It’s that time of year again! It’s time for Weekly’s annual Weekly Awards for Cinematic Opulence and Superbness (WACOS) awards, where we recognise the budding stars and other assorted, and unheralded, titans of cinema in our midst. So without further ado, here are the good, the bad and the ugly of 2017.
1). Prakash Maunthrooa: Luckiest Star Alive
This senior adviser to the prime minister is perhaps the luckiest star in our political firmament. Nobody expected his party to win, and when it did, he found himself parachuted into all sorts of juicy positions. But that’s not all, he also saw the Boskalis case against him nearly collapse after a foreign court became exasperated at the lack of internet and the sheer difficulty of just getting people to be able to testify through the internet, in a country that’s supposed to be the most well-connected in Africa! Talk about catching a lucky break! For these reasons, Prakash Maunthrooa is without a doubt the luckiest man in Mauritius for whom everything seems to work out. So long as the internet is not working, that is.
2). Roshi Bhadain: Demolition Man
Roshi Bhadain is definitely the best demolition man the country has seen this year. After a stellar record of bulldozing the DTAA and the BAI, Bhadain then turned his sights on demolishing the government itself by resigning, launching his own party and provoking a by-election in No.18. Unfortunately for him, like most of his previous demolition projects, this one too backfired and the one who ended up flattened was himself.
3). Navin Ramgoolam: Best Resurrection Scene
In 2014, it looked as if Navin Ramgoolam had suffered a near electoral wipeout as a slew of court cases were launched against him and two safes overflowing with cash were found at his house. It seemed that Ramgoolam was safely tucked away in the sugar cane. But slowly and surely, the government’s missteps have allowed him to stage a comeback of sorts and now what looked unthinkable in 2014 seemed possible in 2017: that Ramgoolam might once again dominate the political scene. Although there is still the nagging question: is it because Ramgoolam is too good to be kept down, or is it just that his opponents are so terrible that he looks better just by default. Only 2018 can answer that particular head-scratcher.
4). Arvin Boolell: Always the Understudy
His hopes to be a hero in his own right seem indefinitely postponed. He thinks he should be a leading man. Instead, he was the candidate in the No.18 by-election. And the most he could hope for throughout the year was not leading the Labour Party, but the handful of its members in parliament. With Ramgoolam’s star once again on the rise, all Boolell can hope for, like any good understudy, is some miracle that would get Ramgoolam out of the way and take his place. The dream lives on.
5). Raouf Gulbul: Hoisted on his Own Petard
As the year began, everything seemed to be going Gulbul’s way: he headed not one, but two institutions, the Gambling Regulatory Authority and the Law Reform Commission. But it all suddenly went wrong. A Drugs Commission appointed by his own party suddenly started seeing Gulbul’s former colleagues, family and clients all alleging that Gulbul has drug connections. And just as suddenly as fortune seemed to smile on him, it seemed to turn away, leaving Gulbul high and dry. He lost his cushy position amidst all sorts of skeletons coming out of his closet. Gulbul, it seemed, had flown too close to the Peeroomal Veeren-shaped sun. The thing is, it was his own party that established the commission that turned out to be his downfall.
6). Alvaro Sobrinho: Best Plot Twist
In the beginning, there was the Angolan billionaire Alvaro Sobrinho. All doors opened for him, including that of the president and assorted ministers. Despite reports to the contrary, he could do no wrong. And like any celebrity, he showered the goodies and everybody wanted to bask in his light. This year, however, saw the plot twist. Now it seems that everything is going wrong and whatever institution – SBM, BOI and FSC - and politician that deals with him seems to be left in a mess. Whatever the opposite of the Midas’ touch is, Sobrinho seems to have it.
7). Mario Nobin: Best Good-Cop, Bad-Cop
The police commissioner seems to have watched too many films but without really understanding that the good-cop-bad-cop act is supposed to involve two separate people. Instead, he tries to be both. When it comes to the opposition, the press, litchi thieves, or generally anybody in the government’s bad books, he becomes bad cop only too eager to shove them through the prison doors. But when it comes to the government, he becomes a good cop, sweet as honey.
8). Kalyan Tarolah: Best Selfies
No one knew who Kalyan Tarolah was until suddenly everybody knew a little too much of him. His pioneering use of social media and technology saw parliament transformed into the set of his own original productions. Pretty soon, Tarolah’s low-budget, adults-only flicks had been seen by everybody in the country. And he is still there, going strong. Tarolah is to sexting what Hugh Hefner was to Playboy. Tarolah is evidence of what can go wrong when obscene parliamentarians are urged to embrace technology.
