Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 8 April 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on April 12, 2011

8 April

Homegrown Wikileaks

et’s rise above the unwarranted insults and accusations and be
rational about the “Mega Scandal” revealed on Wednesday by
L’express in relation to the Patel Saga. The name, to begin with,
did not come from L’express but from the Leader of the Opposition,
whose job it is not to show any concessions towards the government
in place. Now, the revelations of our homegrown wikileaks are serious, by
any standards. Publishing them, therefore, is what readers would expect
any responsible newspaper to do. They are, without any doubt, of public
interest and of interest to the public.
We concede that the Neotown development may, depending on the
conditions agreed, be good for the country and we are satisfi ed that Rupen
Patel, the CEO of Patel Engineering, tells his associates that “what
differentiated PRIL [Patel Realty India Limited] from the rest [is that]
PRIL gave out actual hard numbers…as to how much the Government
will earn in taxes with this project, how far and by what percentage we
will promote tourism, how much revenue will be generated in the form
of taxes and income tax, how much employment this project will provide
and how much FDI it will entail for the Government of Mauritius.” If the
deal was based on these considerations, then we can only commend our
offi cials for being focused on our interests.
What has to be answered for, however, is why “For the fi rst time in
Mauritius the Government changed its law, went to cabinet and gave
somebody land on lease for 99 years!” The authorities would also have to
explain why Pravin Malkani, the President of Patel Engineering, “often
jokes that ‘Rupen, FSI [the Floor Space Index] cost is cheaper than the
tiles you put on it,” a joke which we would have found funny if it were not
our heritage being talked about.
Naturally, no one rules out the possibility that the leaks are an exaggerated
version of a businessman bragging about his achievements in a
desperate attempt to convince an inquisitive board of how shrewd, perspicacious
and competent he is in looking after their needs. Nor is one
ignorant of human nature.
The problem a responsible journalist is faced with each time is that
information, any type of information, is considered the private property
of those who govern us and is therefore classifi ed. And those who decide
that the information should be classifi ed are those very people who have
every interest in keeping the information to themselves. And it is this very
situation which is incongruous.
In a democracy, citizens are entitled to know the decisions made by
the public body and why. We all understand that there should be checks
and balances and that some information may very well need to be classifi
ed. The problem is that in this country, those who decide are judge and
party. And for as long as every decision is shrouded in secrecy, every leak
which comes our way is a lifeline towards information; the only window
towards the truth.
When secret information sees the light of day, inevitably the reaction
is the same the world over: any red herring to skirt the issue and persecute
those who brought it to light. We are following precisely the same script.
Why doesn’t the government let the information out through the main
door, through the Freedom of Information Act? By the end of the day,
the question is, “If there is nothing to hide why do we have to learn things
through leaks?”

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