“The only thing they have achieved is to admit that what they had done was wrong”

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“There are ministers who are not performing and others who are not only not performing but are also arrogant and I’ll be shooting at them in parliament. There is no Koz Koze.”

Let’s start with your impressions of the budget…

The contents of the budget and the measures announced go totally against the measures taken by Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo. If you take the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for example, Lutchmeenaraidoo had said companies could spend the money on whatever projects they wanted. We in the opposition had said it was unacceptable. Today, Pravind Jugnauth has changed that and created a foundation. The problem is that not only is there no continuity but no criteria have been specified either. The only thing they have achieved is admit that what they had done was wrong.

Isn’t it a good idea for them to recognise that what they did in the past was a failure and have a clean start?

But they are cut off from reality! For one year, the country has been living a nightmare. This nightmare will continue as this budget will not bring any growth.

What about the light rail transit system (LRT)? Will that not create jobs, ease traffic and save the country a lot of money.

The LTR system was an MMM project.

“For one year, the country has been living a nightmare. This nightmare will continue as this budget will not bring any growth.”

But you did not implement it, did you?

You cannot do that in one year. There should have been continuity. It was frozen in 2005 and revived in 2014 and refrozen again after the election for political reasons. Now the government is talking about the same project.

Now that it is here, is it a good thing?

Yes. And we must thank the government of India. They gave us a grant.

In exchange for taking away billions and hundreds of jobs in our offshore.

Much has been said about that. Figures will tell us in the coming months how much we have lost. Let’s wait and see what business the government will bring.

What about Heritage City? Everyone was under the impression that Pravind Jugnauth would be brave enough to put an end to that folly but he seems to be going ahead with it.

We haven’t had many details. We will press for that in parliament. I am against a new parliament house in Ebène. The capital is Port Louis and that’s where parliament house should be and should remain. But let’s see the implementation.

Your stand, and that of the MMM, has recently been much more accommodating toward the government than it was at the beginning.

Give me some examples.

Well, here is an example: You were dead against Heritage City as a party because you said some ministers were going to build offices for themselves just to give a gift to Anerood Jugnauth, and now you’re saying ‘we’ll wait and see, maybe it’ll be a good thing’. Is there a rapprochement between the MMM and the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM)?

The MMM has expressed its opinion and it’s still there. We have not changed it. We don’t know whether this project has been cut down to size or not. The fact is that they have now publicly, though the budget speech, stated that they would be using the money from India to have a new parliament house and some offices. Let’s have the details. What we were against was the big projects where Roshi Bhadain and Showkutally Soodhun were coming with money from Saudi Arabia and Dubai to build apartments, moving all the ministries and so on.

 “The interference of ministers in the day-to-day running of institutions is worse. I feel ashamed. ”

What about the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA)? There was an outcry from the opposition when they signed what you called ‘a death sentence’ and now you’re saying maybe they will bring more business, so we have to wait and see. Is that not a change of attitude?

No, it’s not a change of attitude. We were against it, we took stock of what has been said by the experts within the MMM, in the financial sector and time will now tell whether we were right or wrong.

OK, so is this nice, sort of, lenient attitude toward the government shared by everybody in the MMM or there are MMM members who are opposed to it?

We are a party, we discuss issues and the country comes first. What is best for the country? We have to comment. If there is something wrong, we have to say it’s wrong. If there are issues which are not right for the country, we’ll raise our voice, but we must also adapt with time.

You haven’t answered the question. The question is, for example, yesterday, when the leader of the opposition came out and said ‘it’s an interesting budget’, did everybody agree that it was interesting?

Of course.

Wasn’t there any opposition to that statement?

No. We discussed within our group. There are interesting measures. For example, lowering the price of cooking gas. We said it should have been done earlier, but it’s a good thing. If you ask me, for the permits, I know shopkeepers, hairdressers, tailors and so on will be very happy for the small saving of Rs5000. Some policies are good, so we said the budget was interesting.

Is this the beginning of koz koze, then?

No, no, but we can’t use swear words and fight all the time. I’ll start asking some questions about good governance and you’ll see what I will say about some of the lame duck ministers. 

Who are these lame ducks?

Do you think the people of Mauritius are happy with Anil Gayan? Do you think that the people in Mauritius are happy with some arrogant ministers?

Like who?

Like Bhadain himself! Also, about the coke advert, did you hear Aurore Perraud’s comments on the radio? Ivan Collendavelloo has been in the MMM. Have you seen his arrogance? There are ministers who are not performing and others who are not only not performing but are also arrogant and I’ll be shooting at them in parliament. There is no Koz Koze. People read too much into what we say. There is a lot of infighting within the government. It is a hotchpotch government which came together by accident. They came with the wind and stuck together by accident. The PMSD, who were born to benefit from all situations, was with Navin Ramgoolam for 10 years. Now Duval acts as if he had never been in government, as if he has never been minister of finance.

Why are you attacking only Xavier Duval? There were two ministers of finance under Navin Ramgoolam.

We have attacked Pravind Jugnauth as well. Have you been in parliament?

Yes. Whenever I could. Coming back to the government’s performance as a whole, what is your impression?

If you ask me, personally, this is the worst team I have seen in my entire career.

Isn’t that what you always say?

No, I have not always said that. There have been different teams and this is by far the worst. Unfortunately, Anerood Jugnauth, because of his age, is no longer the same, so ministers are doing whatever they want. There is no coherence. There is no strategy. There is not even any uniformity in terms of communication. Nepotism is much worse. You have seen the recent recruitments at the police. We have received so many complaints. The interference of ministers in the day-to-day running of institutions is worse. I feel ashamed. I have been minister of environment. There are so many dedicated staff members, professionals, working in that ministry. We brought the issue of environment to the forefront and took bold and strategic measures. Today, Mauritius has never been so dirty. Add to this the waste in overseas missions which is worse and they refuse to disclose the figures! Minister Gayan circulated a reply of his 14 missions but he didn’t give a figure. Fourteen in one year! Can you imagine? Then there is the way the police have been behaving. The way institutions have been handled in other sectors, putting politicians at the head of institutions…

What is the real problem with this government?

Lack of transparency. They have talked so much about the Ministry of Good Governance and about transparency. And look where we are today. The minister of good governance stated on record that chairpersons won’t have cars or offices and that they would not be there all the time and so on. Look at their salaries and big limousines today! In the Ministry of Good Governance itself, there should have been an inquiry into the salaries.

Of who?

Of all these advisers and the people working there. Besides, even civil servants have been complaining about the abuse of missions abroad. That’s why I asked the question in parliament.

What do you expect the government to do now?

The government should govern in transparency, for the people. They should not be arrogant and they must stop wasting public money and start delivering. They have been in power for nearly two years and what have they done concretely? The British American Investment (BAI) saga and then arresting people and hitting at their opponents, recruiting their family and copains/copines and wasting time. Never have I seen MPs so unpopular after only one-and-a-half years! But do you think the prime minister does not know?

Why doesn’t he do anything about it?

Because, I think, he is a prisoner of his partners! There are problems between the MSM and the PMSD. The way the PMSD has been operating is shameful. It should…

… be replaced by the MMM?

RB: No, no, no! The MMM has its own history. We are not opportunists. For us, the country first.

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