We have time and again highlighted how vital it is for our democratic space, collective well-being and a feeling of security on the streets to have a police force that is well-equipped, trained and able to discharge their duties without fear or favour. It should remain above political partisanship in serving the higher interests of the country and the thousands of rank-and-file officers know how much they cannot afford to lose professional credibility or impartiality in doing an honest day’s job irrespective of pressures from above or sideways.
Yet the general public has observed with anxiety, first the absolute trust of the PM in the ADSU as spearhead of the anti-drug fight, followed by its shelving aside in favour of the (SST) specialised unit and whose methods have been decried as highly mediatised but gross and often thrown out of courts or by the DPP. After the impression of a “hit-list” targeting individual Opposition voices such as lawyers Akil Bissessur, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Rama Valayden and social activists like Bruno Laurette, the terms “drug planting” and “drug parcel posting” have erupted while revelations of Vimen Sabapathee or Franklin have shaken our faith in the capacity of the police force to clean itself of its black sheep. This is a disquieting state of affairs.
Meantime, the final episodes in the legal clear-out of unsubstantiated cases registered against lawyer Akil Bissessur and his entire family could lead to massive civil damages lawsuits. Whatever the courts ultimately decide, this should be another reminder that the population does not have to bear future costs and damages incurred by those officials too willing to exceed their considerable mandate and overstep the lines of propriety in their function.
What has been perceived as the instrumentalisation of the police to track down and harass political opponents or for settling political scores has blemished the image of the police in a large measure. There have also been cases of certain police officers who have worked below the expected standard and frustrated the pursuits of the entire police force by so doing. They have helped to sully the image of the force by their disrespect of their oath of duty. Good credentials and a solid track record of impartiality and trustworthiness will prove essential for the police for doing its work efficiently and for fulfilling its responsibility towards society as a respected force.
It bears repeating that the core philosophy behind the setting up of a police force is that it is primarily meant for the protection of the citizen rather than being a coercive instrument at the beck and call of the State, for which reason the Commissioner of Police’s post is a constitutionally guaranteed one so that he can perform his duties in full autonomy. Any political pressure to tamper with this autonomy can have a boomerang effect on the initiator of such a departure from the norm when the tables are turned at the next election, and cause havoc in the polity. This real risk must always be taken into consideration if we want a police force that is genuinely pro-citizen.
There are countries in which the law-and-order situation has become untenable because the police force and the army pursued their own interests at public expense in such places or became willing instruments for advancing the private interests of unscrupulous politicians in power and their own. If Mauritius has not failed like those states, we owe it in a large measure to the political leadership and culture which have prevailed in this country since Independence and to those of our independent public institutions which have refused to give in to unlawful entreaties to pervert the state apparatus.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 25 August 2023
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