Touria Prayag's Blog

Gaming the system? 13 February 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

The mercantile spirit seems to have seeped so
deep into our country’s pores that we have
begun accepting it as part of our lives, allowing
it to eat into our well-being. Worse, we at times
actively participate in it.
The polemic surrounding the doctors and
insurance companies is a case in point. It is
not our intention to paint all professionals with
the same brush. However, some of our doctors
were perhaps absent when their colleagues
took the Hippocratic Oath and we all know
what the odds are on them one day having an
attack of conscience. And lawyers are no better.
When you go to see a lawyer – which usually
happens in times of distress – his/her main
concern seems to be the number of digits on
your cheque rather than your complaint or
alleged offence. At times, some lawyers even
ask you if you need a receipt before they decide
how much to charge you. Read: a receipt costs
15% more. VAT wasn’t introduced by lawyers
so you can’t expect them to be responsible for
it. Also, if the Mauritius Revenue Authority
has to scrape a piece of your lawyer’s fees, it
has to come out of your own pocket.
Now with the doctors, the polemic is even
more saddening as we go to them when our
health is failing us or even when our lives are
at stake. And it is normally the agony in which
this takes place that some of our doctors thrive
on to make of their profession a lucrative and
unethical business. Some of the clinics may
be party to the business but so are we as
patients. Those of us who accept that the
doctor charges more when we are insured than
if we were not. Those of us who do not care
what the bill of the clinic looks like as long as
we are not forking anything out of our pockets.
And those of us who do not sanction the
doctors who are reputed for having turned into
business practitioners should all plead guilty.
Many of us are too shortsighted to realise that
whatever we are signing for comes out of our
pockets directly or indirectly. Insurance
companies are not a charity – oh far from it!
So, if we have been encouraging the practice
of doctors who dig deep into our insurance
companies’ coffers, we have indirectly been
working towards increasing our own insurance
premium and that of our compatriots.
Insurance companies have a list of 13 clinics and
over 100 doctors – general practitioners and
specialists in all fi elds from paediatrics to
dentistry – on their approved list of doctors and
private hospitals. These – we presume – are
doctors and clinics that are prepared to play the
game of honesty and transparency by having
their fees regulated. As patients, we might
perhaps benefi t by encouraging them. As for the
doctors threatening not to accept insurance cards
as payment, they had better begin by explaining
to us why they are not on that list. Whether their
fees are paid in cash – without a receipt at times
– or through our insurance, they still come out
of our pockets. So, the doctors are not fi ghting
the insurance companies; they are fi ghting us
– the ones directly or indirectly footing the bill!
weekly@lasentinelle.mu

