Many of us were heartened by the director of public prosecutions’ laudable decision to prosecute MP Showkutally Soodhun for his racist comments. Such outrageous garbage against the very people Soodhun, as a minister, was supposed and paid to protect should not go unpunished and it’s good that it won’t.
Behind this relief, however, is a sad reality: that of a police force that is either inept or, more likely, at the beck and call of those in power. The shamelessness with which Mario Nobin and his people decided, in their wisdom, that there was no case for Soodhun to answer is very dangerous. By dismissing Soodhun’s case, what Nobin is actually saying is that it’s alright for a minister of the republic to publicly state that housing will be allocated, not on the basis of merit, but rather according to community. He is saying that we should continue to profile our own people and say that a whole community is made up of law-abiding, respectable citizens while another is composed exclusively of prostitutes and criminals who should not be allowed to disturb the peace of the law-abiding citizens by being given the same opportunities.
But the debate here is not only about favouring and pitting one community against another. No community gains by having a society based on discrimination and taking away from each other. The real debate is the same old debate about double standards. When it comes to people with no political protection, the commissioner and his police are very swift to act, even when there isn’t a shred of evidence. However, as soon as it is a question of calling to account those who are close to power, a sudden bout of legal and constitutional blindness systematically hits the law enforcement institutions and they decide that there is no case to answer.
I don’t want to bring back the sad memories of the provisional charges lodged against so many of our compatriots and the arbitrary arrests inflicted on them. We still have vivid memories of innocent people being hauled off to police stations where they spent the most degrading couple of days of their lives, followed by months if not years of ‘objection to departure’ on a mere allegation. Have you, on the other hand, heard the police worry about the land Soodhun gave his son as a gift when he was minister of land? Have you heard the police showing the slightest interest in the circumstances that led to the land being sold at Rs48 million to four Chinese citizens? Did they as much as raise an eyebrow when the same Soodhun unilaterally and with absolutely no provocation severed our diplomatic relations with Qatar to side with Saudi Arabia?
Also, the Lam Shang Leen report has established a prima facie case against several members of the MSM. Have you heard the police investigate or question – let alone arrest – any of them? Perish the thought. A Task Force has been set up to make recommendations about the recommendations already made by the commission! So the police have to busy themselves transferring the policemen and women who haven’t understood yet that their job is not to be honest and indiscriminate in carrying out their duties and, at the same time, reward those who are openly showing their allegiance to the government by attending political party meetings.
Pity no one has told the police commissioner that he has a constitutional post and that he doesn’t have to be a puppet. Unless he chooses to!
For more views and in-depth analysis of current issues, Weekly magazine (Price: Rs 25) or subscribe to Weekly for Rs110 a month. (Free delivery to your doorstep). Email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org