Rome is burning

If SAJ decides to step down, he will have to return power back to the people to enable them, the sole custodian of this fundamental right in a democracy, to choose a new Prime Minister and government at the polls

Rome is burning. Yet, nobody seems keen in dousing the fire. Instead, the political class and their complicit cohorts are bent on stoking the fire to pursue their own narrow agendas of keeping or wresting power by all means even if this means trampling fundamental democratic principles.The coalition parties forming part of government and their leaders as well as those elected are careful not to rock the boat with valid questions asked more and more by the people regarding the legitimacy of replacing Sir Anerood Jugnauth (SAJ), the Prime Minister elected by the people at the December 2014 general elections by an appointed one, should he choose to step down as Prime Minister. They prefer to bend with the wind and hold on to the trappings of power.

Similarly, driven by their own pipe dreams of returning to power despite their ignominious defeat at the polls 22 months back, the opposition parties and their leaders, their diehard supporters and the partisan press are all intent on fanning the fire further. They are using all means possible including unfounded scaremongering about political and economic instability to pressure the legitimately elected Prime Minister to step down, thus providing them with an ideal platform to call for urgent general elections. As witnessed so many times in our political history, the political class would go to any lengths to stay in or wrest power. All this epitomises the sorry state of our democracy and the abysmal depths it has sunk to.

The crying truth is that it is the presence of SAJ as the leader and proposed Prime Ministerial candidate of the nondescript coalition cobbled to contest the elections, which was the determinant catalyst which rallied the votes of the multitude who were firmly opposed to the power sharing arrangements of the Labour-MMM (LM) alliance and their decried constitutional amendments.

With the massive support of the people, SAJ emphatically won the December 2014 general elections fair and square. None of the leaders of the three parties forming L’Alliance Lepep could have harnessed vox populi in the manner SAJ did, to so roundly defeat the combined might of the Labour-MMM alliance. The rout of the LM alliance would have been even more pronounced had the vote in some key constituencies not been so obviously communal.

The outcome of the elections could have been different had SAJ not headed L’Alliance Lepep. It is the special chemistry between the people and SAJ at a critical juncture when our democracy was under threat by the political agenda and constitutional proposals of the Labour-MMM alliance which mustered the popular support to mete out such a crushing defeat on the LM alliance.

The hotchpotch of candidates corralled from all over the place by L’Alliance Lepep therefore owe their election largely to SAJ and the ‘tsunamic’ momentum of the single minded vote of the people. Under these circumstances, gratitude if nothing else should have deterred them from being party to unwarranted palace revolutions.

Pervasive ras le bol

There is therefore a pervasive ras le bol among the people towards the political ethics of the political class and its consuming obsession with power for power’s sake instead of putting themselves altruistically at the service of the nation. There is also a growing clamour especially among the young and those bearing the brunt of the misguided policies regarding for example employment, the sugar sector, the management of epidemics, medical students, standards of education, access to land, smart cities, the protracted process of obtaining justice, etc., and the many inequalities plaguing the country, to sweep the local political Aegean stables clean of its inept and disavowed protagonists. A massive salubrious coup de balai is urgently required. It is time to loudly say ‘Enough is enough’.

The current 69 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) elected by the people to represent them should first and foremost understand the finite scope and terms of the specific mandate given to them as representatives of the people. That mandate does not include the right to choose who is to be the Prime Minister of the country. This right is a red line and the sole preserve of the people. The MNAs cannot therefore usurp the paramount and exclusive prerogative of the people to choose at the polls who they decide to trust with the responsibility to lead the country as Prime Minister. The Prime Minister cannot therefore be chosen on the basis of parliamentary mathematics rigged by the unconditional allegiance of the MNAs to omnipotent leaders. Only the people can choose at the polls who can be trusted to be the Prime Minister of the country. That trust must be earned through a track record of deeds and actions and by demonstrating a profound commitment of service to the people.

What if?

It is also quite evident that those jockeying for a change of Prime Minister without the legitimacy of being voted to this important and sensitive post at the polls have not thought out all the scenarios carefully. There is the potential risk that the Privy Council if asked to examine the case of conflict of interest faced by Pravind Jugnauth may overturn the decision in his favour. Apart from being very embarrassing for the country if he is the appointed Prime Minister, he may have to step down. Following their logic, how would he then be replaced as PM? This could open a Pandora’s box of contenders vying to become Prime Minister. Such a scenario would be a recipe for instability and political chaos. The only democratic way to choose Prime Ministers is through the choice of the people at the polls.

Promises to keep

SAJ was elected by the people on the basis of a programme which included delivering a second economic miracle, ensuring a fairer distribution of the national wealth, a constant improvement in the standards of living and quality of life of people and assuring a sustainable development respectful of the environment. To this list he has added the important issue of regaining our territorial integrity and national sovereignty over Chagos and Tromelin. It would therefore be a terrible let down and a blemish on his career as a statesman if he were to abandon ship and the mandate entrusted to him by the people with so much unfinished business still unaccomplished.

The Prime Minister has tremendous powers under the Constitution. He is also the only pre-independence surviving politician whose outlook has been shaped by the ethos, lofty ideals and selfless sense of public service of the iconic freedom fighters of the country engaged in the arduous battle for independence. His emotional speech in his constituency last week regarding the legacy he wants to leave stems from those cardinal values. As a democrat, the choice before him is clear cut. SAJ can in accordance with the mandate given to him by the people complete his full term of office and deliver on the many promises made with a more competent reshuffled team. This will allow him to end his career on a positive note. Alternatively, if he decides to step down, he will have to return power back to the people to enable them, the sole custodian of this fundamental right in a democracy, to choose a new Prime Minister and government at the polls. To do otherwise would taint his legacy as Prime Minister and the guardian of the people’s fundamental democratic rights.

The decadent and unpopular Nero shirked his responsibility as Emperor and played fiddle while Rome burnt. Rome was not built in a day. In contrast to Nero, this is the time for the Prime Minister to show his mettle by innovatively help shape, develop and build the country on a more inclusive basis despite a context of daunting challenges, continued international financial crisis and subdued global growth.

Mrinal Roy

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