9). Ravi Yerrigadoo: Best Emotional Scene
After being busted by the press for allegedly being involved in a money laundering ring and illegally helping someone collect winnings from a foreign gambling website, Ravi Yerrigadoo was forced to step down as attorney-general. But the climb down from power only revealed Yerrigadoo’s hidden talent. In a performance that could put Tulsi to shame, Yerrigadoo proceeded to cry his heart out over the telephone on national radio.
10). Ravi Rutnah: Worst Dialogue
The ML’s Ravi Rutnah seems to having a bad year dialogue-wise. The government’s deputy whip, who is supposed to help control the government MPs, himself has trouble controlling his own tongue. Rutnah stood out in the news this year for calling a journalist a ‘bitch’ at a party meeting, before proceeding in an invective-laden speech. Rutnah’s wild hairdos may be a thing of the past, but his wild tongue is still there.
11). Mahmad Kodabaccus: Worst Sequel
Ravi Rutnah seems to be have been Mahmad Kodabaccus’s muse. Shortly after Rutnah’s infamous invectives against a female journalist, Kodabaccus felt upstaged. So he came up with a vulgar speech directed no less at the speaker, Maya Hanoomanjee. Great minds think alike they say, or perhaps they truly shine at party meetings, where the mask of civility can let drop.
12). Sanjeev Teeluckdharry: Best Location Scout
The deputy speaker of the national assembly, when not being criticised for his poor handling of parliamentary debates, pens letters asking for more money for his foreign travels. He may be bad at his job, but that does not mean he should settle for a pittance of Rs90,000 a trip. Oh, and although he is a deputy speaker in an African country does not mean that he should actually go to the African mainland. What cheek! He wants to travel somewhere more developed, plush and glamourous. I mean, it’s not like going to Africa is part of his job that he gets paid handsomely for out of public funds for, now is it? A standard is a standard, after all.
13). Etienne Sinatambou: Best Gymnastics
Government Spokesman Etienne Sintambou regaled the nation all year long. If there is a pig delivered by the government, no matter how ugly, Sinatambou is all too willing to dab some lipstick on it. And, sometimes, that means one thing one week and its opposite the next. Sinatambou does not have an easy job granted, but it takes a special kind of intellectual… ahem… creativity to get it done.
14). Anerood Jugnauth: Rated 18
The minister mentor should come with a sticker: he is meant for audiences 18 and above. He always had a way with words, but now the Anerood Jugnauth show is getting a little risqué. Over the past year, he had some memorable moments, from telling the press that he pissed on the opposition to telling off Rodriguans (of whom he is the minister, no less) complaining about water that he was not there to bathe them and finally to declaring that he did not give a damn about underpaid school cleaners on hunger strike. Yes, this has been a particularly fruitful year for the octogenarian. Other people have the luxury of locking away their crazy grandpa during the holiday dinner. But what do we do with this particular grandpa that controls the police? Lock the kids away, Gramps is about to speak…
15). Ameenah Gurib-Fakim: Best Disappearing Act
Has anyone heard from the president of the Republic? During her early days, she was a ubiquitous presence, from lecturing on science to having fawning journalists following her vegetable shopping in the market. Then Sobrinho happened and, after promising an investigation on national television (none heard anything more about it) she simply slipped off everybody’s radar. And that’s how she spent 2017: surrounded by bodyguards and seen more by foreign audiences who don’t know who Sobrinho is, than by the people who, no doubt she feels, have the privilege of having her as president.
16). Shakeel Mohamed: Best Extra Cast
The Labour Party’s Shakeel Mohamed is starting to look like an extra cog in the party. He backed Arvin Boolell’s leadership bid and wanted to be deputy leader of the party. That did not happen. Then Navin Ramgoolam put Arvin Boolell as a candidate in No.18 and promised that if Boolell succeeded, he would replace Shakeel Mohamed as leader of the party’s parliamentarians. And then Shakeel Mohamed protested the official visit of a controversial Indian Chief Minister, only to find that no one else in the party backed him. Nobody is ever indispensable, they say, but in the eyes of his own party, Shakeel Mohamed looks more dispensable than others.
