“Your politicians need a timeout, and your democracy needs rehab”

A Conversation with Uncle Claus

* ‘Don’t worry, your chaos is peanuts compared to the global circus. It’s like déjà vu but with extra drama’

* ‘Your anti-corruption body’s snoozing on pending cases. Wake ’em up!’

Contrary to his usual bubbly mien, it is a rather sombre Uncle Claus that we have met on his visit to our little island this year, one that he never misses despite all the odds. However, as our conversation progressed, he gradually unwound and assumed his normal jovial and acerbic self. Maybe the elves had something to do with that! So much the better though, and to our delight. The mood was immediately lightened, as it were, and together we took a tour of the universe kinda, and once again his cautionary words and wisdom came to the fore. It’s up to us to pay heed and raise ourselves or feign indifference and pay the price. He has spoken. The rest is up to us…

* Hey, Uncle Claus? How come?

How do you mean how come? You weren’t expecting me this year or what?

* Well, as always, I hoped but didn’t quite expect that you’d want to be drawn into the chaos we’re in! But it’s sure great to see you.

Don’t you worry, it’s pretty much the same all over the world, and perhaps even getting worse. Your chaos is peanuts compared to the global circus. It’s like déjà vu but with extra drama. Certainly, no better than a year ago when we met.

* I guess we could say that for our own situation here, but would you elaborate on what you have just said?

Well, for a start this time last year Covid was on the wane, but there’s a new variant that has surfaced isn’t it, the JN.1 which is spreading. And once again, not even WHO is clear about what’s happening behind the Chinese curtain with the outbreak of pneumonia in children. Another Wuhan in the making or what?

* It’s like a bad movie, huh? But that’s not all. There’s war in Ukraine and in the Middle East, that’s another huge blow to global stability…

True, and sadly so. The Ukraine war has now gone on for 665 days to date, with no sign of ending. A second front has opened in Gaza after the dastardly genocide of innocent men, women and children including babies on October 7 in Israel. Already, with some regional players having joined in – Iran-backed Houthis, Hezbollah – and US warships moving into the Mediterranean, there were fears of a world war in the making.

* It seems to be escalating, Uncle. Too bad!

Indeed, just two days ago, it seems a third front, and potentially with greater risk of widespread escalation, has opened: Houthi rebels in Yemen have been attacking ships in the Red Sea. Their leader has affirmed that they will not stop despite the newly-formed coalition of 10 countries that includes Bahrain and led by the US that is meant to counter these attacks as well as piracy from Somalians. Global supplies are already under strain because of the Ukraine war, and a conflict in the Red Sea will definitely have major adverse impacts on global trade and business, and costs will escalate.

And who will be the victims? No prizes for the answer: the people, always the people.

* I can see why you are disturbed…

You bet am! And hurt as well! All these years I have been carrying messages of peace to no effect. Why, even the so-called Holy land has forever been a hotbed of controversies and unrest that make even me give up hope!

But there’s more, sadly, further to the east. China’s ambition to take over Taiwan by force if need be adds to the already tense situation in the South China sea, with several countries in conflict with China over its bid to control that waterway. Not to forget that North Korea keeps testing new missiles and weapons all the time.

* What a package I say!

You could say that again, what with your own packages that I have been hearing about during the year?

* Oh, so you keep a tag on local happenings do you?

Well, I became curious ever since I read that Mark Twain had compared your island to paradise. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that that idyllic depiction may well be eroding, not only physically with so much of the land being taken over by concrete and ill-planned infrastructure…

* Wait a minute, Uncle, we’ve got the beautifully functioning metro…

Mostly no doubt, but whoever heard of planting a tramway right in the middle of an already narrow thoroughfare at ground level and drive away business, among other problems with traffic in your once more functional Quatre-Bornes! Anyway, a metro stuck in a traffic jam? Brilliant planning! Quatre-Bornes today looks like a festive traffic jam!

And what have you been doing making a mockery of and murdering your democracy!

* Very strong words coming from you!

Well, you can’t get away from facts, can you? You have so many unresolved cases such as unexplained disappearances of people and deaths, and no answers seem yet to be forthcoming from your elected representatives in your National Assembly. Why does so much of aggressivity prevail there? As regards the level of interventions, the less said the better. It truly is the case that some of your august members need to go back to school benches again!

But then again, one wonders what good will that do with your education system itself needing drastic reform!

But the latest blow to your democracy is surely the voting of the Financial Crimes Commission Bill in the Parliament. I am no expert in legal matters, but I learn that many sound voices were raised against the provisions of that Bill, and many legal luminaries concurred that the powers of the ODPP were being fundamentally undermined and that would be inimical to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. No less than a crime against democracy has been committed, so say the people. Anyway, your politicians need a timeout, and your democracy needs rehab. * Yes Uncle, indeed there has been widespread outcry against this bill…

Of course, it was expected, wasn’t it? When you already have so many cases pending at your anti-corruption body, ICAC, cases in which the outcomes of investigations are awaited for years together and no indication of when if ever the investigation will be completed and outcomes announced! No surprise! Your anti-corruption body’s snoozing on pending cases. Wake ’em up!

* You’re right on spot Uncle. Another major concern is the manner of appointment of the Director of the FCC.

Yes, I heard about that too. Everything goes to the i-cloud now, and that’s my domain isn’t it! So, I get to know kinda automatically! Without prejudice to the eventual appointee, there’s no doubt that it would have been better if that process could have been more independent and transparent. But that’s what politics is all about I am afraid.

* I am surprised you’ve got such a hang on politics! You weren’t like that before!

Well, I’ve had to kind of recycle if you want, because everything that affects the lives of people en masse emanates from some political decision or the other. And politicians are always making promises many of which are never fulfilled, but one thing that they know how to do is to manipulate people’s minds. 

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 22 December 2023

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