A shameful chapter of arrogant disregard of rules, a feeling of boundless unaccountability and irresponsibility, and a sense of superiority by a numerical House majority comes to an end in Westminster
By Jan Arden
It took one full year for the House of Commons Privileges Committee, with a majority of Tory members, to complete its investigations into and submit last week its report about the Boris Johnson partygate scandal and whether the former PM had deliberately and repeatedly misled the House that all Covid rules applying to the common man had been adhered to by No.10 Downing Street.
Footage of a large group of Boris Johnson ‘look-a-likes’ holding a party outside Downing Street. P – Metro.co.uk
Among the evidence gathered, was a statement from a No 10 official that there was a “wider culture of not adhering to any rules” in the building. The official added that birthday parties, leaving parties and end of week gatherings “all continued as normal” during the pandemic. The former prime minister resigned as an MP last week after receiving an advance copy of the report, angrily accusing the Privileges Committee of bias. To his utter discomfiture, few in the Tory party had the cheek to back his stance; the Commons, forced to a vote by Labour MPs, condemned the former PM resoundingly by 354 votes to 7 with some 118 Tories, including party seniors like Theresa May, voting for the report’s findings.
Mrs May urged her fellow MPs to vote in support of the report “to uphold standards in public life, to show that we all recognise the responsibility we have to the people we serve, and to help to restore faith in our parliamentary democracy”. PM Rishi Sunak was conspicuously absent from the proceedings and slammed for cowardice.
A shameful though entertaining chapter of arrogant disregard of rules, a feeling of boundless unaccountability and irresponsibility, and a sense of superiority by a numerical House majority comes to an end in Westminster. Those few solitary souls who hold that Mauritius is a Westminster-model of democracy would have had ample time to dwell on those events and the statement by Tory Commons leader, Ms Mordaunt, that “the integrity of our institutions matter” or the more general Tory feeling that “trust had to be restored” after those inglorious episodes by their former flamboyant leader.
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The SST strikes again
ASP Jagai, who had accepted an invitation, cleared by the Commisionner of Police (CP), to appear personally on the Top FM talk show ‘Radar Lepep’ with anchorperson Mervind Beetun, to go over and perhaps polish his image and that of the Special Striking Team (SST) he heads, came surprisingly accompanied by two private lawyers and a dozen of SST personnel who managed to enter the building and the studio without any clearance.
It later transpired that a bunch of strongmen allegedly accompanying the two pro-bono lawyers threatened the journalist during a coffee break. A CCTV recording of those events was released by Mr Beetun and has gone viral. Controversies have raged about the need for ASP Jagai (Ashik and not Rashid as he stressed) requiring lawyers and a dozen or more SST officers for a civilised solo radio chat or the behaviour of the retinue present there.
Embroiled in controversial operations since its creation last year, attacked for targeting Opposition-leaning voices, accused of « planting » evidence in some high-profile cases, this should have been a most welcome opportunity to make amends with the population or correct faulty perceptions around a pacified cup of tea chit-chat. Many were left baffled whether it served the purpose of ASP Jagai to be perceived as an intimidating and powerful force probably at the service of other masters than public interest, or as being beyond the purview of the CP in such matters? Or was it simply to divert public attention from other matters of corruption of high officials as recently alleged or the wastage of public funds in unessential projects?
Be that as it may, the SST was soon reported in another spectacular operation against lawyer AkilBissessur, who they had previously miserably failed to indict on a charge of being in possession of a few grams of a prohibited substance, case roundly dismissed on 28th march this year by the Senior DistrictMagistrate Vidya Mungroo-Jugurnath. The fact that magistrate Vidya Mungroo-Jugurnath of Bambous District Court has been within two and half months transferred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) in what is termed a routine transfer exercise by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, has raised eyebrows. She had achieved some prominence through her strong and level-headed conduct of the judicial enquiry into the death of MSM chief agent SoopramanienKistnen, her report and the subsequent recommendations of the DPP for further investigations, apparently ignored by the police. If it feels and tastes like a « normal » and not a « punitive » transfer, then so be it.
To come back to the lawyer AkilBissessur, who has had four cases and provisional charges dismissed over the past three years, he stands now accused of receiving a Mauritius Post parcel containing some Ecstasy pills allegedly destined for his brother. The circumstances are so strange that they could inspire a Bollywood third-rate drama. As the investigation (of course by the SST itself…) is still ongoing, we will refrain from commenting but we learn that the PM in Parliament this week has extended his support to the SST and its boss. It is equally true that he also stated that the mafia has infiltrated our institutions, without giving much further details. As he is the country’s best informed man with daily police briefings, national security and other briefings, and a fully orientable radar to boot, one must acknowledge his undisputed right to know what he is talking about.
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Adios Urban Voters
After the first of May celebrations in Vacoas, termed a great success by the MSM, and a budget that has been perceived as bending over in distribution of « goodies » to selected segments of the population, without an accompanying vision of the country’s general direction, some were tempted to believe that the MSM would run the risk of boldly throwing the gauntlet down in the municipal elections due for june 2023 after two successive postponements.
The possibility that the regime may be forced to go for general elections through external events like the looming judicial review by the Privy Council of its electoral fortunes in Constituency No. 8 cannot be excluded, but clearly the budget did not elicit the sort of feel-good factor that would allow the MSM to face the urban electorate with some fighting chances. Neither was it perhaps designed to be so, being more of an attempt to hold off the ire of a population that has endured pains and sacrifices for over a year, until the heavy artillery of more « goodies » is sprung in the next and final budget exercise.
Meantime there was a need to avoid rocking the boat through municipal elections that could have wide-ranging implications should the MSM and its mayors and councillors, in office since 2015, be thrown out of office. Hence the hastily concocted amendment to further postpone municipal elections for a further two years voted by virtue of a simple majority in an MSM-led National Assembly.
This amendment has been the subject of at least five different appeals or requests for judicial review by the Supreme Court – all challenging the right of the PM to advise the President on such a postponement which would take us even further away from claims that we operate under a Westminster model. It would be in the interests of the population and the country’s democratic structures, values and functions that such appeals, possibly regrouped, be heard as a matter of priority by the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 23 June 2023
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