State capture: the tentacles around the state

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For the benefit of our readers, Weekly is publishing features that have appeared in its print edition in the past. These features have been selected for their relation with current events, to re-ignite the interest of our readers in matters they may have missed or simply to present a blast from the past that readers might find interesting to re-explore.

For the benefit of our readers, Weekly is publishing features that have appeared in its print edition in the past. These features have been selected for their relation with current events, to re-ignite the interest of our readers in matters they may have missed or simply to present a blast from the past that readers might find interesting to re-explore.  

These are family members and political loyalists who have managed to secure the most prized nominations within the public service. Seconded into positions of real power, influence or into patronage machines, they serve as essential cogs in the running of the political machine.

The kings of the hill

Nayen Koomar Ballah: Head of the civil service and secretary to cabinet


Nominated in 2016, Ballah succeeded Satyaved Seebaluck. He is the cousin of Sarojini Jugnauth, Anerood Jugnauth’s wife. He made news this March when the government decided to decorate him with the Grand Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (GOSK).

Naila Hanoomanjee: CEO of Landscope Mauritius


The daughter of the speaker of the National Assembly, Maya Hanoomanjee, and niece of Sarojini Jugnauth, Naila Hanoomanjee, was nominated as CEO of the State Property Development Company (SPDC). Hanoomanjee later admitted that she did not know that she had applied for the post of CEO. With the establishment of Landscope Mauritius, which absorbed the SPDC as well, Naila Hanoomanjee was named its new CEO.

Rita Veerasamy: Director, State Investment Corporation

The sister of then-Finance Minister Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, Rita Veerasamy, was appointed as the director of the State Investment Corporation (SIC) in January 2015. After the cabinet reshuffle in 2017, with Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo ending up as foreign minister, the following year in March 2018, Rita Veerasamy announced her retirement from the SIC.

Jugdish Bundoo: CEO, Mauritius Cane Industry Authority

Jugdish Bundoo, the CEO of the Mauritius Cane Industry Authority (MCIA), nominated by the government in 2015 was quite an obvious choice for the post. He is none other than the brother-in-law of Mahen Seeruttun, the minister of agro-industry under which the MCIA falls.

Mike Seetaramadoo: Executive vice president, Air Mauritius


Executive Vice President of Air Mauritius Mike Seetaramadoo is close to the Mouvement Socialiste Militant (MSM) party and he was, until recently, also in charge of human resources at the airline. He first made headlines in 2016 when he managed to secure the dismissal of airline CEO Megh Pillay who wanted to institute a disciplinary committee against him. Under his watch, in October 2017, pilots of the airline staged an industrial action which grounded flights and poisoned industrial relations within the airline. This year, Seetaramadoo was stripped of the human resources portfolio although he is still in charge of cargo at the airline.

Maya Hanoomanjee: Speaker of the National Assembly


Maya Hanoomanjee, previous member of the MSM and cousin of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, was a candidate of the Alliance Lepep government during the 2014 general election and, while she was not elected, she was later appointed by the government as the speaker of the National Assembly.

Shiv Luchoomun: Director of the PSSA

Shiv Luchoomun, the husband of Minister of Education Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun was the director of the Private Secondary Schools Authority (PSSA) before his wife became minister. However, despite the possible situations of conflict of interests, considering that the PSSA operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Education, Luchoomun refused to step down from his post after his wife took office as the minister of education. The PSSA is responsible for the payment of grants properly accruing to private secondary schools as well as approving the hiring and work conditions of school teachers.

Prakash Maunthrooa: Senior adviser at the PMO


Prakash Maunthrooa, who was the campaign manager of Minister Mentor Anerood Jugnauth during the 2014 general election, was appointed as senior adviser at the Prime Minister’s Office shortly after the Alliance Lepep government took office. Maunthrooa also sits on the board of the Air Mauritius, SBM Holdings, the Board of Investment, the Postal Authority and the State Insurance Company of Mauritius (SICOM). He is also accused of corruption in the Boskalis case.

Soorya Gayan: Director of MGI


Soorya Gayan, the wife of Minister of Tourism Anil Gayan, was appointed as the director of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI) and of the Rabindranath Tagore Institute after her husband took office in January 2015. Soorya Gayan was also the director of the MGI between 2001 and 2005 when Gayan was minister.