Advertisements

Milking tragedy 6 February 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

In the aftermath of the horrendous crimes
perpetrated last week against three women, some
voices were raised in the press about the
indifference of women’s associations and
Opposition MP Satish Boolell went on air to ask
why these associations were not marching in the
streets as a sign of protest for violence against
women. He gave the example of the gang rape
in India which drew millions of protesters onto
the streets in various parts of the sub-continent.
Before responsible people start mystifying
issues and making suggestions of drastic
action, it is perhaps worthwhile highlighting
certain crucial points:
First, the long arm of the law took no time to
nab the perpetrators of those heinous crimes.
One after the other, they were questioned and
locked up while awaiting trial and what will
hopefully be an exemplary punishment. While
this is small comfort for the grieving families,
it is important to highlight that no one in this
country gets away with crimes of that nature,
unlike in countries like India, for example,
where women had to march in the streets after
the outrageous gang rape before the law
enforcement mechanism started working.
Secondly, atrocious though the crimes committed
against these women may be, crimes of passion,
which have always existed and still exist in all
societies, are committed while in the throes of
passion, with no opportunity to refl ect on what
is about to happen.
One-third of all homicides, according to
statistics, are escalations of trivial squabbles
arising among spouses, strangers, co-workers,
neighbours, friends and family members –
killing scores of people every day worldwide.
The killers do not necessarily have a history of
violence but rather are human time bombs on
the point of exploding if there is a trigger.
Naturally, in traditional patriarchal societies like
ours, macho pride of immature and ‘tough’
wanna-be alpha-males who cannot accept that
their wives or partners can potentially fall for
someone else, tend to tip the scales against
women. That does not make the issue a gender
one and has nothing to do with feminism or
feminist associations. After all, one of the women
who was killed had herself killed her previous
husband and was out on bail.
Last but most important is perhaps our reaction
to tragedies. Every tragedy is now seen as a photo
op that we all queue up for without wondering
what purpose that is likely to achieve. If we don’t
seize the opportunity, this is taken as a sign of
indifference. What is the matter with us? Have
we become idle to that point or are we simply
turning into a bunch of attention seekers
desperately craving the limelight?
If we want to come out of our apathy, here are a
few useful suggestions: Those who were really
scandalized by the murders of the three innocent
women and want to show some solidarity can
give some fi nancial help to the families who are
mourning the tragic deaths of their dear ones.
They could equally provide funds which would
see the children left behind through their
education so that they can escape their parents’
tragic fate. Those who are even more concerned
can pay for a boarding school in the UK or
Australia to make sure the orphaned children
get the type of education which would lift them
out of poverty forever.
Naturally, help of this kind requires a real
demonstration of sympathy and does not provide
for a photo op. And that is where our sympathy stops.
weekly@lasentinelle.mu

The bureaucratic orphan 30 January 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

The nastier-than-thou bidding war
between the Ministry of Local Administration
and the Municipality of
Port Louis is a badge of shame for
local governance. The indignation
which a simple increase in the trade
fee has aroused in the inhabitants of
the capital has pushed the minister of
local government, Hervé Aimée, and
the mayor of Port Louis to jump at
each other’s throats, each trying to
pass the buck. In the middle of this
unbecoming row and the meticulously
crafted pseudo-denials which have
shrouded the whole episode, a gaping
hole has been left for everyone to see.
First, the Port Louis mayor hotfooted
her way to the press offering her side
of the story: that she had nothing to
do with the trade fee increase and
Aimée should take all the blame! Yet,
the law is clear to anyone who bothers
to ask. According to the Local Government
Act introduced in 2011 –
which came to be known as the Aimée
Law – the Municipalities are totally
independent and free to decide on the
quantum of the trade fee they want to
raise. Their role is to decide how they
want to raise funds, come up with
regulations and then pass them onto
the ministry for advice – advice they
are totally free to reject, by the way.
The only role the ministry has, according
to the law, is to gazette those
regulations and put them into effect.
Does the minister of local government
have any legal right to amend the fee
or intervene in any way? The answer
is no.
So what is the mayor’s contention
then? It changes from day to day. First,
it was not her idea to have such an
increase. A simple look at the Local
Government Act reveals that this is an
intellectually dishonest argument: if
the responsibility for raising funds for
the Municipality falls squarely on the
mayor of the town, who else can come
up with the regulation? Then came
the argument of not being agreeable
to a uniform trade fee – a legitimate
argument to a certain extent: Municipalities
should have the option of
keeping different rates to encourage
businesses to set up shops in towns
where there is commercial decline. But
if the municipalities and district authorities
resent having a uniform trade
fee, why did they voluntarily acquiesce
to the policy only to then attack and
disown it the next day. Municipalities,
after all, do have the option to reject
any recommendation from the minister
of local government. If they chose
not to exercise their right in this particular
instance, the complaint which
followed is either of bad faith or an
instance of shirking their responsibility
and playing politics!
All these sterile arguments take us
away from the real problem the Municipality
should be tackling and
which it – or the Ministry for that
matter – has not been able to tackle:
that of ridding the traders of the unfair
competition to allow them to make a
profit and be happy to pay the trade
fee. Ah, but that’s a sacred cow no one
wants to meddle with!
weekly@lasentinelle.mu

Hating the haters 23 January 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

