“The MSM is a Damocles’ sword hanging over our heads…

Interview: Sheila Bunwaree

We cannot afford to let our egos dominate, we will have to make certain sacrifices”

* ‘There is perhaps a growing realisation that the country also needs a transition government…
… not a government of national unity – with the MSM. It would be immoral to go that route…’

* ‘Young people are leaving the country in droves. Who would want to live in a country that is falling apart?’

Sheila Bunwaree needs no introduction having contributed to the MMM’s past government programs and acquired a reputation as an outspoken critic of the MSM’s failures. But she is not just a party loyalist and her strong views on the mis-governance of the country and the series of affairs that have rocked the country are testimony to her spirit and independence of thought. She also shares her views here as to the political context of an Opposition alliance and makes clear her stance that egos and personal ambitions have to yield to the necessities of the times.

Mauritius Times: One form of controversy or the other – for instance the Sherry Singh-tsunami, followed by the ‘complot’ surrounding the anonymous letter meant to allegedly drive away Ameenah Gurib-Fakim followed by the MSM Congrès around the island, etc. – has been chasing the other week after week these recent months, and today’s headline is about the search operation which led to the arrest of lawyer AkilBissessur and his partner on charges of drug trafficking. Are the earlier controversies any less important in your view?

Sheila Bunwaree: Not at all, each of these controversies is as important and as worrying as the other since they all reflect a chaotic state of affairs, an absence of transparency and accountability, immersing the country further into the culture of opacity and impunity that has set in with the current regime.

This gives reason to the V Dem report, classifying the country as the 10th most autocratising country in the world. And let us not forget Moody’s — the credit rating agency has downgraded Mauritius to BAA3, just one notch above junk status, arguing that the main reason for this is that our institutions are not functioning and that policy making is abysmal.

This resonates with Acemoglu’s and Robinson’s book:’Why nations fail’ in which the authors clearly explain how poor and non-performing institutions as well as non-inclusive economics, can lead to the failure of a nation.

Jugnauth’s regime epitomises the failure of our nation but thank God that the 72% who did not vote for the MSM are mobilising to prevent a catastrophe, which may be beyond repair, if PKJ is allowed a window to cling to power.

Let us now take the examples you refer to — one by one – first Sherry Singh, the former CEO of Telecom, who denounces an alleged case of “sniffing”, embarrassing the government and needless to say, causing a lot of turmoil, particularly within the ranks of government. In the process, we find certain members of government, largely due to their incompetence and desire to nail Singh at all costs, get us into a diplomatic bind with the narrative around Huawei and the Chinese. And this particularly at a time when we need to play the card of ‘neutral diplomacy’ at its very best.

We must not ignore or forget Sherry Singh’s proximity with the Kitchen cabinet, but we must also as a nation going through very turbulent times, in search of a better and safer place for our children, avoid the outright condemnation of people like Sherry Singh, who might be potential whistle blowers.

We have Bhadain and Bodha who having been immersed in the MSM culture for years, one much more than the other, finally realise how pervert the politics of the MSM can be – hats off to both of them – better late than never! I just hope and pray that they can contribute to opening up more and reveal some of the things that had been camouflaged so well for so long, like RoshiBhadain brilliantly did with Angus Road.

We are treading in such confusion that separating the wheat from the chaff becomes extremely difficult. The latest confusion emanating from the Sherry Singh and MSM kitchen nexus is the Richmont Capital Ltd story with implications on money laundering, most probably. Allow me to borrow one of the PM’s favouritephrase: “Attan, nou a guettepli divan”.

Coming to Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, how can we possibly think that this controversy is less important. Not at all. People will never forget the crisis “au sommet de l’Etat” at the time of the unfolding saga around the platinum card used by the then president of the republic but let’s not mix issues – we are here talking about an alleged complot and the anonymous letter. Where is the truth- the people have the right to know.

I recall having written an open letter in the press, addressed to Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, asking her to “Speak Truth to Power”, especially after she had perhaps unknowingly revealed some kind of partisanship towards the ML which had proposed her name as President. We all know how Ivan Collendavelloo, leader of the ML and No 2 in government looked into the eyes of Alvaro Sobrinho in those days.

Clearly these two controversies are no less important than the AkilBissessur’s one, the latest one making the headlines. But let me quickly add that each case is unique and with different political implications, the one commonality however is each case’s linkage with the abysmal governance of the MSM-led government.

* Let’s talk about the tsunami which the former CEO of Mauritius Telecom was going to unleash. The controversy seems to have fizzled out without support from the leaders of the two mainstream parties – the Labour Party and the MMM – for good reasons apparently. What do you think?

