The Caunhye Commission


The purpose of a commission of inquiry is to make an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance and perform such functions accordingly; it’s not expected to level accusations, as these can only come following police investigations into the findings of the Commission. The aim basically is to encourage transparency through fact finding, making any recommendations for correcting mishaps and to provide inputs for future investigations or criminal proceedings, if necessary. It should hover above partisan politics and help us reach better shores. But it’s also often the case when commissions of inquiry (COI) abide by political agendas, or are perceived as such, being motivated in such instances by what the powers-that-be seek to achieve in terms of damage to be wrought on political adversaries. The Britam and Betamax commissions of inquiry are perceived in that light – that is the weaponisation of COIs and the trivialisation of what should have been a more solemn, necessary and dignified process on a matter of national interest, as was the case with the Lam Shan Leen Report on drug trafficking.

The Betamax Commission was set up to inquire into the circumstances in which the contract for transport of petroleum products to Mauritius was awarded to Betamax Ltd (not deemed illegal by the international Singapore Arbitrator and not against the public policy of mauritius by the privy Council) and the circumstances which subsequently led to its termination, a decision which was also successfully contested by Betamax before the arbitrator and Privy Council. The Britam Commission was appointed to inquire into the sale of the shares which the BAI held in Britam Holdings Ltd (Kenya) and specifically whether there was a firm offer of about Rs 4 bn for the sale of the BAI assets to Britam Kenya against the ultimate sale of Rs 2 bn – the target in this case being the former Minister of Good Governance, now leading the Reform Party in the opposition camp.

The Caunhye commission of inquiry set up to investigate into the circumstances related to the “purported commission of inquiry” by former President of the Republic Ameenah Gurib-Fakim in March 2018 came in for criticisms since its very inception from some members of the bar for different reasons that we need not revisit today. Even as the Caunhye Report has shed light on the functionings and dysfunctionings of the Presidency during the tenure of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, it could not, constrained by the narrow Terms of Reference of the Commission, go beyond its mandate to probe into the various dimensions of the murky Alvaro Sobrinho affair itself along the lines set out in the terms of reference announced by the Ameenah Gurib-Fakim-inspired commission of inquiry which sought to look, amongst others, into the regulatory authorisations of Mr Sobrinho’s business in Mauritius. That the FSC expedited matters to revoke the licence of one of Mr Sobrinho’s investment companies, in the wake of the tussle opposing the Prime Minister and the former President which lasted two long weeks prior to her resignation, speaks of the questionable manner in which Mr Sobrinho had seen his investments facilitated in Mauritius without, it would seem, comprehensive due diligence exercises carried out prior to the issue of the relevant licence/s. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 September 2022

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