Since the Parliament has resumed its activities – debates would be an overstatement – after the usual break, the Opposition as is expected of it has come up with PNQs and PQs about the Covid situation regularly. In view of its aggravation and in the absence of sufficient information from official sources about various aspects of the pandemic, PQs are the only way to probe and seek answers to the numerous questions that are troubling the people. It is therefore right and proper that their elected representatives should seek use the parliamentary forum to get the necessary clarifications. This is what Parliament is for.
Even then, though, it s generally felt that the replies being provided do not reveal the complete picture, and no greater clarity has emerged about, for example, various drugs needed, in stock or on order and other pharmacological necessities that are required for treatment. There is unexplained opacity about medical protocols governing home self-isolation as opposed to regional hospital admission or even about the exact numbers of people tested or affected, and the Covid-related mortality statistics.
On a more constructive side there have been many concrete suggestions from Opposition and civil society voices, ranging from converting unused buildings or infrastructure into emergency Covid treatment centres, through closure of schools, to pre-ordering of pills that are looking like promising candidates for Covid treatment. These have been ignored, dismissed or ridiculed. Treating those who question and propose their ideas as anti-patriots is neither helpful nor does not cut any ice when there is a growing feeling that officialdom has been far from clean, frank and honest with the population all along.
On the other hand, a number of other issues have been raised at regular intervals. For example, voting rights at age 16, Offshore Petroleum Bill, Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Bill, and a buzz going round about the setting up of a Press Council. This throws doubt in the mind of citizens as to whether there is an attempt here to distract attention from the extremely grave consequences of the pandemic, especially the rising number of deaths, inasmuch as some of the legislations being brought to the fore are loaded with contradictions and controversies.
For example, in the context of the COP26 conference on the environment and climate change that the Prime Minister attended, does it make sense vis-à-vis our international partners to discuss about the exploration for oil, which is what the Offshore Petroleum Bill is all about? And why the Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Bill, without any consultation undertaken similar to the earlier exercise carried out with regard to the similar though separate ICTA Bill and views sought at national level? At the very minimum, would it not have been a supreme example of transparency and good governance if a compilation followed by an analysis of views received and presented to the population? There might then have emerged a rationale for the framing of such legislation. Similarly for the Press Council. Is there an urgency? Or a Recreational Council to advise the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Recreation. Really? Not, to our mind in any of these matters.
On the contrary, it is the decimation of our population and worryingly the younger segment that is uppermost in every Mauritian’s mind. There is not a single citizen who isn’t living in fear of Covid, anticipating that any moment news will come of someone known directly or indirectly who has either been found to be Covid positive, is in self-isolation or has been admitted, or has become the umpteenth victim. Who is next? Or what other piece of legislation is about to be pushed upfront? We are in deep, deep trouble, that’s for sure, and our concern right now is about what concrete actions are being envisaged to stop the spread of the pandemic. That’s what the government should be telling us.
* Published in print edition on 19 November 2021
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