Harrykrishna Vydelingum: President of the MITD


Harrykrishna Vydelingum, the brotherin-law of Minister of Technology Yogida Sawmynaden, was appointed on the board of the Mauritius Tamil Cultural Centre Trust in June 2016 and on the board of the Mauritius Post Ltd in January 2017. However, after his nomination led to polemics, he resigned shortly after. But then, in March this year, Vydelingum was appointed as the new president of the Mauritius Institute of Training and Development (MITD), which operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Education.

Raj Bhujohory: Chairman, Tourism Authority


Raj Bhujohory, married to Tourism Minister Anil Gayan’s cousin, was appointed chairperson of the Tourism Authority. The Tourism Authority is, quite naturally, operating under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism. How lovely!

Deshmuk Kowlessur: Executive Director of the Competition Commission

Deshmuk Kowlessur is the brother-in-law of Sanjeev Ramdenee. Who in turn is the brother-in-law of the prime minister, Pravind Jugnuath’s wife. In February 2015, with the advent of the new regime, Kowlessur was nominated as the executive director of the Competition Commission of Mauritius and his wife, Sharmila Kowlessur, as chairperson of the Mauritius Qualifications Authority in July 2015.

Kevin Ramkalaon: Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority

He is the son-in-law of Anil Gayan, the current tourism minister. Ramkalaon was nominated as the director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority shortly after the government came to power in August 2015. He later resigned to join Business Mauritius.

Robin Appaya: freshly appointed chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority


Former MSM campaign manager in Constituency No. 1 for the 2014 general election. He was the senior legal adviser of former minister of housing and lands, Showkutally Soodhun. Appaya is married to Anju Ghose, the niece of the speaker, Maya Hanoomanjee.

The other beneficiaries

This category concerns those family members and political partisans of the ruling parties that do not really enjoy much power due primarily to their youth. Nevertheless, they have found themselves in jobs within state agencies as their parents or relatives found power at the state level. This category also includes those relatives and friends that have benefitted in other ways, not through getting jobs per se, but by getting contracts or legal work.

Namrata Teeluckdharry: National Human Rights Commission


The wife of the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, and MSM member Sanjeev Teeluckdharry was named a member of the National Preventive Mechanism Division of the National Human Rights Commission in February 2018.

Jaynarain Meetoo: Chairman of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute

The chairman of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI) is the husband of MSM activist Rooma Meetoo.

Avinash Meetoo: Chairman, ICT Advisory Council

Shortly after the new government came to power in 2015, Avinash Meetoo was nominated as the chairman of the ICT Advisory Council. He is the son of Rooma Meetoo. He was also nominated to sit on the board of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA).

Keshaye Beeda: Oyster Farm

The Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping led by the MSM’s Prem Koonjoo says that it wants to promote aquaculture. As part of that, it gave out oyster farming licences, including to Keshaye Beeda, who just so happens to be Prem Koonjoo’s nephew.

Amrit Gayan: Head of innovation, State Bank of Mauritius

Amrit Gayan, the son of the former minister of health and now minister of tourism, Anil Gayan, was nominated as the head of innovation at the State Bank of Mauritius in December 2015, the same year as when the government, of which his father is part, came to power.

Pravin Jhugroo: Director, Sugar Investment Trust

Nearly a year after the government came to power in 2015, by February 2016, Pravind Jhugroo was named as the new director of the Sugar Investment Trust. He is the cousin of the long-time MSM member, and the current minister of housing and lands, Mahen Jhugroo.

Geetesh Kumar Gungah: senior facilitation officer, FSPA

Geetesh Kumar Gungah the son of minister of industry, Ashit Gungah, landed himself a plum posting of senior facilitation officer at the Financial Services Promotion Agency (FSPA).

Miteej Ballah: Senior Officer, FSPA

Miteej Ballah, nominated as senior officer at the Financial Services Promotion Agency is the daughter-in-law of the head of the civil service, Nayen Koomar Ballah, himself the cousin of Sarojini Jugnuath, the mother of the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, and wife of the Minister Mentor and former Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth.

