The reaction of the Commissioner of Police (CP), as published in a press release issued last Tuesday, to the stand taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not to challenge the decision of the Moka District Court senior magistrate to grant bail to Bruneau Laurette, accused of illicit drug possession, under stringent conditions has been severely criticised in the legal fraternity – and rather timidly by the main Opposition parties especially those that may not be comfortable with the inroads of the social activist/politician in their traditional vote banks. While purporting respect, the CP has clearly attacked both the bail judgment of a Senior Magistrate, which according to some legal minds verges on contempt of court, and the Office of the DPP.
What is of concern however is this is a first in the annals when a holder of a constitutional post comes out publicly against the decision of another constitutional head, putting in doubt his legal judgement, whereas the obvious and reasonable alternative available to his office would have been a timely challenge of the magistrate’s decision in the Supreme Court on his own steam.
This situation is of particular concern given that it comes following the public comments made by the Prime Minister regarding the infiltration of a mafia in our public institutions – without his revealing the concerned institutions, the levels infected and the action, if any, he would be contemplating to address this threat, if true, to our democratic polity. After all, he is himself head of a number of critical agencies and is the best informed person in Mauritius with the variety of daily and weekly reports he can call upon. Has this infiltration taken its course during his stewardship at the helm one cannot be certain, unless the PM clarifies his meaning and takes the population in his confidence.
If the CP’s stand is not, according to some legal minds, censored by the government, we may perhaps wrongly infer or question whether the Office of the DPP constitutes one of those mafia-infiltrated institutions the PM had in mind. Needless to recall that both offices of the CP and that of the DPP are important linchpins in the fight against crime and drug trafficking. Any insinuations or innuendos about either could be extremely damaging for our democratic fabric and ruin confidence in the general running of the affairs of the country that has been patiently built up over decades.
What is becoming perceptible at another level however is the growing impression of a government gradually but steadily losing its bearings and incapable to set the agenda, both politically and in the conduct of the affairs of the State. The fight against the drug scourge is in a mess as evidenced by recent revelations in the press and on social media as well as the actions taken at the level of the specialised anti-drug unit of the Police; the same could be said about the anti-corruption commission, which has of late woken up and readjusted its focus on the money-laundering activities of alleged drug traffickers forming part of the Franklin gang. This is a rather late in coming but welcome development in one case that has led to the uncovering of unexplained wealthy properties (yachts, fast boats, luxury cars, houses, etc) under a growing list of prête-noms. In this case of money-laundering that is the necessary complement of drug trafficking, the drug-busting agencies of the Mauritius Police Force seem to have taken a severe knock at least in public perception. So much the better if ICAC’s actions on derivative activities of drug trade have forced the CP to an overhaul of his own services through a series of transfers this past week.
Although we do commend this late wake-up burst of ICAC activity, the anti-corruption agency would do well to convince the population that it has the grit and guts to lift its sight to the high-level corruption cases involving the high and the mighty operating in or politically close to the realms of power. Its perceived lethargy and inaction in many high-profile corruption cases since 2016 involving the latter do not plead in its favour. For many, the perception has been ingrained of an institution where cases are sent, even by those most concerned, as a means not to answer questions as “an enquiry is ongoing”, enquiry that will drag on for years. One swallow therefore does not make a summer, as goes popular wisdom.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 3 March 2023
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