The comment spread like a bushfi re over the weekend.
Despicable it was – there is no argument about
that. But that is not the debate.
The debate is wider than a half-witted woman ranting
on Facebook about abolishing Tamil/Hindu
festivals in almost unintelligible terms. It is wider
than another misfi t who decided to write about the
whole Muslim community as a way to rid herself of
the anger she had been harbouring against her own
husband. And it is certainly much deeper than a
couple of puerile adolescents posing on graves in a
Christian cemetery and fl aunting the event as a big
achievement. The debate is about the laws which
regulate this type of behaviour and to what extent
they can be enforced.
It is not our intention to minimise the act of posting
offensive messages on Facebook. Far from it. Every
time a silly or ignorant Facebooker posts something
that is perceived to be against a particular religion
or community, the reaction takes on gargantuan
proportions.
Yes, we do live in a racially-fragile society where
communal feelings and tensions run very high. We
have been living peacefully in this country because
there is an unwritten code: that of practising one’s
religion – or not practising any – and keeping off
criticising that of others. With that in mind, one has
to be aware of how little it takes to whip up sentiment
and therefore using social media to spread one’s
garbage should be checked one way or the other.
However, fl outing Section 282 of the law – “inciting
racial and religious hatred” – which carries a maximum
sentence of 20 years imprisonment – quite
apart from being grossly disproportionate, is very
diffi cult to enforce when it comes to social media.
How many statuses are posted every second on
Facebook? How many of those become public? How
many reactions are there to these postings? How do
you treat the ‘like’ reactions? In this recent incident,
there were 39 by the weekend. Are those who ‘liked’
the status all complicit in the crime? How about those
who reacted through death threats? And more importantly,
how can one establish ‘intent’ in cases of
postings on social media? How much thought is
actually given to each of these statuses before they
are published?
But more worrying perhaps is Section 282(2) of the
law, which carries up to four years in prison for
printing or publishing material containing racist
comments even if there was no intention to offend!
Is it fair to tar somebody (in most cases youth) for
life based on an act whose ramifi cations they didn’t
foresee or even intend?
In his preliminary report on Media Law and Ethics
in Mauritius, Geoffrey Robertson expresses his
concern about this section of the law and clearly
states that “The printer or publisher should only be
liable if he or she knows the nature of the material
and publishes it reckless as to the consequence that
it will stir up racial hatred.”
Technology has moved so fast these last few years
and the ‘citizen journalist’ now is busy posting all
sorts of comments in all sorts of social media. These
views commit only the writer, not an organised body
or publication. Many are written on the spur of the
moment. There is no moderator or editor to decide
what material might be liable. Our laws need to be
reviewed to accommodate that. Right now, liability
seems to be dictated by the Facebook reactions and
the number of people who take to the streets. “Serious
criminal liability should, in my view, be contingent
upon an intention to commit the crime,” says
Geoffrey Robertson. In many of the ugly and abhorrent
random postings, there is none.

The tail wagging the dog 16 January 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

