling the police not to use provisional charges against his ministers? These same charges which have been and are still being used against everyone else? Have you ever heard a minister in the House of Commons telling a Member of Parliament, “I will send your case to my colleague minister to investigate?” Have your ever heard another MP publicly stating that the government and the police had granted immunity to some self-confessed liar and that the DPP spoilt the fun?”


•   OPINION & COMMENTS

The legend Will Remain
The life and times of Muhammad Ali depict a tranche of history made up of uplifting as well as sordid events. The battles fought have changed things for the better

By Mrinal Roy

Muhammad Ali passed away in Phoenix, Arizona last week on 3 June at the age of 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Throughout his life, he stood up and fought for what he believed in. He was thus much more than a legendary boxing icon. His unstinted battles out of the ring for social and political causes transcended boxing.  Although Ali was the first three-time world heavyweight boxing champion winning the title in 1964,1974 and 1978, his fame as one of the most respected sports celebrities of all time also stemmed from his legacy as an  inspiring leader, social activist, humanitarian and philanthropist. He transformed the lives of people. Tributes have poured in from personalities across the world as well as people from all walks of life. His legend will perdure.

Excerpts:

“Ali was born Cassius Clay. At 18, he won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. In October 1960, he became a professional boxer.  In February 1964, displaying his incredible boxing talent through his swift footwork and an amazing combination of speed, mobility and power, he won the heavyweight Championship against the mighty Sonny Liston, although he was a 7-1 underdog, by technical knockout in the 7th round, for the first time. He was 22.  It was one of the biggest upset in boxing history. From the ring, he shouted to the world in defiance that ‘I am the greatest. I shook up the world…’”

“Ali was quick to understand the power of TV as a potent media form. He used it very smartly with his glib talk. He was regularly invited in numerous chat shows in both the US and abroad on which he depicted the civil rights situation with wry humour and questioned the racial injustice in the US. At a time when few were brave enough to raise their voice, he had the courage to fight for civil rights. In 1967, after being heavyweight champion for three years, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War on religious grounds and the principle of pacifism. His statement ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong’ echoed the anti war stance of a generation…”

***



Mass Protests in France: The Limits of Technocratic Myopia

By Rajiv Servansingh

Since about three months now economic activity in France has been virtually paralysed by protests and demonstrations led by students and labour unions, a feature reminiscent of the famous May 68 movements. These massive protests primarily against the proposal for reform of labour laws presented by a “socialist” government but fully backed by, some would say originating from, the Employer’s Federation of France (MEDEF) have led some observers to state that France has probably reached a “point of no-return” and hence become literally a country which cannot be reformed. This is certainly an exaggeration.


Excerpts:

“There are admittedly what one could characterize as some peculiar traits of the French people and institutions, including among its student movements, the labour unions and mainstream political parties which are, as they would say, “inédits” or unique to the country. Prominent among those is the absolute disposition to resist whatever looks like challenging the “acquis sociaux” which have been won at great cost by the working classes during decades…”

“The dominant Neo-Liberal ideology globally is premised on the belief that State intervention in the economic sphere is necessarily detrimental to the economic welfare of a nation, independently of the specific social and historical circumstances prevailing in the country. It forms part of the one-size-fits-all solutions, which have been promoted by the supporters of the unfettered capitalism propaganda. In its essentially technocratic formulation “high protection for employees” shelters low-productivity workers from competition with high-productivity workers…”

***

Fluctuating oil price: should we be concerned?

 

By Anil Gujadhur

Back in the early 1970s, the OPEC oil producers’ cartel reached an agreement to limit the global supply of oil. This implacable decision, duly complied with by its members, resulted in an abrupt quadrupling of international oil prices.