17). Ivan Collendavelloo: Best Supporting Actor
There is nothing that Ivan Collendavelloo is not willing to put up with for his partners in government. From Sobrinho, to playing around with the powers of the director of public prosecutions and now jumping to the defence of Showkutally Soodhun. Collendavelloo thrives when in a supporting, not in a lead role. Where the latter is required, his own party being a case in point, no such evidence of such qualities exists. Under Collendavelloo’s watch, his party this year has become a basket-case of infighting and intrigue, with Anil Gayan and Anwar Husnoo at each other’s throats, Rutnah saying that he is frustrated and Sangeet Fowdar moonlighting off and on with the opposition. So Collendavelloo this year settled for what he does best: follow orders and defend the government at all costs, praying that his party lasts to the end.
18). Xavier-Luc Duval: The Bad Boy
He may not have the charisma of his father, Gaëtan Duval, but Xavier-Luc Duval as leader of the opposition has succeeded in ruffling quite a few feathers and clash with quite a few figures in parliament. In fact, he seems to have ruffled feathers so much that this year it even earned him a suspension from parliament for two sessions after he told the speaker that he did not respect her and, subsequently, refused to leave the National Assembly after the speaker ordered him out.
19). Paul Bérenger: Most Confused Script
The year has seen the MMM leader Paul Bérenger more inscrutable than ever. Is he against the government or against the rest of the opposition? He was not enthusiastic about joining other opposition parties in major initiatives this year such as the motion of no confidence against the speaker. He is voluble in his press conferences, but silent in parliament. It seems that thus far, the MMM veteran is keeping his cards very close to his chest.
20). Sangeet Fowdar: Most Frequent Anti-Climax
It seems there is a thin thread that’s still holding Sangeet Fowdar in his party, the ML. Just when it seems that Fowdar is on the cusp of rebellion or expulsion from the ML, nothing much seems to happen either way. This year, Fowdar took to Facebook indirectly criticising his own leader, Ivan Collendavelloo, over his proximity to the controversial Angolan billionaire, Alvaro Sobrinho. But nothing happened. Then Fowdar attended a function with two Labour Party figures in tow, and again, nothing happened. We keep waiting to see when this rebellious series of actions will reach its penultimate denouement, only to be disappointed each time. And it continues…
21). Anil Gayan-Vijaya Sumputh: Most Self-Destructive Duo
Anil Gayan and Vijaya Sumputh seem to have a knack for self-destruction. Anil Gayan already lost his perch as health minister and was shunted off to the tourism portfolio after his disastrous policy of scrapping methadone treatment. But as if that were not enough, this year also saw Gayan again in the centre of controversy after his own party colleague and successor as minister of health, Anwar Husnoo, told parliament just how much Vijaya Sumputh was earning at the Trust Fund for Specialised Medical Care, a post she was given when Gayan was health minister. That set off a feud within the ML, with Gayan’s supporters bussed in to hold up placards indirectly criticising Husnoo and a very public spat between Gayan/Sumputh on one side and Husnoo on the other. The feud still continues.
22). Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun: Worst Premiere
The minister of education, Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, seems to have overseen a massive flop in the form of her nine-year-schooling project. Hailed as a dramatic breakthrough and introduced with lots of fanfare, pretty soon, it became clear that no one was quite sure what the reform was supposed to look like, nor indeed how it planned to make things better. Teachers did not like it, parents did not understand it and the government could not disown it. So here we are…
23). Showkutally Soodhun: Best Crash Scene
It came late. But when it did, it was dramatic! Soodhun, the stuntman of the government, loved living life on the edge. The edge of political respectability, that is. Just this year, he announced that the country was cutting its links with Qatar. He didn’t ask anybody before issuing the communiqué. He then was accused of soliciting a Rs1 million bribe from an Indian businessman. And threatening to shoot the leader of the opposition. Any one of these offences would have led to any lesser mortal being fired on the spot. Not Soodhun though. But when he was secretly filmed making racist comments about housing allocations, that was a step too far. Soodhun the danger-lover had reached the end of his rope and crashed. Finally.
24). Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus: The Ugliest Suprise
The Minister of Gender Equality, Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus, is proof that if you have a thick enough skin, you can survive anything. The minister started 2015 as a humble backbencher. But then she was implicated at the Drugs Commissions for unsolicited visits to drug traffickers. Normally that would have meant the end of a political career. But not for Jaunbocus. She grew a thick skin and with a few teary scenes here and there, she hung on. Until, in 2017, she became Parliamentary Private Secretary and after the cabinet reshuffle following Soodhun’s firing this year, she ended up as gender minister. What’s a little Drug Commission between friends, eh?
