The view that nothing has changed in the way of doing politics is gaining ground. So too is the growing idea that the poor practices of the past have been perpetuated under the new government. Yet, like others earlier, it too was voted for in the hope that it would bring to an end past malpractices and embrace an improved way of running the affairs of the country.
Lots of people got disillusioned quite soon. The promise of better days to come was simply drowned in a confusion of poor as well as questionable decisions taken. It soon came out that some persons close to the regime were taking undue pecuniary advantage of their proximity to the new incumbents of power – a repeat of previous practices. But that was not all. More damage was being done to the economic infrastructure while barely any fresh promising project was being undertaken. Government’s largesse and its handling of the public funds in its custody and the Special Reserves of the Bank of Mauritius have raised a hue and cry – and for good reasons.
As if that was not enough, ever newer stories of malpractices associated with certain members of the government kept surfacing on an almost regular basis. Certain ministers showed that they were more apt to bungle matters than to be leading the way forward. Wrong decisions were taken that resulted in undermining the effectiveness of public institutions; they also speak poorly of the independence of these institutions.
There was no convincing communication made to change popular focus away from the bad stories which kept piling up. It seemed as if the government was indifferent to the bad publicity resulting from them. It was to be expected that these depressing accounts, narrated frequently in the media and commented upon on social media platforms on a daily basis, would somehow get firmly stuck in the mind of the public after some time. The avalanche of criticisms against mis-governance – a good amount of which was justified – has now actually sunk into popular perception.
A growing feeling that the government may, after all, not be able to turn the situation around to its advantage has by now gathered momentum. The good thing for the government – if one may call it so — in the midst of so much turmoil is that politicians on the opposite side of the fence are also not held in high public esteem either. People think all of them are fish of the same kettle who change their tone and language according to circumstances but will do no better. And so, not only is the economy left to itself in the midst of so many gales blowing on the international scene, but people are feeling let down by politics as a whole.
Surely, bouncers or fist fighters pumped up into ‘social activists’ by a section of the media and heading street protests, but whose real agenda and financial backings remain unknown to the people, are not the answer to the dire predicament in which the country finds itself today. There must be enough mature persons outside the fold of customary political parties capable of infusing new life into the polity. The question that comes up is why they have not been willing to jump into the political fray so far. The answer is probably disgust with the way politics has been conducted for a number of years now. But the country cannot also wait too long to get out of the backwaters into which it has fallen. Although one could argue that the media has been painting and will continue to paint a picture of poor prospects for the country, highlighting as many bad things as possible with every passing day, the doings of the present government haven’t helped either.
It is in such a situation that the country needs a convincing re-orientation of its future prospects. Normally, governments try to infuse the necessary confidence that they will manage to do so, despite conjunctural difficulties. It seems a point has now been reached where the public don’t want to allow themselves to be convinced that the tide will actually turn for the better. Jocelyn Chan Low, historian, notes in today’s interview that in these trying times when the whole world, including this country, is reeling under an economic and humanitarian crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic – the worst since the 1930s depression – the way forward is to go for a ‘gouvernement d’unité nationale’.
This has happened on occasion in other countries, e.g. France when the country was considered to be teetering on the brink of collapse. Leaders put aside their political differences and their personal animus towards each other to get the country out of the rut. We would hope that this might yet be possible here, that an element of patriotism and some magnanimity would be brought in to lift the country out of the sinking mood and heads put together to revamp the economy. Does the moral leadership exist for such an eventuality? That sure is a tall order,
It is for those who are vying for leadership to answer concretely.
* Published in print edition on 15 October 2020