Excerpts:“A risk of fuel import prices shooting up again has always been around – recall the severe consequences of fairly recent hedging against fuel price rises on the finances of the STC and Air Mauritius – our response to it should have been to go on adding ever more performing and suitably adapted sectors of export activity to the economy, of which not much has seen the light of the day of late. Another response would have been to produce local renewable energy substitutes for imported oil, coal and gas to insulate ourselves from sharp international oil price rises as it happened in the early 1970s…”

“The international price of oil dipped as from mid-2014 due to a situation of over-supply on the international oil market. While it was heading towards $150-200 a barrel, it suddenly went down to $110 in September 2014. Accelerated Canadian and American shale gas production accentuated the over-supply, causing oil to dive to $27 a barrel by January 2016. At the level of the OPEC today, Saudi Arabia, the largest global oil producer, which accounts for 13% of global supply, decided not to curtail its supply of oil to firm up falling international prices, perhaps apprehending loss of market share to rival Iran or to Russia…”

* * *

But the devil is in the details

By Dr R. Neerunjun Gopee

In my article of last week I pointed out that we should be thankful that we live in a country which has a robust democratic tradition and that, despite its limited resources, has yet maintained from the very beginning of its autonomous political status all the features of a progressive welfare state such as universal pension, free health care, free education, many other social benefits for the elderly, widows and orphans, the disabled and so on. And that, on this and other counts too, the country compares favourably not only with others in the vicinity but even with some of the developed ones if we were to look at the socio-economic indices and indicators, when we make allowance for size and resources.

Excerpts:

 

“Decades down the line, we are still going back and forth about an efficient, sustainable and clean transport system that would do justice to a country that boasts of being in the upper middle income category. Meanwhile, the fleet of vehicles is expanding at such a rate, with a proliferation of ‘auto-points’ at every nook and corner, that it looks likely that in a foreseeable future there will be more vehicles than people on the island. We are already choking on both the highways and the byways, not to speak of the mayhem that takes place whenever there is heavy rain even for a short period. When, if ever, are we going to resolve this public transport issue to national satisfaction? How many more expert teams and reports will we need?”

When we consider such deviations in statistical terms sector by sector, e.g. criminal offences, number of road accidents and the associated mortality and morbidity, complaints about health care, incidents involving students, etc., we may find that the ratios of ‘normal’ to ‘abnormal’ are low. As a result, we may conclude that they are not alarming… But we all know that statistics do not tell the whole story: one gruesome crime of passion, for example, as happened at the beginning of this week, is enough to shake the conscience of the whole country…”


* * *

At last, America catching up?

By TP Saran

The two news items currently making the headlines in America are the nomination of Mrs Hillary Clinton as the first ever woman presidential candidate and the condemnation of a rapist at the Stanford University in California.

Excerpts:

Now, courtesy the propaganda machine, the whole world’s attention will be brought to focus on the fact that a woman is – possibly — soon to lead America. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that this will be made to look as if it is a universe-shaking phenomenon, a first that has never happened anywhere else before. And many millions will swallow that, forgetting that there are precedents galore that should bring some sense of humility to the bloated American ego, but alas doesn’t. Indira Gandhi in India, Golda Meir in Israel, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Mrs Bandanaraike in Sri Lanka, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil are among some of the most astute politicians who have steered their respective countries at crucial times…”

“Donald Trump has lunged at Hillary Clinton with his barbed words, and has received back in equal measure from her. She is considered to be more savvy on foreign policy matters, despite the mess-up at the Libyan embassy with the loss of American life, and the email controversy that continues to dog her. She has been accused of using her private email address for official purposes as well when she was Secretary of State, and has deponed in the Congress on this issue, but is not considered completely cleared in many American eyes. Further, and paradoxically, she is not getting the support of younger American women who, along with other Americans, seem to prefer Trump’s economic stance over that of Hillary Clinton, given that he is a very successful and rich businessman…”

* * *

Doing politics more seriously

Politicians in the “values” they now incarnate had become more important than the State the government of which they had been entrusted with. The earnest political establishment of years past which had seen us through in post-independence days suddenly became something of the past

By Murli Dhar

Over the past 18 months, the public has had occasion to reflect upon the quality of politics applied to the country’s affairs. It has not had the expected positive impact on national affairs, to the point the PM himself has complained about the insufficient initiatives taken by the private sector to consolidate the economy on a stronger foundation.