25). Anwar Husnoo: Best 15 Minutes of Fame
If ever a single performance could make or break a career, it would be that of Anwar Husnoo. He was a relative unknown within the government benches, making do with a low profile Ministry of Local Government. And no one expected much from him. That was until the fateful day when he told parliament how much Vijaya Sumputh was making at the Trust Fund for Specialised Medical Care. Those precious few minutes in parliament suddenly thrust Husnoo into the limelight and did wonders for his image. Subsequent to that brief, but brilliant episode, Husnoo it seems could do no wrong and, months later, opinion polls were still showing him the highest rated minister in the government. Fifteen minutes well spent.
26). Bashir Jahangeer: Best Preemptive Strike
It’s a sufficiently serious matter to bring in the police. So off went Bashir Jahangeer to the police station and lodged a preemptive complaint. The trouble is, no one quite knows what all this was about. Jahangeer, apparently, wanted to nip a rumour in the bud by hotfooting it to the authorities. As a preemptive strike, it was effective since, to this day, no one still knows what caused this curious episode.
27). Pravind Jugnauth: Worst Film Director
Spielberg he is not. Pravind Jugnauth has not exactly shone as the director of the Alliance Lepep movie. Since he was parachuted to the Prime Ministership at the beginning of the year, he saw Roshi Bhadain quit and the PMSD leave. He undertook to reshuffle cabinet three times. No one saw much of an effect though. He had to fire Attorney General Ravi Yerrigadoo after he was implicated in an alleged money-laundering ring and housing minister Soodhun after he made racist remarks caught on video. Then he lost Raouf Gulbul, and the Drugs Commission even saw allegations by traffickers against the prime minister himself. And to top it all off, Pravind Jugnauth himself saw the MedPoint case sent to the Privy Council this year that could put an end to his reign at any time. No wonder when he was criticised at a socio-cultural event to become more forceful, all he could do was reply that he could not control his own ministers. If this were a movie, the studio would have mothballed it a long time ago.
28). Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo: Right Place. Right Time
She recently became No.4 in the government. That had little to do with talent, but rather due to a rather fortuitous set of circumstances. By which we mean Showkutally Soodhun crashing and burning. So who did the government turn to? None other than Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, who was in prime position at the time to reap the benefit. Even if she says that getting water from the river is a substitute for a fire hydrant.
29). Bhardoraj Maunthrooa: Best Costume Design
The brother of Prakash Maunthrooa is without a doubt in the league of GUCCI, Versace and Hugo Boss. Apparently, from a humble tailoring shop, Bhardoraj Maunthrooa managed to make more than Rs120 million to put into the BAI’s Super Cash Back Gold policies. With that level of bling, Bhardoraj Maunthrooa must surely be dressing up the Gods and the local celebs. That is why, without a doubt, he deserves this award. Trouble is, we haven’t seen quite which celebs he’s been dressing up.
30). Mike Seetaramadoo: The Diva
HR manager at Air Mauritius, Mike Seetaramadoo, is a total diva not to be messed with or taken lightly. Those who have crossed his path have soon bit the dust. Just ask former Air Mauritius CEO Megh Pillay. So when, this year, 11 pilots called in sick and others blamed Seetaramadoo for the toxic relations within the airline, obviously it was the pilots who got fired and reduced to begging for their jobs back. Seetaramadoo, apparently, is still sitting pretty. You cross this diva at your own peril.
31). Hussein Abdool Rahim: The Worst Guest Appearance
Hussein Abdool Rahim seems to be playing the character of a classic conman, managing to squirm this way and that, but with nobody managing to arrest him. He shot to national fame by accusing the former attorney general, Ravi Yerrigadoo, of helping a money laundering ring, forcing the AG’s resignation. And then Rahim’s own ex-girlfriend accused him of swindling. He then did a U-turn, saying that it was all made up and that he asks Yerrigadoo’s forgiveness. He, however, maintains at the same time that the evidence he had brought was genuine. And then accuses La Sentinelle of manipulating and sequestering him. So between being a self-confessed swindler, money launderer, illegally claiming gambling winnings overseas and swearing false affidavits left and right, it’s a wonder that the police has still not managed to do anything against him. Wonders never cease.
32). Maya Hanoomanjee: Worst Sound Effects
Well… obviously. Her tantrums in parliament are the stuff of legend.