The distinctive aroma of reconciliation has
been wafting through from the Treasury
building after a week-long media orgy where
various publications had to grind out endless
stories about whether Finance Minister Xavier
Duval would stay with his coalition partner
or leave government. As the country limps
back into business as usual, all the speculations
are swatted with the line we so expected: The
minister of fi nance did not mean to challenge
or blackmail the prime minister and the latter
is very happy to work with the former and he
had no intention of wooing his ally’s members
into his party. The Labour Party Secretary
General Kalyanee Juggoo – after causing so
much damage and shooting her mouth off as
only she is capable of doing – seized the opportunity
to declare her love for Xavier Duval.
So, move along. Nothing to see here.
No one can match the prime minister’s and
his minister of fi nance’s repertoire of artful
brush-offs. However, these meticulously crafted
pseudo-denials do stand the test of credibility
because, if you analyze the events prior to
the meeting of the two leaders of the coalition
properly, there isn’t a single statement uttered
by Duval to suggest that he was leaving the
government. He smiled through the intense
courtship period by the opposition without
giving any inclination as to where his heart
stood. Basking in the euphoria of being desired,
he said nothing, did nothing. Why
should he? By keeping his mouth shut, he
entertained the ambiguity, nourished the
nascent hope of an even more unnatural possible
alliance and thus kept the opposition off
his back for the whole budget discussions.
What a feat!
Even in the Michael Sik Yuen episode,
Duval’s statements were measured and ambiguous
enough to accommodate a possible
face-saving brush-off if necessary. Rumours
that he may have asked for seven investitures
from the Remake remained just that – rumours.
If he did ask for that many, it meant he
wasn’t taking the whole issue seriously in the
fi rst place. The PMSD does not have seven
people to fi eld even if Duval included those
who were associated with the drug dealer
Cindy Legallant, those who are out on bail
and those who drink their cough mixture on
the rocks! So all in all, Duval came out of this
whole saga pretty much unscathed while the
opposition – shooting from the hip – lost its
shirt and showed the extent to which it was
prepared to go to get to power. Paul Bérenger
has to lie low for a long time before we forget
the despair he has displayed.
The most worrying part about this whole
episode is coming to terms with the realisation
– yet again – of how much power tiny parties
wield when coalitions become a hotchpotch of
the most insane combinations to steal our vote.
For a party with a generous 2% following, two
elected members, one best loser and one worst
loser, the party has not done too badly at all.
Two ministers and two private parliamentary
secretaries! As for the MSM with less than 4%
support, the 50-50 mandate they have managed
to negotiate is stunning. Half-way
through the mandate at best, we are likely to
witness the same scenario of the tail wagging
the dog.
So, how much decision-making power do
we as voters have and how much power do
those who negotiate on our behalf for their
own selfi sh interest have? How much of that
power do they give to the parties few of us vote
for? The answer to that question is a terrible
verdict on our democracy.
weekly@lasentinelle.mu

The metrics of democracy 9 January 2014

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

To reform or not to reform? That is not the question. The question really is what kind of reform would further
our democracy and spare us the kind of political mess we are going through today with political opponents
shopping around and bargaining like housewives in a fi sh market.
In his message to the nation, the prime minister mentioned the white paper – yet again – and promised to
introduce reforms, provided that these bring people together rather than divide them. The problem is that the
kind of reforms we have been hearing about are cosmetic changes which have no relevance to our democracy.
Some of these – like having even more members sitting in our national assembly and doing what they do best
like fer lezie dou (making sheep’s eyes) at each other – we could frankly do without.
What our political system needs is an overhaul which would make it possible for the government to rule, the
opposition to criticise freely and honestly and protect our interests whenever these are threatened and a national
assembly open to able and willing people who wish to join in.
This is a quick history lesson of what we have recently had: An unnatural alliance of three parties which have
little in common except their ambition – disproportionate for some – to be in power was put in place to make
up the one rupee necessary for the major party to be elected with a large majority. This was combined with a
‘loyal’ MMM opposition with similar ambitions which sacrifi ced its mission and credibility in the hope of
joining the government. When the fi rst party (the MSM) – under fi re of the opposition – had to leave the
government, the opposition immediately allied itself with it before it turned its attention to the other political
party in power (the PMSD) and sacrifi ce its input on the budgetary discussion to lure its leader to their side.
A fi erce hush-hush conspiracy followed in a shameful canvassing for anyone willing to leave their party for a
profi t. A few turncoats managed to rat their way into juicy ministerial positions they are unable to handle and
some of the most mediocre politicians started bargaining their way up in the most shameless manner. This
same game continues today, leading to a near-crisis with the PMSD rumoured to be leaving the government,
Aurore Perraud becoming the next best thing since sliced bread and the MMM/MSM remake in troubled
waters. In other words, politicians did a good job of their dedication to ruthlessly – but unfortunately lawfully
– undermining authentic democracy and did an even better job of deluding the public.
So, if reform there is, it should start with strict laws banning pre-poll coalitions. No party should go before the
people riding on any other party’s back. After the elections, coalitions can be formed translating the will of the
people through the weight given to each party by the electorate. Any party which – for whatever reason – fi nds
itself unable to work with its partner should step down. Politicians will thus no longer be allowed to shop around
and bargain as if they were in a market place. If they want to change sides, they should go back to the electorate
and get its plebiscite.
For as long as we have a fl awed, badly skewed democracy where unethical politicians and political parties waltz
from one side to the other, our stability will be continuously threatened and we will continue to feel that elections
have been stolen from us and our will defeated. Reform should start by giving us the power we ought to have:
that of deciding on the parties and people who should lead us and keeping them there until we decide otherwise.