Excerpts :

The public is “cautiously optimistic” that, given the parlous state of affairs, a politician may finally emerge from the ranks of those in power who might summon up control and real governance among the ruling politicians. In this context, Pravind Jugnauth is seen as the last resort to instil a true sense of purpose and direction in government after so much misdirection of national affairs. Because, people feel, short of a “ressaisissement” from the power-game equation from which politics has been done so far, we’ll keep drifting away from both our real social and economic objectives…”

“The more aberrations of the past have been repeated, the more people have doubted whether we’ll not keep seeing more of the bad things of the past? And that the country’s superior interests will not ultimately be relegated behind other lower priority pursuits? The uncertainty generated by these internal factors must have also weighed heavily on the private sector’s want of economic initiative. This is the reason why the public is minded to see a departure from all the havoc done in past months with the coming of Pravind Jugnauth to the Ministry of Finance. It shows they are still hopeful the situation may be turned around…”

***

Les jeunes: accrocs à la mort !

By Shakuntala Boolell

Notre petit pays va bientôt connaître des tueurs en série; l’ironie, c’est que ce sont les jeunes qui font jaser et qui passent pour les pires meurtriers. Combien vrai que dans le passé on a connu Nanard-Léonard Armoogum, Boucherville parmi les grands meurtriers de l’Histoire du pays ! Le roman sur Ratsitatane l’inclut aussi pour les révoltes, l’enlèvement d’une jeune fille et le crime atroce commis froidement sur la montagne du Champ de Lort. Ils étaient d’un certain âge et ont tué par vengeance.

* * *

Wordless Contemplation

By Dr Rajagopala Soondron

It is amazing how we human beings end up taking so many paradoxical stances. In the 1960s our government was hammering the population to adopt family planning; nowadays it is asking us to have more children! China adopted the one child policy decades ago, and now it has scrapped it off. A century ago, tens of thousands of soldiers died due to lack of antibiotics; today excess of same is playing havoc with our health. Maybe these are social undertakings, and hence are compounded by many factors.

Excerpts :

“Silence is golden. The more people in a nation meditate the less social problems and friction should crop up, because meditation seems to sharpen one’s awareness. Self-awareness implies a lot of accommodation and tolerance for other human beings, and thus hence toning down conflicts. As Stanley Milgram, a psychologist noted (1974), ‘It may be that we are puppets – puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation…’”

“Divesting us temporarily of those accumulated thoughts, beliefs, feelings and knowledge will silence our envy, our worries about the world, comfort and self-attention and perhaps tone down our social self as well. Making the mind blank, that is, putting it in sleeping mode even while staying awake, so as to reach that wordless contemplation with no words or ideas clinging to it. We gradually turn our gaze inwards and feel at peace with ourselves. Medically it has been proved to be beneficial in helping to reduce stress and prolonging life…”

* * *

Letter from New Delhi

A Century of Indian Journalism Saga in Kenya

 

By Kul Bhushan

Kenya Indian journalists founded newspapers and magazines to demand human rights and freedom under colonial rule in the first half of the last century; and during the latter half showed professionalism and ingenuity to reach top positions. Despite facing threats, prison, exile and deportation, they contributed to developing Kenya’s media in no small measure.

* * *

MT 60 Years Ago

2nd Year No 63

Friday – 21st October, 1955

Justice and the Police

While the Police are still in the news, we think it would be fit to deal with their work in the field of justice. It has become clear to everybody from the debates on Hon Bissoondoyal’s motion that the Police have a great part to play in the administration of justice.

Such being the case, we want to emphasize that unless the public have unshaken confidence in the police, justice will not command the admiration and respect of one and all.

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