Noreyna Benydin: FSPA


Another political child to have found a job at the Financial Services Promotion Agency (FSPA) is Noreyna Benydin, the daughter of Muvman Liberater (ML) MP and former unionist, Toolsyraj Benydin.

Lakshmi Appadoo: Financial Services Promotion Authority

 Lakshmi Appadoo was appointed at the Financial Services Promotion Authority, which aims at promoting Mauritius as a financial centre. Appadoo is none other than the niece of Minister of Foreign Affairs Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo.

Rita Venkatasawmy: Ombudsperson for children

Rita Venkatasawmy was appointed by the president as the ombudsperson for children in December 2015. She also happens to be the niece of Sarojini Jugnauth, the mother of the prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth.

Chand Bhadain: Chairman, Development Bank of Mauritius


Shortly after his baby boy Roshi rose to fame as minister of good governance, Chand Bhadain was given an interesting position as Chairman of the Development Bank of Mauritius, in February 2015. He stepped down in 2017 as his son also left the government.

Sharmila Sonah Oree: Commission of Inquiry on Sale by Levy


Pravind Jugnauth’s lawyer is actually related to his wife’s family, the Ramdanees. It might not be a coincidence that she now forms part of the Commission of Inquiry on Sale By Levy.

Wenda Sawminanden: Notary and contracts


Married to Technology Minister Yogida Sawmynaden, Wenda was the notary chosen by the Medical & Surgical Centre Ltd to handle the sales of the Apollo Bramwell Hospital. She was paid a handsome sum of Rs3.5 million for her efforts. Between 2015 and mid-2017, she was also given no less than 216 contracts for NHDC units to process as a notary.

Christelle Sohun: High Commissioner to Australia

The country knew her as a very close friend of Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Collendavelloo and a lawyer at Collendavelloo Chambers but last year, it was announced that Sohun must pack her bags to become our high commissioner in Australia. In 2016, Sohun was appointed to sit on the Independent Review Panel.

Sharmila Seetulsingh-Goorah: Director General, University of Technology Mauritius


Sharmila Seetulsingh-Goorah, a member of the MSM and an activist of the party in the 2014 general election, soon found her political loyalty rewarded when, in July 2015, she was named the director general of the Univeristy of Technology of Mauritius, the second largest public university in the country.

Sheila Hanoomanjee: The biscuit magnate


The other daughter of the speaker of the national assembly, Sheila Hanoomanjee, made news when it turned out that her company, Rum and Sugar, had won a contract to repackage and supply biscuits at the Mauritius Duty Free Paradise (MDFP) outlets at the airport.

Yashodhar Boygah

Yashodhar Boygah obtained a free barachois in Poudre d’Or from the Ministry of Fisheries in September 2015 for the production of sea cucumbers. He is married to MSM MP Sandhya Boygah.

Kailash Trilochun: legal contracts


His chamber, Trilochun Chambers, won contracts in 2015 to represent state bodies like the Road Development Authority, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) and the Mauritius Shipping Corporation Ltd. He was embroiled in a scandal where, in 2016 he charged the ICTA Rs19 million in the Emtel v.s. ICTA case. He is the cousin and brother-in-law of the minister of public infrastructure, Nando Bodha.

Pravind Koonjoo: Department of finance, SBM

Pravind Koonjoo, the son of Minister of Ocean Economy Prem Koonjoo, has recently been employed in the department of finance at the State Bank of Mauritius (SBM) earlier this month.

Rughoobur family: Keep Clean Ltd

A contract of Rs23 million has been allocated to Keep Clean Ltd – a company managed by the Rughoobur family – for the construction of a new office space for the Local Government Services Commission, a company which falls under the Ministry of Local Government. Keep Clean Ltd is a sub-company of Kalis Investment which was initially managed by Sudesh Rughoobur, who was the chief executive officer of the company at the time. When Rughoobur became an MP in government after the 2014 general elections, he left his post at the company, which has since been managed by his brother, Premdath Rughoobur.

This, by no means exhaustive, list goes some way in showing just to what extent the rhetoric about transparency and institutional independence rings hollow. And it also demonstrates just to what extent family has come to become synonymous with governance in Mauritius.

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: [email protected]

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