Trial by opinion 19 December 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

Provisionally charged with giving instruction
to commit a crime and conspiracy to fabricate
evidence, Roshi Badhain, out on bail, surprises
journalists present in court by announcing there
and then his intention to join politics. Why not? The
court yard is as good a place as any to announce
such a decision and, if you are out on bail, you probably
already have one foot in politics anyway.
Badhain refuses to say which party he intends
to join – with Pravind Jugnauth standing right
behind him, the suspense is unbearably excruciating!
– and that decision belongs to him and him
only. Not that it makes any difference to anyone’s
life. However, if I could give him a piece of advice
– which I’m not going to charge for this time – I
would suggest that he join an opposition party –
really anyone. Even Le Parti Malin will do.
This piece of advice by the way is free for anyone
else willing to take it. As long as you are in the
opposition, anytime you are collared by the police
or you have to make an appearance in court because
you have been caught completely fl at-footed,
you can swat the accusations levelled against you
with the line that “human rights are being rolled
back” and claim that because you are a serious
political contender, you are being harassed by your
opponents through the police and the courts of
law. Some well-meaning journalist may rush to
relay the information, you will spring into the
limelight and some mysterious organisation in
dire need of making itself known might even give
you its unconditional support. There! You are already
a politician. I mean a hero and a martyr. If
you have enough friends on Facebook, they will
rope their ‘friends’ into a support group – sometimes
without the ‘friends’ being aware of who they
are supporting or if they are supporting anyone
– and you soon fi nd yourself with thousands of
supporters and a lobby group.
In the middle of the brouhaha, nobody will ask
themselves – or you – the question of whether there
is any proof of your innocence or your guilt. These
are secondary matters. It’s not – perish the thought
– as if we were living in un état de droit where only
a court of law is able to decide on your guilt or innocence.
The only proof of innocence or guilt is the
one the public wants to hear or not hear. This tells
you all you need to know about justice and public
opinion in this country.
I have seen this movie time and time again and
it will not have a happy ending. No one is saying
that our police are the best asset this country has.
There are some nasty pieces of work there. Nobody
is saying that Nitesh Ramdharry is an angel. He
is not claiming that either. What we are saying is
that – as citizens – we don’t have enough information
to try other citizens no matter what their
political colour is. Those who have the information
should act on it: The Mauritius Revenue Authority
should fi nd out why receipts were not issued –
oh, sorry, why those who handed out hundreds of
thousands of rupees in fees somehow forgot to pick
up their receipts – the courts need to fi nd out
whether there is any circumstantial evidence
which gives credence to Ramdharry’s accusations
– like telephone calls exchanged between Bhadain
and his client or with his cousin Yash Bhadain –
which are damning. Those are the issues Bhadain
should address. His political ambitions are neither
here nor there.