33). ‘La Cuisine’: Worst Studio
Zimbabwe had its G40, and Mauritius has its ‘La Cuisine’. That at least is what the former minister, Roshi Bhadain, said is how the government works when he slammed the door on it in January. But what characterises this kitchen is not Michelin stars or the gastronomic delights they manage to deliver.
Rather, becoming a chef in this kitchen seems to require only one qualification: being related to the Jugnauths or their loyal camp-follower. In return, the benefits are tremendous. You can never get fired no matter how unpalatable the dishes you produce are, or indeed, even if you produce absolutely nothing at all. Nobody can sue you if your dish happens to cause an outbreak of gastro, and if you don’t like an outside chef stealing the show, you can simply get him or her fired. And best of all, you don’t even have to know how to cook!
No wonder the delights wafting out of this kitchen don’t exactly sit well with the country’s collective palate. But then again, who cares? Restaurant reviews only start to matter when there is a general election around the corner. Until then, the captive customers have no choice but to wolf down whatever the kitchen happens to put on the plate: whether a delicious soufflé, or a reeking fishbone. As for restaurant critics, they can be arrested and their homes raided in the wee hours of the morning. So don’t bother with them. As for what happened in Zimbabwe, don’t worry about that either; luckily Mauritius has no army and even if it did, it would have been part of La Cuisine.
So, the La Cuisine will continue to tantalize and disgust (depending on whether you are eating at the table or waiting for the scraps under it) us with their offerings for now. Until the next election that is.
34). Rajesh Bhagwan: Best Indiana Jones Remake
The MMM’s Rajesh Bhagwan needs no introduction. The man is a one-man archeology team, digging into institutions each week to unearth ugly little facts that usually go unnoticed. How much do cronies earn? How did they get the job? And what dirty little secrets are they hiding? It may escape others’ notice, but not that of our very own Indiana Jones in parliament, who makes it his business to notice. And this year, he certainly did not disappoint.
35). Nando Bodha: Best Prop Design
Minister of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport Nando Bodha seems to be born to be a prop man. From delivering bridges to the glitzy new Metro Express, however badly the government seems to be functioning, one thing you can always count on: Bodha delivering his share, his bridges, roundabouts and planned trains to impress.
36). Reza Uteem: Best Cool Customer
The MMM’s Reza Uteem is cool as a cucumber. His parliamentary interventions this year have been a wealth of information and argumentation and, unlike most of his species, he never seems to lose his cool.
37). Aadil Ameer Meea: Best Corrector
Aadil Ameer Meea has an eye for detail. Not just in his questions but, it seems, even for the long Hansard that follows. Just this year, on more than one occasion, his jeweller’s eye has pointed out mistakes and glaring omissions from the parliamentary records that were later rectified.
38). Paul Lam Shang Leen: Best Dramatic Role
The former Supreme Court judge and head of the Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Trade had the nation on tenterhooks throughout the year. Paul Lam Shang Leen was best known this year for his testy exchanges with a cast of characters: from lawyers and politicians right down to drug traffickers and a mystery witness with allegedly damning information about a big fish. It was the drama of Lam Shang Leen’s hearings that led to the resignation of Raouf Gulbul from the GRA and the Law Reform Commission. The allegations against Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus and even against the prime minister himself shook public opinion. Just how much Paul Lam Shang Leen will turn up the heat next year remains to be seen.
MBC: worst film of the year
Nobody expected much of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), nor does it have a sterling record of informing the nation over the years. But this year, the national broadcaster seemed to hit new lows. No less than the director of the MBC, Mekraj Baldowa, suspended temporarily in September over the MBC not airing protests and anger over housing demolitions to make way for the Metro Express in La Butte and Barkly. Journalists at the MBC also launched a petition decrying that the head of the prime minister’s communications cell, Rudy Veeramundar, was interfering consistently in the running of the broadcaster. And to top it all, after the victory of the Labour Party’s Arvin Boolell in the by-election in No.18 in December, the MBC abruptly cut its coverage of the event, cutting out the victory speech as well. A first in Mauritian electoral history.
Although the MBC has always been a mouthpiece of the occupant at the PMO, this year it really overdid it, with news broadcasts becoming little more than successive segments of the prime minister giving speeches at various functions and cutting ribbons. That led the MMM’s Rajesh Bhagwan to quip in parliament that every news broadcast opens with, “Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth”. To which the prime minister replied quite modestly that that was perhaps because “I go everywhere”. But who told the MBC to follow him everywhere?
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