Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 24 June 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 27, 2011

Weekly 24 Juin

A war of perceptions

We are not insensitive to Rehana Ameer’s plight. Losing
one’s job has to be one of the most traumatic experiences
one can go through. It could happen to anyone
and it could happen in a variety of ways. You could be
given notice and, therefore, time to fi nd alternative employment
or you could simply walk into your offi ce and fi nd out that you are
unable to log onto your computer. More than the loss of income, it is
perhaps seeing your self-esteem crash through a trapdoor which is
more devastating.
From the emotional point of view, we fi nd it easy to sympathize
with Rehana Ameer, a girl who has become almost like a member of
our family. She happily reveals to us who she would like us to believe
she is. She tells us about her favourite dishes, the man without whom
she cannot live, the faratas she likes to cook, a coy wink to the one she
calls “the man of my life,” who, we learn, likes to eat them. We equally
learn about her pets etc. etc. etc. And, before we know it, Rehana is a
heroine, fi ghting for laudable causes. As a result, Dan Callikan turns
into public enemy number one. In this respect, it is easy to allow our
emotions to run away with us. The man is a harsh disciplinarian, he
is close to power, heading an institution many love to hate and is impervious
to criticism. He is, therefore, guilty as charged.
However, if we put our emotions aside for a little while and examine
this whole saga rationally, we are left with quite a few unanswered
questions, the fi rst one being: Exactly what cause is Rehana
Ameer fi ghting for? She was dismissed from her job and seems to be
genuinely convinced that her dismissal is unjustifi ed. We do not know
the truth. We are not a court of law. However, the most logical thing
one would expect someone who has been unjustly dismissed to do
is to seek redress in the only forum available, the industrial court. If
the MBC is found guilty, Rehana Ameer, I am given to understand,
could walk away with a few million rupees cash and the MBC could
be put to shame! That would be fi ghting for justice!
The second question is: Without giving up on any of her rights,
why doesn’t Mrs. Ameer look for another job? There is an acute shortage
of talent in marketing and working is more dignifying than the
handouts she claims to be living off.
The answer is that Mrs. Ameer wants only one thing, for which
she is prepared to die: her job back! I am sorry but there is no country
in the world where jobs belong to people. When your employer does
not want you any more, you no longer have a job. If the dismissal is
unjustifi ed, it will cost him enough to perhaps make him regret his
decision. The other side of the coin is: when you no longer want to
work for an employer, you walk out. You don’t have to spend the rest
of your life sticking it out in a job you hate. When the relationship
between the employee and the employer is damaged, it is not in
anyone’s interest to work together. Emotions should not get in the
way of rationality. Without checks and balances, no system can function.
The Fact Finding Committee set up this week in this connection
will not change that.
weekly@lexpress.mu

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l’express Weekly, 17 June 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 20, 2011

Pdf weekly 17 juin

The good the bad and the hopeless

I don’t give a damn about being popular,” the minister of Commerce
said in an interview in l’express-dimanche. For his sake,
I sincerely hope he meant it. For, if last Tuesday’s parliamentary
session were a popularity contest, Michael Sik Yen’s fi rst performance
as a minister promoted to Commerce would have put him at the
bottom of the heap. For someone who boasted that he gets home at two
am and carries on working at night and through weekends, one cannot help
but wonder whether the minister could not do with some sleep instead.
Many of us would be capable of a much less mediocre performance if we
prepared for the questions in our sleep.
Watching the parliamentary exchange, I could not help but sympathize
with the leader of the opposition and share in his frustration
and helplessness. It was impossible to get anything across no matter
what language one spoke. The contrasting style of a well-prepared Paul
Bérenger, who had done his homework thoroughly, and a diffi dent
minister who suddenly discovered, with obvious shock, that the power
bestowed upon him and which he seems so proud of comes with responsibilities,
created a burlesque situation verging on the tragi-comic.
In one session, Michael Sik Yuen beat the record for dodging questions
without managing to wriggle his way out of trouble. First, he asked
for the simplest of questions to be repeated, then he tried his luck with
the vaguest of answers and, caught by an opponent with a reputation
for not pulling his punches, said that a committee was looking into the
matter, then another committee, before he took refuge in the promise
that he would look into the matter himself. In the end, he plucked up
what heart he could and admitted, almost pleadingly, that he had taken
on the portfolio only a week before! Waw Waw! For someone who states
that he works day and night! Sometimes silence IS golden. Besides,
wasn’t he the minister of Business, Enterprise, Cooperatives and
Consumer Protection? How was he protecting our interests all this
time if he did not have a clue what was going on in the STC?
When he fi nally sat down, arms crossed like a pupil who had just been
scolded by the headmistress, the smile on his face was ambiguous: was it
embarrassment or relief that one could read? Or perhaps gratitude. For he
owes quite a few ‘thank you’ notes: fi rst to the speaker who tried several
times to rephrase the questions. Second, to the prime minister who must
have been so embarrassed by his minister’s performance that he tried to
advise him through a row of ministers. And, believe it or not, he even owes
a ‘thank you’ note to Showkatally Soodhun, who must have felt so much
pity that the initial smug expression on his face was wiped off and the selfsatisfi
ed look replaced with concern as he tried to murmur some strategy
to bail his colleague out. Fancy! I wonder whether he will have the modesty
to send another note to his advisors and press attaché who, throughout
the dismal performance, were running left, right and centre like headless
chickens trying to get notes to him to try and fi sh him out of his misery.
Well, if Michael Sik Yuen has not realised that there is a great
difference between talk and action, he has at least the merit of having
made everyone else realise it.
Some ministers need to be put out to grass. Seriously. This is a
patriotic piece of advice.