Men in Black 12 December 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

Whether Roshi Bhadain’s tears at the press
conference last week were genuine or crocodile
tears staged like everything else – from
the presence of his wife and daughter to the
inexplicable physical support of the Jeannots
– one thing is for sure: they are symptomatic
of the situation of the legal profession
these days. It is in a very sorry state. Lawyer
Sanjay Bhuckory, in a conference organised
by the Bar Council to refl ect on the profession,
qualifi ed this year as “an annus horribilis”
for the men in black.
Indeed, never before have we seen men and
women who are supposed to be the guarantors
of our justice make the headlines for alleged
illegal, unethical and unacceptable practices.
The people accused are, naturally, entitled to
their day in court and we have no intention of
pre-empting what our courts of justice may
decide. However, the fact remains that the
damage has already been done and that the
profession will fi nd it increasingly hard to undo
the perception – true or not – that the continuous
allegations have created. This perception
is made so much worse with the insane politicization
of issues which are purely legal.
No sooner had the nation started getting over
the shock of allegations against the attorney
general than another ex-attorney general, Rama
Valayden as well as another lawyer Rouben
Mooroongapillay started making the headlines
in connection with the Bramer Bank saga.
Then barristers started keeping our newsrooms
busy. First, Roshi Bhadain was accused by his
own client of having advised him to cheat and
lie. Then another lawyer – Mario Jeannot’s
barrister, Roubina Jadoo Jaunbocus – was accused
of acting as a go-between with politicians
with Jeannot proudly admitting that he had
himself advised her to “roule Yatin Varma dans
la farine!”(to take Yatin Varma for a ride).
Then we have a more mediatised case: that of
Ravi Rutnah, who is accused of having circulated
a video in 2012 of two people – according
to him Michaela Harte and her husband – arguing
in a hotel, insinuating that the husband may
have killed the wife following the argument.
By the time the truth had come out that the
people on the video had nothing to do with the
couple (see our cover story this week), it was
too late in the day.
All this from people who are entrusted with
making sure justice prevails!
Add to this a justice system which is far too
slow to reassure those using it that justice is
seen to be done, lawyers who use every trick in
the book to keep postponing the cases they
don’t want the men with the gavel to rule on,
other barristers who fall sick at will and miraculously
recover when convenient, some
judges who are too busy making money through
private arbitration to have their full energy
concentrated on punishing crime and you come
to the conclusion that Bhadain should not be
the only one crying. We should all join in the
tears, not for his plight but for the state of the
profession. But while shedding these tears, let’s
not forget who the real victims are. It is not the
ones who are supposed to preserve the law but
instead break it; it is not the ones who – as soon
as they are caught with their hand in the cookie
jar start using all sorts of tactics thus creating
a smoke screen and try to attract sympathy. It
is defi nitely not those who – when accused –
refuse to use the same system they are paid to
serve. The real victims are us – the users of
justice. It is us who should weep our sad bosoms
empty!

Education and masala 5 December 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

Our discussions about tertiary education
this week have been revolving around juicy
snippets published in Indian newspapers.
What is worrying is that these salacious
tidbits are increasingly framing the debate,
thus detracting us from real issues.
In an article entitled “Fraud Campus
broke rules in both Mauritius and India”,
our colleagues from India suggest that the
EIILM campus in Mauritius is illegal, that
the degrees are not awarded by the Indian
university and that “even institutes that have
been set up off-shore campuses legally are
not allowed to give an Indian degree”. If this
is the case, then India must be unique in the
world. In every other country we know where
universities have set up campuses abroad,
the mother university not only awards degrees
but the students studying in its offshore
campuses can also choose to graduate
on the main campus or even swap and study
there for part of their course if they so wish.
In fact, in Mauritius, there is no private
tertiary education institution which is allowed
to award its qualifi cations. The parent
universities are the only awarding bodies.
In the case of the EIILM, the degree
certifi cates we have seen were indeed awarded
by Sikkim University and signed by its
vice-chancellor. Now, if these qualifi cations
are not accepted in India, that must be an
Indian problem. They are accepted in the
rest of the world and a number of students
we have contacted have been able to secure
places for postgraduate courses in the UK
and France. Maybe India has better regulations
than Europe!
The role of the University Grants Commission
(UGC) in India and how much
power it has in regulating universities there
and abroad, is not clear. Out of the 145 private
universities in India, by December
2012, only 53 were actually checked by the
UGC. Astoundingly, out of these 53, only
fi ve – yes, fi ve – were found by the UGC to
be ‘in order’. Never mind the fact that even
postgraduate programmes from UK universities
setting up shop in India have faced the
same problems of non-recognition.
Now, hear us out here: we have not gone
to the extent of saying that Sikkim University
has a good reputation in India – far from
it – or that it is dispensing good quality
courses. What we are saying is that that
should be the debate. For that to happen, we
need to move away from politicking and
half-truths and open a debate about the
universities we should be allowed to tap to
set up campuses in Mauritius. We are not
likely to live up to the ambition of becoming
a quality knowledge hub if we do not have
stringent rules – as they do in countries like
Malaysia and Singapore – to control the
quality of education we give our local students
and the regional ones we are hoping
to attract. Our focus, therefore, should be
on all the tertiary education institutions
which are mushrooming on our island and
how to regulate them.
Cheap politics damage our reputation,
that of our own students and detract us
from what we consider the real issues:
whether we should set standards when it
comes to the universities setting up campuses
on our shores or we should be allowed
to scrape the barrel. Instead of cheap
politics and bad press, that is the only
debate that we should be interested

