The Country in Turmoil

When politicians err, the onus is squarely on the people to promptly sanction and set things right

By Mrinal Roy

This week, the United States Senate has started the impeachment trial of ex-President Donald Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection. A three-quarters majority is required in the Senate to convict Donald Trump. 17 Republican Senators will therefore have to join the Democrat Senators for this to happen. Despite the difficult odds, a bipartisan majority of US Congressmen support the impeachment process as it is considered to be a crucial pedagogical exercise, at a juncture when America is so deeply divided, to reaffirm the seminal principles and values which underpin US democracy. However, it does not necessarily mean that the required majority in the Senate will be obtained to convict Donald Trump when a vote is taken.

The process and the arguments put forward will help teach cardinal lessons on the core anchors and ethos of US democracy to the people. Such a fact based exercise will inter alia enable people to measure the enormity of the widely decried storming of the Capitol, a key symbol of US democracy, by Trump supporters. It will also help people see through the unfounded Trump narrative of widespread fraud or irregularities in the presidential elections and accept the reality that the official outcome of the presidential elections has been rigorously verified and attested by Federal agencies overseeing the election process and security as the most secure in American history.

As is expected in a vibrant democracy, elected Congressmen and Senators, who are elected representatives of the people as well as democrats across the US, consider it necessary to reiterate and strengthen the fundamental pillars and founding principles and values of US democracy every time when these are threatened by politicians bent on undermining them.

Democracy and its core values can only be safeguarded and strengthened if the political class and those elected as well as the people unswervingly protect them in their country against thick and thin and never allow the ethos and guiding principles of democracy to be watered down by political high-handedness. When politicians err, the onus is therefore squarely on the people to promptly sanction and set things right.

Shameful state

In contrast to such lofty ideals, democracy and the standard of political ethics in Mauritius plagued by a growing array of scandals and allegations of corruption and other wrongdoings involving Ministers are in a shameful state. At no time since independence has there been any attempt by those in power to reboot democracy, governance and political ethics in the country to the seminal ideals, ethos and principles which underpinned the battle for independence and the pledges made to the people. The pursuit of power and its trappings by all means as opposed to realizing the promises made to the people to establish a far better socio-economic and political order have driven and shaped the mode of governance.

Dissent and difference of opinion are essential elements of a democracy. When dissent on fundamental democratic principles and mode of governance are bridled, Ministers and MPs who are imbued with high democratic values and a modicum of self-respect cut loose from the shackles of subservience.

Nando Bodha, a dissenting Minister and secretary general of the MSM, who has served the party from its tenuous beginning for forty years has resigned from these posts and the party because ‘the values and culture of governance of government no longer reflect the principles and values which have guided his political commitment.’ His resignation has rocked the political Establishment and spawned the wildest conjectures as to his future intent. The political class is all agog.

Déjà vu

As expected, the usual suspects who have thrived through the systematic fragmentation of the people have been prompt in slapping a caste dimension to this resignation. True to form, the government has spun conspiracy theories contrived around political shenanigans and fixations of the past. The media is having a field day. It all smacks so déjà vu.

In a bid to exorcise its own angst and fears, the government has pilloried Nando Bodha with a blitzkrieg of uncalled for attacks and innuendos aired on national TV since his resignation. Is he and the timing of his resignation considered a potent threat to government in the light of the rising clamour against the appalling state of governance in the country?

“Nando Bodha, a dissenting Minister and secretary general of the MSM, who has served the party from its tenuous beginning for forty years has resigned from these posts and the party because ‘the values and culture of governance of government no longer reflect the principles and values which have guided his political commitment.’ His resignation has rocked the political Establishment and spawned the wildest conjectures as to his future intent. The political class is all agog…”

A cohort of people, press-ganged into parroting government narratives on national TV, cannot stop and silence the growing public outcry. It should also be flagged that in contrast, dissenters from the MMM who joined the MSM in an alliance to contest the last general elections continue to be rewarded with appointments to key ministries and posts in the government hierarchy. They could not have envisaged a better outcome.

Paradigm shift

Is it not time that as a nation we measure the leadership and competence of a politician not by his ‘social profile’ (a vogue expression excessively used presently in editorial columns) or the dynasty lording it over his party but more pertinently by his qualifications, intellect, professional credentials, commitment of service to the people, standard of ethics, connect with the people, ability and managerial acumen, etc.? Is it not time for such a salubrious paradigm shift in the choice of politicians entrusted to competently manage the affairs of the country at a juncture when the country needs the best brains and professional expertise of the country to grapple with the extremely daunting socio-economic and health challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic? Should we remind all those trapped in the narrow mindset of parochial clans that we are all Mauritians first with the same rights and obligations?

The political class must necessarily be a representative sample of the best intellect, talent, professional expertise and competence in the country. It is unacceptable that most of the political leaders of the main parties have hardly worked prior to joining politics?

Every Tom, Dick or Harry cannot therefore become a Minister in today’s digital and more and more technically sophisticated world as the job of a Minister carries complex responsibilities requiring well-honed professional skills, pluri-disciplinary abilities and managerial acumen. No wonder, the country has systematically been plagued by costly blunders under the watch of Ministers and political appointees.

Costly blunders

It is distressing to note that despite repeated assurances given, Mauritius has once again failed to meet European Commission and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) norms in respect of strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks. Billions of Rupees have been lost in risky loans at the State Bank to foreign companies which necessitated substantial impairment provisions. Similarly, tens of millions of Rupees have been placed by municipalities, the Mauritius Housing Company and other government institutions in a new bank which is now in receivership.
The costly Rs 19 billion Safe City project is incapable of providing key visual evidence to help elucidate criminal cases. Government procurement tenders have been blemished by serious allegations. The country is up in arms at the opacity surrounding the conditions public funds amounting to billions of Rupees are, for example, advanced by the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) to distressed companies to bail them out. The list is too long. How can the country continue to accept such costly government ineptitude?

For too long in the political history of the country, political leaders have nurtured cohorts of yes-men to maintain their hold over the government and the party. Such a set-up has scuttled party democracy and spawned dynasties at the head of the main political parties. A political status quo is therefore anathema to the multitude. The people refuse to compose with the same political class which has repeatedly failed the country. They refuse to be trapped in a crippling political system which has been so detrimental to the prospects of the country over the past decades.

An elected MP, Minister or government has a contract of trust with the people who chose and elected them. It is certainly not a licence to do whatever they want. Their mandate remains valid so long as their standard of governance and competence in running the affairs of the country is unimpeachable. Any breach of trust is unacceptable to the people who remain the sovereign arbiter at all times to mete out swift sanction.

What if?

The country is in turmoil. As a nation, we are deeply aggrieved that due to the appalling state of governance in the country we have been unable to harness the synergies and immense talent of our rainbow nation to realize our loftiest ambition for the benefit of all.

Finally, after years of enduring a decried system of governance, a Minister has slammed the door and resigned from government. What if this resignation acts as a detonator for a political big bang? There is a real window of opportunity. The country is witnessing game changing developments.
What if all those who can contribute meaningfully through their professional skills and expertise for a far better future for the country and the young raise their hands as one to trigger a sea change for the benefit of all. People are keen to join forces and help define a new projet de société for the country which rallies the multitude.
What if all those who want to establish a better order jettison the political dead wood and join hands to finally build the Mauritius we want for people and country. Is this the rallying signal for a new beginning?

* Published in print edition on 12 February 2021

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