The LP leader, judging by Sherry Singh’s body language, as he himself said on a private radio, saw the former coming across as saying the truth. The MMM leader made it clear that he was not interested in meeting Sherry Singh. The leader of the opposition, on the other hand, saw Sherry Singh as credible. All this while the PM refuses to answer the many questions which surged from all sides, in the hope of getting some clarity. But these have been systematically pushed under the carpet. Instead, we are hearing vitriolic attacks and invectives from various quarters.

The nation is caught in an imbroglio and citizens are paying the price of an absence of ethical and competent leadership. I am therefore not sure whether it is the fizzling out of the controversy or rather the absence of the right mechanisms, independent institutions and the right people able to thoroughly investigate into this matter and give a chance for the truth to come out.

We must remember that we live in a small multi-ethnic state and its associated complexities, with a political system which is out of tune with contemporary aspirations, where the reproduction of the same political and economic elite have often engineered all sorts of dynamics and relations, with some kind of mafia operating at different levels. Kistnen’s murder is a case in point.

All this said, I am not sure whether the tsunami to be unleashed by Sherry Singh has fizzled out or gone dormant as part of a strategy to strike back later but what I am sure is that there is another tsunami coming from the youth, from women and men, from the 72% who are suffering, who can no longer live a comfortable and secure life.

The unfurling of the waves can already be seen by the work and mobilisation of the various opposition parties and civil society groups.

* We then had the allegations of a ‘complot’ hatched at the highest level, which would have involved the fabrication of an anonymous letter meant to discredit Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. A graphologist had been called in, and we do not know whether or when the truth will come out if ever the police is roped in to conduct an investigation. But that’s a very serious matter, isn’t it?

Very serious indeed. Some argue that the letter was produced after Ameenah Gurib-Fakim had resigned. But to me, this is not the issue. The fact that this letter has apparently landed in the hands of ICAC some four years back but without any outcome so far. More importantly, the fact that this said letter never came in front of the commission of inquiry, is very troublesome.

If it is true that the letter had been fabricated at the PM’s office, as rumours have it, the question cannot be left unaddressed. How can citizens possibly have trust in a government which is perceived to spend more time finding ways and means to hide the truth rather than promoting transparency and allowing democracy to thrive?

You are right – whether the truth will ever come out remains a key question on our minds. And even if the police is roped in to conduct an investigation, we are not sure whether we will see any result, judging by the various pending cases.

* By the way, Ivan Collendavelloo, the political godfather of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, stated last Monday that he had no business to do with the anonymous letter sent to the PM, and that his ML would go on to support the Alliance at the next elections. He resigned from the National Assembly for much less in 1989 in the wake of the controversy surrounding his endorsement of the then Sun Resorts’ boss Sol Kerzner’s passport application. How did you react to that?

Some people actually argue that Ivan Collendavelloo was made to resign in the case of Sol Kerzner’s passport application. To me Ivan Collendaveloo has lost all credibility.

Many young people and women that I meet are not surprised that Ivan Collendavelloo and his ML (if there is anything left of it) would want to do otherwise than support the MSM. Perhaps his hands are so very tied.

Ivan Collendavelloo may choose to project himself as not having any business with the anonymous letter but surely the PM has the responsibility to clarify matters – whether he has some business with it or not.

As I mentioned earlier, the PM handed the letter to his ICAC and we the citizens, four years after, are still waiting. Also, still waiting for the report of the commission of Inquiry. Such commissions cost us taxpayers a lot of money. When will those responsible be held to account? Time is running out.

* There have also been the ongoing ‘congrès’ of the MSM being held around the island in the context of the party’s 40th anniversary, where the public was given to watch the tough posturings of Pravind Jugnauth against Paul Berenger and Navin Ramgoolam. Whether they were meant to divert public’s attention or not from recent controversies, they did make the news and offered a preview of what to expect from the MSM in the run-up to 2024 or earlier, isn’t it?

Perhaps the leader of the MSM thinks he will succeed with his strategy of using foul and inappropriate language towards his political adversaries and the press. Let me tell him that however hard he tries, he can be no match to Navin Ramgoolam or Paul Berenger or Xavier Duval.

Like all human beings these three men also have their weaknesses but the two former prime ministers are political giants and architects of the country’s modern political landscape, with each of them knowing what it takes to be a statesman. They have in more ways than one, left indelible imprints on the development and democratic advancement of the country. But do we see an iota of a statesman in the prince crowned by his father in 2014? Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 2022 August 2022

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