Idon’t give a damn about being popular,” the minister of Commerce
said in an interview in l’express-dimanche. For his sake,
I sincerely hope he meant it. For, if last Tuesday’s parliamentary
session were a popularity contest, Michael Sik Yen’s fi rst performance
as a minister promoted to Commerce would have put him at the
bottom of the heap. For someone who boasted that he gets home at two
am and carries on working at night and through weekends, one cannot help
but wonder whether the minister could not do with some sleep instead.
Many of us would be capable of a much less mediocre performance if we
prepared for the questions in our sleep.
Watching the parliamentary exchange, I could not help but sympathize
with the leader of the opposition and share in his frustration
and helplessness. It was impossible to get anything across no matter
what language one spoke. The contrasting style of a well-prepared Paul
Bérenger, who had done his homework thoroughly, and a diffi dent
minister who suddenly discovered, with obvious shock, that the power
bestowed upon him and which he seems so proud of comes with responsibilities,
created a burlesque situation verging on the tragi-comic.
In one session, Michael Sik Yuen beat the record for dodging questions
without managing to wriggle his way out of trouble. First, he asked
for the simplest of questions to be repeated, then he tried his luck with
the vaguest of answers and, caught by an opponent with a reputation
for not pulling his punches, said that a committee was looking into the
matter, then another committee, before he took refuge in the promise
that he would look into the matter himself. In the end, he plucked up
what heart he could and admitted, almost pleadingly, that he had taken
on the portfolio only a week before! Waw Waw! For someone who states
that he works day and night! Sometimes silence IS golden. Besides,
wasn’t he the minister of Business, Enterprise, Cooperatives and
Consumer Protection? How was he protecting our interests all this
time if he did not have a clue what was going on in the STC?
When he fi nally sat down, arms crossed like a pupil who had just been
scolded by the headmistress, the smile on his face was ambiguous: was it
embarrassment or relief that one could read? Or perhaps gratitude. For he
owes quite a few ‘thank you’ notes: fi rst to the speaker who tried several
times to rephrase the questions. Second, to the prime minister who must
have been so embarrassed by his minister’s performance that he tried to
advise him through a row of ministers. And, believe it or not, he even owes
a ‘thank you’ note to Showkatally Soodhun, who must have felt so much
pity that the initial smug expression on his face was wiped off and the selfsatisfi
ed look replaced with concern as he tried to murmur some strategy
to bail his colleague out. Fancy! I wonder whether he will have the modesty
to send another note to his advisors and press attaché who, throughout
the dismal performance, were running left, right and centre like headless
chickens trying to get notes to him to try and fi sh him out of his misery.
Well, if Michael Sik Yuen has not realised that there is a great
difference between talk and action, he has at least the merit of having
made everyone else realise it.
Some ministers need to be put out to grass. Seriously. This is a
patriotic piece of advice.

L’express Weekly, 10 June 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 10, 2011

Pdf weekly 10 june

These modest souls

“Modesty died when false modesty was born,” said S. L.
Clemens, a saying which never sounded truer or more
appropriate than this week. Take our friend Showkutally
Soodhun. Isn’t it wonderful for a minister to have the
modesty to refuse to take on more than he can chew? He accepts, on his
own initiative of course, to relinquish the portfolio of commerce. Far from feeling humiliated, he reiterates his “allegiance to the government” or, in other words, his desperate call to be allowed to keep the bone which has been stripped of the meat by the prime minister’s sharp carving knife.
Cut down to size, Mr. Soodhun will spend some time nibbling at the
following bare bones: Industrial Technology and Development, the Mauritius Standards Bureau, the Mauritius Accreditation Service, whatever these mean and (please don’t laugh) the Jewellery Advisory Council. In other words, he will cause no further harm. As to his dreams of becoming the PM of this country, well, maybe in another life.
Then we have some members of our Legislative Assembly who are so
modest that they believe that they can do two major jobs simultaneously
better than if they were shared between two people? If one is drawing a
salary and still has time to take on another job, the chances are that one is probably underworked and the problem should be tackled immediately. I hope the bill goes through and that opportunities are opened up to a wider circle of people instead of being restricted to those who hog up so many responsibilities and do not tire of reminding us of the sacrifi ces they are making for the country.
The same principle should be extended to some of our indispensable
civil servants like our chief government valuer who is so unique that he accepts, for the sake of serving the country, to do two jobs simultaneously with such gross confl ict of interest that one can only wonder where those who are paid to protect our interests hide in such circumstances. The parastatal bodies are perhaps the worst demonstration of the monopoly some have on our institutions. Some of our well-connected compatriots have been sitting on boards for years and will never, out of their own volition, go back to their
profession because, if they have one, they are so poor at it that they cannot pay their bills by exercising it. Some are being moved from one board to another and are too modest to stop sacrifi cing themselves and take up a regular job where they are called upon to actually work to make a living.
And this modesty is not the monopoly of the rich and powerful. Take
the inhabitants of the integrated village of La Valette. This project of social integration was an excellent initiative by the National Empowerment Foundation: it provided accommodation to the most vulnerable sections of our population in exchange for them committing to taking up employment, sending their children to school and settling their mortgages. Today, it is clear that many of these people have no intention of working, caring for their children or doing anything other than smoking, drinking and, for some, taking drugs. The situation has reached such proportions that the minister for social integration himself sent a clear warning to those who think they are too good to take up employment like the rest of us; a warning which was supported even by the Non-Government Organisations working in the area.
This overweening arrogance has become our national trait. Modesty is
indeed dead and buried.

Weekly@lexpress.mu