The cancer of our politics 28 November 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on January 23, 2015

If there were any doubts in your mind that, in
politics, we have hit rock bottom, Tuesday’s
parliamentary session should have erased them
by now. What was supposed to be the close of
the budgetary debates turned out to be a fullfl
edged electoral campaign, no less.
But then again that is the problem with politics
in this country. Instead of campaigning and
standing for election at the appropriate time as
they do elsewhere, here we keep running for
election continously. As soon as a government
steps in, the opposition starts a new campaign.
The alliance/misalliance game complicates
matters and literally skews our democracy.
But let’s fi rst start with the opposition’s walkout,
which – like hunger strikes – has become so
commonplace that it has lost its value and some
may say is a dereliction of duty. For heavens’
sake, the job of the opposition is to sit in parliament
and tell us which of the measures proposed
in the budget are bad and how to deal with them.
Instead, they have been boycotting the debates
for the last three years.
Now, while they were out, the prime minister
had an excellent opportunity to start his own
campaign. It is not only the opposition which
keeps running for elections but the government
as well. Navin Ramgoolam took three long hours
and all sorts of diversions to engage in what was
effectively a party political broadcast, going to
the extent of asking again for a three-quarter
majority. Gosh, did someone forget to tell us
that polling day was tomorrow? Opposite, the
benches were empty and there was therefore no
one to stop him.
Then the opposition members reappeared as if
by magic. It was not the minister of fi nance they
were boycotting, just the government, they said.
The budget was good in fact, wasn’t it? Because
it was read by Xavier Duval – a potential future
ally. All the good measures must have come from
him. If there are a few bad measures, they must
have been forced down his throat by the prime
minister and the Labour lobbies. Seriously? And
these are the guys we are paying to protect our
interests? Please join me in a prayer!
Xavier Duval, on the other hand, does nothing
to dispel the rumours of a possible causecauser
between him and members of the opposition.
While appearing to revel in the
courtship and beaming with satisfaction, he
continues to praise the prime minister for his
trust, thus indirectly upping the antes. But
wouldn’t you do the same in an arena where
democracy has been replaced by political bed
hopping? If anything, at least the opposition
lets him off with some measures they may
have wanted to criticise if they felt there was
no hope of his joining them.
So, if you want to know what both the government
and the opposition think about the budgetary
measures, here is a very concise summary:
the government thinks you should give
them another mandate, preferably with a threequarter
majority this time and the opposition
thinks that Xavier Duval is the greatest thing
since sliced bread. For what they thought about
him yesterday, you have to go over your notes.
They also think Pravind Jugnauth is important
enough in the hierarchy to speak just before the
prime minister – again, go over your notes for
what they thought yesterday. The budget? Oh,
please give them a break!
Anybody still serious about electoral reform?
Do us a favour: just ban pre-election alliances
and all the nonsense will stop. Please! It is a real
cancer in our democracy.